Buy, buy, buy! Sometimes it feels like the whole world is about money. But one thing you don’t have to do, is buy into it, especially when it comes to providing presents for your little ones to take to birthday parties. Here is how to make the cutest dress up kits for your little ones.
Imagination and creativity will always win out over dollars when you create unique gifts at home. And by involving your child in the fun of making a present rather than buying it, you’ll be teaching them the true meaning of giving. Few gifts have more ‘wow!’ factor than dress-up costumes, especially when they come with a matching card and bag. So let’s get started!
so many costumes to choose from
From film-star to fire-fighter, princess to painter, ideas for children’s costumes are endless – as a quick Google image search of ‘Home-made dress-ups for kids’ will reveal. Use these images for inspiration, but remember that when it comes to creating something stunning and simple, there are a few secrets to success.
Search for op-shop or dollar shop treasures in advance and keep them in a carton ready for future use. Best buys include sparkly costume jewellery, wigs, fabric pieces in tulle, lurex, and light synthetic (think capes), adults’ white dress-shirts (with sleeves trimmed to length, they are the start of the ‘artist’, the ‘mad scientist’ or ‘the nurse’), children’s clothing (including swimsuits) in basic colours, spotted kerchiefs, ties and boots, belts (some with big buckles), braces, and hats. Hunt through the bits and bobs of the sewing section for lace, elastic, thread, domes and velcro (all perfect for constructing costumes). Search the toy section for essentials such as plastic swords, wizard’s wands, cowboy hats and fairy wings. Fabric paint and glitter glue is always useful. So is nail polish and lipstick.
cut and paste
Don’t hesitate to cut up your op-shop finds. Those black trousers cut off at the knee and chopped into with scissors to create a ragged edge make perfect pirate pants. Cut a serrated edge into the hem of a long green t-shirt, team it with a belt, add a vinyl bag filled with toy arrows, and Robin Hood is almost there! Snip a red skirt down the back, thread a cord through the waistband and, hey-presto, Little Red Riding-hood has her cape! The tops of vinyl gumboots are easily cut into to create serrated-edged pixie footwear.
Cheap costume jewellery is made for pulling apart. Let children design patterns for a cardboard crown with plastic pearl and coloured beads, then use the glue-gun yourself to fix the ‘treasures’ in place. If plastic swords and wands are looking tired, spray or brush them with gold paint.
team and trim
This-goes-with-that when creating costumes. A child’s red bathing suit over red leggings is Superman-in-the-making, especially with a big fabric-painted ‘S’ on the front. Grab that Santa hat and beard but team it with a yellow shirt, blue leggings and black boots for the best gnome-look in town (a piece of bamboo will do for a fishing rod!). Feathers from an op-shop duster are just what you want to add authenticity to a ‘red-Indian’ costume. Use them to decorate chopstick ‘arrows’ and a cardboard headband ‘head-dress’. Tack lace to blouse and trouser cuffs to help princes and princesses look more regal. Tinsel trim glued onto a plastic hairband has a sparkly fairy-look, while a large white handkerchief painted with a red cross will have ‘nurse’ looking the part.
mix it up!
Think creatively when it comes to wearing existing clothing. With elastic threaded through the waistband, that long lurex skirt can be worn as a strapless gown (great with pearls and a crown as Miss Universe). Wear the lace curtain as a veil and train over a white dress for ‘here comes the bride’ and use the satin nightie as the basis for a shiny superhero outfit.
Don’t hold back on the paint. Change the colour of boots, shoes, bags and belts to suit your theme. Smear the ‘artist’s’ belted white-shirt ‘smock’ with dabs of bright colour, do the same to their paper-plate palette. With a paintbrush and beret, she’ll be good to go!
all the trimmings
The gift bag
Now that your costume is ready, it’s time to make the gift-bag. http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Paper-Bag is the site to go to for fail-proof instructions. To make a bigger bag, use a larger piece of paper. And don’t be afraid to use triple-layer newsprint as, once it’s painted, it will look fabulous, and your family will be forever-after remembered as recycling heroes! Let your child decorate the bag, and use ribbon or cord for the handles. In big, bold letters on the front of the bag, print the name of the costume. Adding a number to its title (‘Dress-up Kit #1: Robin Hood’) is a fun way to make your gift look particularly professional, as well as being a promise of things to come!
This is where the kids take over. Give them a few hints as to how to make the card fit the theme (‘How about using red card because our costume is Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘Shall we use glitter glue because we’ve made a princess costume?’) and let them get on with it. Don’t forget to decorate the envelope, too.
Home-made gifts are simply the best. They reflect you and your child’s imagination, and the gift of your time. But if you still find yourself feeling uncomfortable about not ‘buying’ anything from the toy-shop, go with your feelings by adding a little purchased ‘extra’ to fit with the theme of the dress-up kit. Princesses and show queens will enjoy a ‘play’ lipstick or make-up kit. The artist will appreciate a packet of crayons or a colouring book.
Choose a snack bar for Superman (be sure to give it a new ‘Super-energy’ label!) and look for a toy stethoscope for your doctor or nurse. Above all, keep the purchased gift small so that your dress-up kit is the star attraction. Other partygoers and parents are bound to be impressed, so be sure to share your tips!
Catlins author, Diana Noonan, is one of New Zealand’s best-known writers for children. A former editor of the iconic School Journal, she writes for a wide range of educational resources, and takes a strong interest in the New Zealand Curriculum.
Looking for ideas for your next party? we have the best list of venues, entertainers and party providers on offer here