You thought you had the kids’ Halloween costumes taken care of this year; you even ordered them online back in August. But then the package containing them got lost. Or maybe porch pirates got it. Or maybe you have the costumes, but your kid just got invited to a party ahead of Halloween and you don’t want to risk the “good” costume so now you need a quick and cheap alternative. We’re here to help! We’ve outlined 15 quick-ish and easy DIY Halloween costumes that you can cheaply and somewhat easily create at home.
Now, if you’ve ever search online for ideas around simple and affordable DIY Halloween costumes, you’re likely to come across directions that include such words as “sewing machine” and “fabric scissors” and “cotton batting.” You won’t find those words here.
To ensure that all these costumes can actually be created at home, even by non-crafty people, I personally made most of them, with help from a couple other local moms, using only things we had at home or grabbed from the local dollar store. While some of the costumes were a little tricker than others to construct, honestly, the hardest part was getting the toddler to pose for pictures.
Not up for the DIY route? Then see what cheap, second-hand costumes you can find over on your local Facebook groups or on or in preloved clothing sites and stores, such as Beeja May and Jill and the Beanstalk. When it’s trick or treating time, your kids will be ready to go!
15 Quick-ish & Easy DIY Halloween Costumes
You might not have the necessary materials at home to create a superhero or comic book character costume, but you can likely pull together some kind of athlete costume. Have a jersey for a professional sports team? Guess what, your little one can pretend to be a super-star athlete. Have a top from a little league or even just a particularly sporty T-shirt? Great, your kid is now an amateur athlete. Just pair either shirt with some running shoes and either gym pants or shorts, depending on where your child will be wearing their costume. You can also include a hoodie, to keep your little one warm.
Fun Extra: Swap your kid’s trick-or-treating bag, or backpack if this is a school costume, with a gym bag, which can act as practical prop.
If you have a dancer in the house, you already have an instant costume on-hand! And if you happen to still have one of those frilly, sparkly costumes used in a year-end recital or competition, you’ve likely got an outfit that can hold its own against a store-bought costume. To make this outfit more school/trick-or-treating friendly, swap bare legs for thick tights or even leggings and send along a cozy hoodie, an item always found backstage.
Fun Extra: Want to make this outfit extra-special? Then do your child’s face up with makeup, preferably of the bright and sparkly kind.
Show the world that your little one is the sweetest by dressing them up as a chocolate or candy bar. Take a piece of cardboard (we used the panel off a diaper box) and cover both ends in aluminum foil. Then create a wrapper using construction paper or Bristol board. We opted to create a fictional brand of chocolate bar, but you can easily knock off the design for a real-world bar, especially if you have access to a colour printer. Once you’re happy with your “wrapper,” tape or glue it to the cardboard, making sure it overlaps the tinfoil. Finally, attach a couple pieces of ribbon, or even stripes of fabric, to the top so that you can easily tie the board around your child’s neck.
Fun Twist: Consider what packaged foods your kids love. Is it macaroni and cheese? Great, this costume can easily be modified to look like a box of mac and cheese. Or maybe a sleeve or cookies? Or even a bag of chips? Get creative!
This one is legitimately easy and so cheap. Just take a sheet of yellow Bristol board, draw a circle (here’s a trick on how to do that https://www.wikihow.com/Draw-a-Perfect-Circle-Using-a-Pin) on it and then cut it out. If you don’t have bristol board, you can always paint a large piece of cardboard yellow or cover it with yellow construction paper. You can then paint your emoji’s face directly onto the paper or cut the pieces out of construction paper; whatever works best for you. Make the emoji wearable by attaching a loop of ribbon or other fabric to the back of the face.
Fun Extra: Need to do a family or group costume on a budget? Then consider creating a collection of giant emojis, with each person having their own expression.
