One of the best things about being both a teacher and a mom is that you get to see a lot of Halloween costumes every year. Between my kids' trick-or-treating route and my school's annual candy-collecting walk-through, I get to greet a lot of adorable children in the outfits they've been talking about for weeks. And while there are some impressive store-bought costumes out there, I think the kids' DIY Halloween costumes are the ones that get the most attention (and that stay in my memory long after all the superheroes have walked away with their lollipops).
Any family can walk into a department or specialty store and pluck a packaged costume off the rack, just like the hundreds of other parents in the checkout line. But those outfits can be inconvenient to wear to school (try peeling off a bodysuit or hitching up a princess skirt when you have to go to the bathroom). And once November 1 comes along, all you have to show for it is a $65 piece of fabric that will get buried and forgotten in the closet, because when else are you going to send your child out in public looking like a Ninja Turtle or a garden fairy?
Unless your child has their heart set on a particular TV or movie character that can only be found in Party City, consider saying no to a pre-made costume and trying your hand at one of the many cute and easy homemade outfits you can put together with a few easily available clothing and prop parts. These are some of the ones I and my fellow teachers have seen (or wish we'd seen) over the years, so take a look, get inspired, and let your imagination go wild!
This is one I used with my own son, and if you're a fan of the BBC series you can try it, too. A trench coat, striped scarf, and curly store-bought wig will transform your child into the Tom Baker incarnation of the Doctor, or go with the Matt Smith version using a plaid thrift-store jacket, suspenders, and bow tie. TARDIS optional.
Instead of going with the full one-piece suit and cape, buy a Superman t-shirt and have your child wear it under a white button-down shirt (unbutton the top buttons to let the shirt peek through) and tie. Add prop horn-rimmed glasses and a fedora, and your roving reporter is ready to save the day.
Sometimes the simplest concepts are still the best. A plaid flannel shirt, jeans, boots, and a straw hat, along with a little face makeup and a few strands of straw, will give you an adorable outfit that won't break your budget or take tons of time. I've seen parents bring in little baby and toddler scarecrows, and trust me when I say everyone swoons.
This super-easy DIY scuba costume comes courtesy of the blog Delineate Your Dwelling. Black pants and shirt, a couple of two-liter soda bottles, spray paint, electrical tape, and dollar-store goggles and snorkel are all it takes.
A child came to my kids' Halloween carnival in this creepy-cool look. But make no mistake, with this costume the makeup technique is everything. An online tutorial, like this YouTube one by Meagan Lee, will help you turn your child into a living doll.
Head In A Jar
This is a terrific effect with minimal cost and effort, and it's one of the most memorable costumes I've ever seen. As explained in the blog 30 Handmade Days, the Jar Head costume requires a large trench coat, a large backpack (to help prop the coat above your child's head), gloves, lots of plastic grocery bags, and an empty plastic bucket, like the ones that hold economy-sized pretzels or cheese balls. If the jar is too uncomfortable for your child's head, do without it; the effect will still be double-take worthy.
The sweet-but-lonely boy from Up also makes a cute costume. A khaki shirt and baseball cap and dark shorts are all the clothing you need. Fashion a badge sash out of felt and stickers, add a dime-store horn, and attach a few helium balloons to the belt loops.
I've seen this costume done as a cardboard sandwich-board style outfit, or you can use some sheets of craft-store felt in several colors, scissors, and some fabric glue. As U Create Crafts explained, it's just a matter of cutting two large triangles out of crust-colored felt, snipping a slight curve in the top for your child's neck, then sewing the two pieces together at the shoulders. Cut and glue "toppings" onto the triangles, such as green squares for peppers, black circles for olives, red circles for pepperoni, and white strips for cheese. Buon appetito!
When my daughter needed a quick Halloween costume for a summer camp party one year, I used two pairs of black pantyhose stuffed with cotton and attached them to the sides of her black leotard. She wore black tights and shoes, and I drew big fangs on the side of her mouth with face paint. Voila — instant arachnid. You could get a little fancier and use red felt or construction paper to create an hourglass design to attach to your child's back for a black widow.
A staffer at my school wore this easy-but-effective costume as a child, then made one for her own daughter. Blow up a bunch of purple balloons, pin them to your child's shirt or sweatshirt, and attach green construction-paper "leaves" to a headband. Your child will have to be careful not to bump into anything too hard, but the costume should last long enough for you to take photos.
Thing One & Thing Two
A perfect choice for a pair of siblings, the Cat in the Hat's accomplices make a fun and easy costume. I saw a pair like this at my school one year, and they got raves all around. You'll need red shirts, leggings, and gloves for both, plus blue wigs from the party shop. Add the ID tags (you can use felt or cardboard), and your mischief-makers are ready to hit the streets.
Another Halloween carnival outfit that made me nostalgic for those old paper strips with round candies attached. You can bring back the memories with a white t-shirt, some styrofoam balls cut in half and painted in pastel colors, and glue to attach them in those neat rows we remember from years gone by. The Make-It-Love-It website has a simple tutorial.