Save money and have more fun by getting creative Story by Diane Hardy • photos by Frank PincHunter Batterson, 4, of Chicago peeks out from a tree in her playful dalmation costume.
Tired of buying yet another packaged Halloween costume for your child? Prefer to look outside the box, save money and do something fun and original? With the following creations, there's hope for even the most craft-challenged parent. You might even find yourself having a few laughs and doing high-fives with your child over the costume you've crafted together. All it takes is a little resourcefulness and you'll be set to send them off to school with pride on Halloween. The together time isn't half bad, either.
Playful dalmation You will need: • White round mailing seals, approximately 1-inch in diameter • Solid black or white knit cap • A few sheets of black felt • White mittens or gloves • White long-sleeve shirt or turtleneck • White pants or tights • White or black construction paper for bones • An empty box or wrapper of dog treats or bag marked "doggie bag" (optional) • Face-paint kit • Glue gun or safety pins
Note: This project is flexible, so if you don't have white pants, feel free to substitute with black, just as long as there is a black/white contrast. Lay the shirt and pants flat on your work surface with the front facing up. Randomly place the "dots" (mailing seals) onto the outfit—front and back—and cap. Cut out two long, U-shaped ears and attach them to the cap (a safety pin or parent-supervised glue gun works best). Cut a bone shape out of white construction paper and place on the front and/or back of the project. Glue or safety-pin the doggie treats or bag to the side of the costume. Then use face paints to paint the entire face in white and pencil in splashes of uneven black dots—or, if you wish, use just a wavy circle of black around your child's eyes and a little red tongue that extends to the side of the face. Although the paint is washable, make sure it is far enough away from the eyes that it doesn't get into them. Add black paint whiskers around the nose.
Poetry in motion (for older kids) You will need: • Same-color long-sleeve shirt and pants or jeans • Safety pins or glue gun • Index cards • Poetry books • Black marker • Feathers (optional)
Lay the outfit flat on your workstation. Find dramatic poems from poetry books and write popular poems or phrases on the index cards. Pin the cards to the outfit along with the feathers. Use safety pins carefully.Alek Surenian, 6, of Arlington heights is ready to scare in his werewolf costume.
Werewolf You will need: • Old pair of pants • An old brown or black shirt • Fake brown fur or brown party shred • Black or brown cap • Black or brown felt for ears • Red or white wax fangs • Fake fingernails • Face-paint kit that contains brown and black paint • Glue gun
Cut some holes and rips in the pants and shirt. Cut up the brown fur or shred and glue it randomly onto the shirt and pants; or you can use shredded packaging paper. Cut pointy ears from the felt and attach with glue gun to cap. Randomly stick some fur or shred onto cap and ears. Paint your child's face with brown and black face paint and get a pair of red or white wax teeth to use as fangs. Glue on long, fake fingernails and paint them brown; or you can buy slip-on nails at any costume store.Natalie Hardy, 5, of Des Plaines is a bright face in the bright costume her mother made her.
Color-charged clown You will need: • A long-sleeve white top • Bright solid-color pants, shorts or skirt • Bright striped tights or socks • Small dot stickers in a variety of neon colors (can be found at most office stores) • 10 pieces of colorful felt • Floppy sun hat or visor • Glitter-glue pen • Junk drawer items (plastic flowers, big buttons, candy, pom-pons, etc.) • Different-colored bright socks • Face-paint kit • Old shoes that can be spray painted • Scissors, safety pins, glue gun and two different colors of spray paint
Lay the outfit flat on your workstation—front facing up. Cut random-sized circles from the felt and outline them with a glitter-glue pen. Once dry, hot-glue or pin the circles carefully on the front of the costume. Use the small dot stickers as fillers around the outfit. For the silly hat, glue various items (small toys, toy cars, gum wrappers) around the brim of the hat, making sure they are securely fastened. You may also embellish the mismatched socks or striped tights with buttons. If you can stand to part with an old pair of sneakers or shoes, spray paint each one a different vivid color and let them dry 24 hours before wearing them. With red face paint, draw and fill in big, round cheeks on your child's face, plus a blue or yellow lower-lip mouth around your child's mouth and blue eyelashes that start at the top lid and extend above the eyebrow. You may or may not want to cover the face completely with white face paint.