Our execution of this idea isn’t the greatest but if you’re a more skilled artist than I am (and that bar is pretty low), this can be an adorable costume that looks more complicated than it actually is. To build it, trace the shape of a gum ball machine
on a piece of bristol paper or a piece of cardboard that you’ve painted red or covered in red construction paper. Next, create the metal part out of aluminum foil, twisting some of the foil together to create the crank. To build the tank part of the machine, take a clear, round Tupperware container and fill it with plastic balls. Alternatively, you could use pompom balls or even ball up coloured paper. Tightly seal the lid of the container to the base (I used clear packing tape so that I can re-use the container) and then glue the lid to the rest of the machine (you likely want to use hot glue). Finish this costume off by attaching, using glue or tape, a couple pieces of ribbon or fabric that can be used to tie the bubblegum machine to your child’s neck.
Fun Twist: If you don’t have something that could act as the machine’s tank but do have a solid colour shirt that you’re okay sacrificing to this costume, you can glue your gumballs directly to the shirt, creating that classic round gum ball machine as you glue. Then create the bottom part as we did or ditch it and opt for red pants or a red skirt.
Okay, this one is a little bulky but it’s also super cute and you can put your kids to work creating it. Take a cardboard box that’s large enough to fit your child, cut one set of flaps off and then cut and tape or glue the other set together to create the roof. We covered our roof with black paper, but you could also paint it. Then have your kid decorate all four sides and turn the box into a spooky house. Use markers, paint, stickers, cutouts, whatever you want. Once you’re happy with how it looks, create straps using fabric, ribbon or even sticking two pieces of duct tape together, and tape them to the inside of the box, so that your child can wear it (we recommend figuring out placement by having the child wear the box while you line everything up).
Fun Extra: Do you have access to glow sticks (you can grab them at the dollar store) and want to take your haunted house up another notch? Then cut out the windows and cover them (from the inside of the box) with wax paper (maybe draw a cute little ghost peeking out of one corner). Next, tape a cracked glowstick behind each window and watch your haunted house lit up.
Key materials for this outfit include a red top, black bottoms, and some kind of black hat. To turn them into a ladybug, cut some black spots out of black paper (or even better, black felt) and attach them to the red top using painter’s tape, to prevent any damage. Next, create a pair of antennas using pipe cleaners or black carboard, and then pin them to the black hat.
Fun Extra: Take this costume to the next level by pairing it with fairy wings (we’ve spotted some at the dollar store) or make a pair out of black felt or paper. Another cute touch is to pop a pair of black or red framed glasses on your child.
Here’s a great option for a costume that easily slips over bulky winter coats, shared with me by local mom Cheryl. Start with a box that comfortably fits over your child and whatever they will be wearing. Spray painting the box, ideally silver, is the quickest way to paint it but if you don’t have spray paint, you can use regular paint or even cover the box with construction paper. Next, grab a section of dryer duct and cut it into two pieces that are each long enough to cover most of your child’s arms (okay, this costume might involve a trip to the hardware store). Trace one end of the duct onto the sides of the box to create the arm holes and then cut those out. Attach the two pieces of duct over the arm holes, using duct tape (and remember, you’re building a robot, it’s okay for things to look industrial) and be sure to also cover the other, open ends of the duct with tape, for safety reasons. Now, turn your robot into a love robot by cutting a heart out of construction paper and gluing it to the box.
Fun Extra: If you can get your hands on a strip of battery-powered lights (dollar stores often stock them, sometimes as part of a make-your-own-sign kit), you can literally make this costume electric. Create a small hole in a bottom front corner and thread the lights through it and into the desired shape. Then secure the lights with hot glue, making sure to also secure the battery pack onto the inside of the costume. If you can’t find a battery-powered light strip, you could also crack some long, skinny glow sticks (find them in the dollar store’s party section) and glue those down instead.
Does your kid often whine about wanting to wear their biggest, flashiest dress to school or otherwise out in public? Well, you can now make their dreams come true by telling them, “Yes! But only if you tell people you’re dressed up as a princess.” To princess-up this outfit, pair the dress with a crown, either a play one you already have floating around the house or have your little one create a crown out of construction paper and decorate it with paint, stickers and whatever else is hiding in your craft box.
