We know that feeling of being down to the wire and frantically looking around the house for costume ideas. We’re reaching deep back into our childhoods with this collection of Halloween cardboard costumes for kids. Quick, easy and creative. Our favorite combination.
Materials for all costumes: 1 cardboard box per costume measuring 13″ x 13″ x 19″ for smaller children and 18″ x 18″ x 24″ for a larger kids or adults, box cutter, packing tape, permanent marker, plate or other round object for measuring circles, various art supplies.
In addition you will need the following items depending on which costume you make:
Milk Carton: Paint and paint brush, toilet paper tube, headband or elastic string. Lego: Spray paint or paint and paint brush, 6 or more plastic yogurt containers, hot glue gun, shirt and pants that coordinate with your lego color. Giant Flip Book (Exquisite Corpse): Large Sheets of white paper, scissors, stapler, hot glue gun, markers.
I made several costumes from the same size box. You can adapt most of these costume ideas to any size box, but I found that the 18″ x 18″ x 24″ size was a good standard for large costume on most kids and a 13″ x 13″ x 19″ was a nice size on little ones. You can get this box at your local office supply, or here. Or of course, go to your local hardware store and see what they have destined for the recycling heap.
Creating a Base:
This base structure can turn into a house costume (for an Alice in Wonderland look), the milk carton, or endless other ideas. For all the costumes, leave the bottom of the box open for legs (yes, obvious, but we just needed to say it). Push all the bottom flaps into the box to reinforce the bottom and tape into place with packing tape if needed. This is usually a pretty snug fit, so the packing tape is just extra reinforcement.
To start, you’ll need to create the roof or apex of the box. Flip up one of the top flaps on the short side. Mark and measure the center of the flap. Draw a diagonal line from the center top of the flap to the left and right corners of the box to create the “roof” shape. Repeat on the short flap to complete the front and back of the roof.
You have two options, you can cut along the line to create the roof or you can score this line, only cutting half way, and fold back the triangular flaps for more strength and structure in your opening.
If you choose to score the top for a reinforced neck opening it will look like the image below.
For either option, you’ll want to create a head and neck opening at the top of the box. An embroidery hoop or plate works to measure and mark a round opening. Cut away the circular opening with a box cutter. It helps to hold the flaps and stabilize them when you cut away the opening, but make sure your hands are away from the blade.
It’s helpful to cut the arm openings now too before you start to bring this costume to life. You don’t want to create a costume, only to discover you forgot a place for your child’s arms! Place the box onto your child and have them gently press with their hands on the insides of the box so you know where to cut the opening, which will probably be somewhere just under their shoulder. Use a saucer or small embroidery hoop to measure and mark a small opening. Cut away the arm hole and try the costume on your child again. Cut a larger opening if necessary.
If you’re making the Lego costume or the Exquisite Corpse costume, start by taping the top of the box closed shut with packing tape. Using your embroidery hoop or plate, draw a circle in the center top of the box. Cut through all the layers along the circle to create an opening for the head and neck. You may want to reinforce the layers of the opening with packing tape to hold it in place and also to make the opening around the neck less itchy. Cut the openings for the arms (at a little lower than shoulder level) on the sides of the box.
Once you have the base done, you can start having fun and decorating your costume!
Milk Carton: If you’re turning your box into a milk carton you’ll want to begin by painting. I googled “milk carton” to get some inspiration.
You can sketch out a design on your box, then choose what to paint using tempera or craft paints. You can choose to go vintage and clean, or modern or even messy and fun and have your kids help paint this.
If you want matching cartons, the 18″ x 18″ x 24″ works for a grown-up milk carton. The perfect kid size carton is 13″ x 13″ x 19″.
I free-hand drew my graphics and kept the color palette simple and classic. White, red and a little orange.
What makes this costume super cute is the straw headpiece! Use a toilet paper tube and a headband to create a striped straw. Using the lines in the toilet paper tube, paint a red and white striped design. Using a 1″ foam brush carefully follow the seam line that runs around the tube. If you follow the line you’ll get a nice stripe.
Attach the tube to a store bought headband. Cut two tiny notches the width of the headband on opposite sides of the tube. Using hot glue or tacky glue, glue the little tabs onto the headband. This will cause the “straw” to fit down onto the headband.
Pair this costume with leggings or pants for a fun and calcium-fortified costume for all ages.
Lego Costume: Once you create the base, you’ll want to add the “studs” (thats the official term). To make the studs, use empty yogurt cups and hot glue. Glue six yogurt cups facedown evenly across the face of your Lego. Glue in place with hot glue. Once the “studs” are in place, spray paint the entire costume with a glossy red paint. You could also hand paint everything in acrylic if you prefer.
I prefer using yogurt cups instead something like a plastic party cup (which comes in red), because the yogurt cup has a lip which allows you to easily adhere with hot glue. Plus, with this method, you can make Legos in any color for the perfect pair or trio of Lego buddies.
Exquisite Corpse or Flip Book Costume: Have you ever played exquisite corpse? It’s the perfect party game for kids and adults. This costume brings to life the game’s silliness and it’s a great way to involve kids in making their own costume. Start with your cardboard box base, with the head and arm openings cut. Cut an additional flat piece of cardboard that is the 20″ x 24″. This will cover the front of the box with a 2″ lip. Score the cardboard on the 2″ and hot glue to the left side of the box, This will be the cover of your flip book. With markers or paint decorate your cover. You can cut the cover in two sections or leave it whole.
an example of exquisite corpse
Using large sheets of construction paper 18″ x 24″ (which is a pretty standard size), cut multiple sheets in half. Staple your half sheets together on the left side as if making a book. The idea behind exquisite corpse is that each person draws a portion of the “body” and when the drawings are stacked and viewed together as a whole figure, the result is silly and fantastic.
The top section of paper should be the shoulders and stomach area of the figure and the bottom half will be the hips to the top of the knees. Let your children draw away then hot glue the books onto the front of the box to finish the costume.
These cardboard costumes will solve any last-minute Halloween heartache and can be endlessly adapted. But the greatest bonus is the pride your kiddo will have trick-or-treating, realizing there is no other costume just like this one. That’s worth an extra helping of candy corn in our book.