Julia Christopher, 9 months, of Oak Park, is the picture perfect leaf baby in the pumpkin patch.
Baby autumn leaves You will need: • Red one-piece sleeper • Several packages of fake fall leaves • Green or red fall cap (a baseball cap is OK) • Green or fall-colored blanket • Older kids: bird's nest from craft store, toy rake, small bushel basket • Glue gun Take the red sleeper and hot glue fake fall leaves all over the front. Then cover the front of a green or red fall cap with more autumn leaves around it. Place a green or fall blanket behind baby. This costume is especially practical for babies and tots who are not yet mobile. For older tots, hot glue or use a safety pin to attach a birds' nest on the outfit and have them carry a plastic toy rake and small bushel basket with leaves inside.
Zebra A word about face paints You will need: • One black long-sleeve shirt, sweater, leotard or turtleneck • One pair black pants, stretch pants or black knit tights • Black solid shorts or skirt (optional) • One long black sock • 8.5-by-11-inch white decal sheets (can be found at most office stores) • Face-paint kit • Tissues • Glue gun or sewing kit
Place the shirt and pants (or shorts or skirt) flat on your workstation, front facing up. Cut five to 10 decal sheets into wiggly (not straight) stripes and stick them up and down vertically on both sides of the clothes. For the tail, use a glue gun or sewing kit to attach a long black sock stuffed with tissues to the back of the pants.
Doctor's orders You will need: • Large men's collared shirt • Cardboard • Red acrylic paint or marker • Toy doctor's kit • Plastic glasses Use dad's old white shirt for this fun project. Lay it flat on your workstation and use permanent marker or cherry-red acrylic paint to create a red cross on one side of the chest and Dr. (Your Kid's Name Here) in black marker on the other. Make sure you use protective cardboard on the inside of the shirt when you paint so it doesn't seep through. Buy a dollar-store doctor's kit with a stethoscope, find a pair of old plastic glasses, and your child is ready to make a house call.Bridgette Maher, 10, of Des Plaines is the party gal, all in a box.
Party in a box You will need: • A big sturdy cardboard box (call a local craft, office or appliance shop to locate one) • Two rolls of colorful wrapping paper (tissue paper will not hold up to inclement weather) • Streamers or curling ribbon • Big bow or ribbon • Balloons, candy and plastic cupcakes and sweets from cooking toys • Face-paint kit • Cutting knife, masking tape, scotch tape and glue gun
Cut arm and head holes in the box, then cut out the bottom of the box completely. With the masking tape, securely tape shut the open sides. Wrap the entire box with bright paper and hot-glue or tape on candy, small balloons, cupcakes, curling ribbon—even old party invitations, hats and whistles. Find or make a giant bow and attach it with bobby pins to your child's head. Use face paints to paint presents on his/her face as a final touch.
Sheep You will need: • White hooded sweat suit • Cotton batting • Two 8½-by-11-inch white felt sheets for the ears • Double-sided tape • Two pairs of white or black socks • Glue gun or sewing kit Attach the double-sided tape up and down the sweat suit and attach the cotton batting in clumps by pressing it onto the tape. For the ears, cut two triangles from the white felt. Either hot-glue or hand-sew ears onto the hood. Have your child wear one pair of socks on his hands and one pair on his feet. If he/she has a sibling or best friend looking for a costume, look into thrift store finds for a fluffy children's dress that resembles Little Bo Peep (a fancy Easter dress perhaps). Add a bonnet, binoculars and lacy tights and you've got a storybook treasure that comes alive.
Good face paints tend to last a long time, so invest in a good package. Magic and costume shops offer safe, water-soluble, quality paints that can be used for years. A foundation of white face paint (it usually comes in a small tub or jar) costs $6 to $8 but lasts a long time. Professional clowns often use this instead of paint sticks. Look for face paints that are nontoxic, non-irritating and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. If you break down and buy… If all else fails and you do buy a costume, Laura Coyne, former editor of the National Safety Council, says, "Use makeup instead of masks; also, costumes that cover the mouth and nose should be completely avoided, along with neck-area drawstrings, which are especially dangerous for young children."Diane Hardy is an avid crafter and writer who lives in the northwest suburbs with her husband and two children