Fun Extra: Does your little one want to be more than a typical princess? Then pick up a set of fairy wings and a wand and bam, your little one is now a fairy princess.
If your trick-or-treating experience is looking cold and/or rainy, lean into the weather with this water-resistant outfit. To create the cloud, start with an umbrella, ideally kids’ size. To prevent damaging our umbrella, and to make this costume more rainy-friendly, we covered our umbrella with a white plastic tablecloth, which we cut and then taped to the underside of the umbrella. As we taped, we tucked balled up white tissue paper (but you could use regular white paper) between the umbrella and the tablecloth, to create a cloud-like effect. Alternatively, you could glue directly to the umbrella any fluffy white or grey materials, such as cotton balls (though that won’t be a rain friendly). Next, we taped strips of blue ribbon to the inside of the umbrella, and glued blue paper rain drops to the end of the ribbons, to create our “rain.” We then paired our umbrella with our kid’s usual rain gear
Fun Twist: Oh no, is it snowing where you are? Then swap the rain gear for snow gear and the raindrops for paper snowflakes.
Here’s a costume that’s warm, comfortable, and sure to get a laugh. Have your child wear a pair of sweatpants, a bathrobe, and their choice of comfy footwear. Then wrap up a baby doll and position it in your child’s arms. Be sure to complete the look by pulling any long hair back into a messy bun.
Fun Extra: The classic accessory for a stereotypical mom is coffee so for photos, fill your child’s free hand with a coffee mug or even better, a cup from Starbucks. A fun touch for school-age kids is to decorate their water bottle like a coffee cup.
This year saw the retirement of two of the biggest names in tennis: Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Pay tribute to them with this simple costume that will appeal to kids who prefer casual, comfy clothes. Pair a sporty t-shirt, ideally from a big athletic brand, with gym shorts or a tennis skirt (or grab a tennis dress if you have one) and running shoes. To make these outfits more friendly for the weather, include a hoodie and consider sliding those shorts or skirts over tights or leggings. And don’t forget the sweatband (you can always make one out of a scrap fabric or construction paper) and of course a tennis racket.
Fun Extra: This is another costume where you can swap the usual trick-or-treat bag for a gym bag, which can also house a tennis racket.
Want to give something other than candy to your kid’s classmates? How about stickers, distributed via your kid’s costume! We created this by simply folding a piece of bristol board in two and then creating a cover using children’s drawings and a little help from our printer. Inside, we taped strips of stickers, alongside some instructional text. To attach it to my child, we taped a ribbon loop to the back, so that the whole thing can be easily slipped over her head.
Fun Twist: There are countless spins you could put on this costume. Does your child love a particular book or comic series? Then transform a folded piece of bristol board into their favourite book. This idea is a great idea for kids who want to express their creative side in a costume or for families that have access to a colour printer.
Few Halloween costumes are as classic as “witch” and few are as simple to put together. All you need are black pants or tights, a black top or dress (we actually turned a black and white dress inside out to get our “black” dress) and some kind of black or dark-coloured fabric that can act as a cape. We re-purposed a dark grey pillowcase and “tied” it together using a black hair elastic. We also grabbed a hat from the dollar store but as long as you have black construction paper, or carboard and black paint, you can create your one witch hat. See the tutorial here.
Fun Extra: Does your kid have a stuffed toy cat? Great! Now your little witch has a familiar that she can pose for photos with (if you have safety pins, you could potentially pin the kitty to your kid’s shoulder). Another fun prop is a toy broom, though we wouldn’t recommend sending your kid to school with it.
Do you have a kid’s white button-up shirt hanging in a closet? Some black pants? Something that can act as a cape, like a dark-coloured pillowcase? Then you have an easy-peasy vampire costume. As for teeth, you can easily grab a pair at the dollar store though if you’re dealing with a younger child, don’t worry about them. After all, Hotel Transylvania taught us that little vampires don’t get their teeth until after they turn five.
Fun Extra: Try slicking back your child’s hair (mine wasn’t into this idea) and if you have a kid’s bowtie kicking around, perhaps from a past family photo session, pop that on as well.