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Halloween is coming….skip the store and make your kids’ costumes the easy way

When you think of your favorite Halloween costume growing up, chances are it was something your mom or dad threw together. A hippie. A hobo (not sure if kids know what a hobo is these days but good educational opportunity on the Depression). A cowboy. A robber. Your favorite childhood Halloween costume was most likely not purchased at the local party store. My mom always worried about these costumes that featured some kind of ill-fitting suit made from some synthetic material and a plastic mask – ie, a “sweaty mask” – she was worried we couldn’t breathe.

My dad was usually in charge of Halloween (and birthday parties – a whole other blog topic altogether – he was all about peanut races and the “old clothes relay”) and he came up with some hilarious costumes for my siblings and me. Early on (like ages 4 – 6) I was an old lady – I would wear a dress of my grandmother’s that they would belt and pin up so it would stay on, along with her over-sized costume jewelry and big black purse. My hair would be up in a bun with baby powder to make it gray (yet I am vaguely remembering a wig of some sort – hhmmmm) with a white powdered face and wrinkles drawn on with eyeliner. Was I clamoring to be an old lady like my daughters today are asking to be Cinderella or a Pink Power Ranger? No. But I had no choice and had a wonderful Halloween. My sister’s favorite Dad-created Halloween costume was a bag of garbage. My dad took a clear garbage bag and cut a hole for her head , closed the bottom below her waist so she could walk and filled with crumpled up newspaper, paper towels, and some ACTUAL garbage – empty cans, milk cartons, etc. I think it was a warm Halloween and she became pretty ripe in the midst of trick or treating, but it was free.

So this year, skip the party store and go back to basics – here are some great costume ideas with no sewing (I don’t sew – or iron for that matter – pity my husband) and in most cases, no need to buy anything new. These are nothing fancy, but quick and easy and definitely not featuring Sponge Bob or Pokemon.

Cardboard Box Costumes:

Take a large cardboard box and cut a hole in the top for your child’s head and a hole on each side for the arms. Fold the flaps in on the bottom where their legs come out.

Playing Dice/Die: Paint it white and paint black circles on it to match the die of your child’s choice. Have a sibling or friend? Make 2 for a pair of dice.

TV: Paint most of it silver and draw a smaller square on the front for the “show”. Draw your show, print out characters from your computer, or paint it black for the set that is turned off. Fashion some antenna (again – do kids know what these are – more history on the advent of cable) by rolling up tin foil to make 2 antenna and attaching to a plastic hair band.

Fire Truck: Paint it red, paint some paper plates black for wheels and glue or tape to the box where the wheels would go. Decorate to look like a fire truck. Top it off with a fireperson’s hat.

Refrigerator: Paint it white, attach a handle.

Present: Wrap in wrapping paper and add a bow.

Costumes using Poster Board:

Playing Card: Have your child pick the card they want to be and copy it on 2 pieces of large poster board (yes, some artistry required, but keep it simple) . Take 2 pieces of ribbon or strips of material and staple so you can hang the poster board over your child’s head and have one piece on front and one on back.

Pizza: Cut 2 big circles of brown poster board or one white and one brown and leave one brown circle plain for the crust. Decorate the front to look like a pizza. Again use ribbon or material to hang over head – crust in back.

Costumes using Sweat Suits:

Road: Black Sweat Suit. Using wide white tape, make a dotted line down the middle of the front and back to look like a road. You could draw or print out road signs from your computer and pin onto the road.

American Flag: Blue Sweatshirt/Red Sweat pants. Cut stars out of white contact paper and stick to shirt. Put white tape stripes down the pant leg.

Autumn Leaves: Brown, Black or other “Autumn” colored Sweat Suit. Safety pin silk leaves (from craft store – or you could try real leaves – could get tricky). Carry a rake and collect candy in a lawn bag.

Black Cat: Black Sweatsuit. Girls could wear a leotard for the top with black leggings or sweatpants. Make a tail of felt or even construction paper. Tape or glue ears from construction paper to hairband (or you may find cat ears at a dollar store at this time of year). Draw nose and whiskers with eyeliner. Carry a stuffed animal mouse for added effect.

Crayon: Sweatsuit in a crayon color. Use black contact paper or construction paper and cut out letters to spell “CRAYON.” Stick to the clothes running vertically.

Bunch of Grapes: Green or purple sweatsuit. Attach same-colored balloons – paint face and hands same color.

Other easy ideas:

Artist: Use an over-sized white shirt and splatter with paint. Cut out an over-sized paint palette out of poster board – paint 4 or 5 large circles of paint on the palette. For a finishing touch, you could draw a mustache and goatee out of eyeliner and add a beret. Carry a paint brush.

Pumpkin: Green turtleneck/brown pants. Use an orange pumpkin leaf bag (at most grocery stores or hardware stores) and cut 2 small holes in bottom for legs. You’re done.

Hippie: Tie die shirt, jeans, sunglasses, sandals, long wig if you have one or bandanna tied around head or both.

Basket of laundry: Use a cheap, light laundry basket (try a dollar store). Cut a circle in the bottom for your child’s body to fit through. Cut 2 pieces of clothes line or rope to tie to the basket like suspenders. The top of the basket should rest just above your child’s waist. Hang clothes on the basket and your child – secure with clothespins. Safety pin some dryer sheets. Carry an empty detergent container and use a pillow case to collect candy.

Bag of Jelly Beans: Have your child wear a white top and bottom. Blow up lots of small different colored balloons. Cut a hole in a clear garbage bag for the head, put the balloons inside and and cinch the bottom of bag so the balloons don’t fall out. Make a sign that says “JELLY BEANS” and hang around your child’s neck. Replace balloons with leaves for bag of leaves.

Other easy ideas using your and/or your child’s clothes and sporting goods: Soccer player, tennis player, football player, hockey player, baseball player, a baby (wear pjs, carry a bottle), cheerleader (pleated skirt, pig tails, make pom poms).

Feel free to bring back the old lady or the bag of garbage as well (probably skip the real garbage). What is your favorite home-made costume?

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Rachael Ray