Cheap and Easy Halloween Costumes You Can DIY With Your Kids

Every year, I struggle to get my boys to decide early what they want to be for Halloween. A firefighter? A ninja? R2-D2? They’d decide on their costumes at the beginning of October, I’d go out and buy everything they needed … and then about a week before the big day, they’d suddenly change their minds and decide that they wanted to be something totally different. This left me with two options: Waste money by not using the costumes I’d already bought (for which I usually couldn’t find the receipt by then), or make them wear them trick-or-treating anyway and deal with their grumpy scowls all night long. After a couple of years of this, though, I came up with a better idea: Why spend money and plan ahead to get costumes they’ll end up not wanting to wear when I could just wait until they were really sure of what they wanted to be and put something together (often for less money) myself? Better yet, some of the best DIY Halloween costume ideas are simple enough that the kids can help, too! Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with for this year’s costumes: Hopefully, they’ll sound like good ideas to the boys in another week or so!

A Minion

Everybody loves those characters from Despicable Me and Minions, and dressing up as them doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. You can often find a cheap pair of overalls at a thrift shop or discount store, and paired with a yellow shirt, you’re most of the way there already. For their goggles, pick up a pair of safety goggles (sometimes, you can even find these at the dollar store) and glue on the rings from canning jars. Make the “G” logo they wear out of construction paper and pin it to the front of the overalls, and people will soon be asking if your son or daughter is Kevin, Bob, or Stuart!

A Lego Brick

Got a big cardboard box lying around? If so, you’re already partway to dressing your child up as one of their favorite toys. Just buy some disposable plastic cups, cut the bottoms off, and glue six of them to a box that’s a bit bigger than your son or daughter. Cut neck and arm holes in the box, then paint the whole thing one primary color. Put it on over a matching-colored shirt and you’re good to go.

A Ninja Turtle

It doesn’t take much to give your kid some “turtle power.” Start by having them wear a green top and pants (if they don’t have green pants, pick up some pants from the thrift store, then spray-paint them green if you can’t find green ones). Cut out a mask from a piece of felt, and attach it with string. For the shell, buy a disposable aluminum roasting pan, paint it dark green, and attach it to their back with more string or straps. Get crafty with cardboard to make their weapon of choice, or use a broom handle for a staff if they want to be Donatello.

A Shark

This shark costume is both easy and warm. Start with a gray hoodie, then cut shapes for teeth and eyes out of soft white felt, using a black marker to draw the pupils on the eyes. Glue the teeth around the edges of the hood, and glue the eyes on the outside of the hood itself. Then, make a fin out of stiff felt and glue that on the back. For an added touch of fun, bring an iPod with a portable speaker and play the Jaws theme as you trick-or-treat.

Olaf the Snowman

Do you want to build a snowman? If so, it’s easy, you will see … OK, now that I’ve put that song in your head, let’s get to it. Hoodies are so versatile when it comes to Halloween costumes, and here’s another great idea that uses one to create a favorite character from Frozen. Outfit your kid in white pants and a white hoodie, then use felt to make eyes, eyebrows, one big white tooth, and an orange nose to glue onto the hood. Use brown fabric paint to draw twigs down the arms of the hoodie like Olaf’s arms. Finish the look with black felt “buttons” glued down the front, and you’ll be ready to ring doorbells in no time!

A New York City Firefighter

Most NYC kids idolize firefighters: After all, they’re real-life heroes. To mimic the look of a New York City firefighter, get a black raincoat or a black men’s dress shirt, then use yellow duct tape to put a stripe around the bottom, a stripe in the middle of your child’s chest, and stripes around the bottoms of the sleeves. To make sure the costume is clear, you might also want to use the tape to spell out “FDNY” on the back of the jacket. Also tape yellow stripes near the bottoms of the legs of a pair of black pants. You’ll also need a pair of rain boots for this look, preferably yellow or black: If you can’t find either color, cover boots of another color in red or black duct tape. Plastic fire helmets are usually pretty inexpensive at this time of year, but for another interesting accessory, try painting an empty two-liter soda bottle silver and strapping it to your child’s back for an air tank.

Thing 1 and Thing 2

This is the one I secretly hope my boys pick this year: Matching costumes are so cute! To start, dress your children up in red footed pajamas. Use paper and black markers to make “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” emblems to safety-pin to their chests. For their hair, cover a knit cap with a blue feather boa, winding it around the entire hat and hot-gluing it into place. This simple look from The Cat in the Hat is sure to be a hit around the neighborhood!