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How to Make a Kid's Boat Costume Out of a Cardboard Box

Updated on March 30, 2017
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Brainy Bunny is the mother of two. Together they read, craft, and play games for fun.

This is an ideal costume when your child tells you two days before the party that his school is having a Halloween bash and that no superhero costumes are allowed! Since your son can't use his Jedi costume (no weapons allowed either!), and you can't pull out that Spiderman costume that has frankly seen better days anyway, you'd better come up with something else—fast. Do you have a cardboard box? Problem solved.

Things you'll need:

  • a large cardboard box
  • masking tape or duct tape
  • acrylic craft paint or a lot of aluminum foil
  • foam craft paintbrushes
  • a black permanent marker or paint pen
  • wide ribbon
  • stapler
  • scissors

1. Start with a large cardboard box (about two feet by three feet should be plenty for a kindergartener). Cut a hole in the bottom wide enough for his hips to slide through comfortably. You can use a craft knife if you have one, but if not, a pair of sharp scissors will suffice. Have your child practice stepping into the box and pulling it up to make sure the hole is big enough before you start painting.

2. Lift up the flaps and tape them at the corners with masking tape or duct tape so the box becomes deeper if necessary. (Estimate the best height by dividing your child's height in half. My four-foot-tall kindergartener needed a two-foot-deep box.) If the box is deep enough without the flaps, cut them off with your scissors or craft knife. They'll just get in the way when you make the straps.

Cut a hole in the bottom of the box wide enough for your child's hips.
Cut a hole in the bottom of the box wide enough for your child's hips. | Source

3. Start painting! Your child can do this part with you, as long as you spread out some newspaper so you don't make a mess on the table. Take your foam craft brushes, dip them in silver paint, and paint the box with long, even strokes. You will most likely need to do two coats, and you must let the paint dry between coats. Most acrylic craft paint dries fairly quickly, though. If you don't have time to get craft paint, take large sheets of aluminum foil and smooth them down the sides of your boat. Tape them on the inside at the top and underneath the boat on the bottom so they don't slide around. Take care not to crumple them, so they look sleek and shiny. Overlap them a little, so no cardboard shows through.

Paint the outside of the box with silver craft paint (or cover the whole thing in aluminum foil).
Paint the outside of the box with silver craft paint (or cover the whole thing in aluminum foil). | Source

4. Once your box is all silver, take your paint pen or permanent marker and get creative drawing details like the ship's name, an anchor, or even portholes or lifeboats.

Add details with a permanent marker.
Add details with a permanent marker. | Source

5. Last, but not least, cut two lengths of wide ribbon and staple them to the inside of the front and back of the box to use as straps. The ribbon straps will hold the box up when your child's arms are otherwise occupied. Wide ribbon is more comfortable, but narrow ribbon or even twine will work in a pinch.

Attach the straps to the front and back of the box so your child can support the boat on his shoulders.
Attach the straps to the front and back of the box so your child can support the boat on his shoulders. | Source

6. Add the finishing touches with clothing items you have around the house. My son completed his costume with a sailor hat and navy t-shirt, but if you have an old-fashioned sailor suit up in the attic, why not break it out for this?

Complete the boat costume with a sailor hat and navy t-shirt, or other nautical accessories you may have around the house.
Complete the boat costume with a sailor hat and navy t-shirt, or other nautical accessories you may have around the house. | Source

And there you have it: a fast and easy Halloween costume made in one day, mostly with stuff you already have around the house. Happy Halloween!

Options:

  • If you live near a beach, scavenge some dried seaweed and tape it onto the outside of your boat for authenticity.
  • Paint the box black and put your child in a striped shirt to make the box into a gondola. (You may need some extra cardboard and tape to fashion the front and back of the box into points. Don't forget a long stick for propelling it along!
  • For a pirate ship, paint the box brown. Put a pirate hat or bandana and an eyepatch on your child. Have him bring along a stuffed parrot if you have one around the house.
  • If your child like cars better than boats, paint the box red and use your marker to draw in wheels and door handles. Draw a steering wheel on the inside and a license plate on the back. Voila! Instant car costume.

© 2012 Brainy Bunny

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    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, clevercat. I think there's nothing cuter than a little boy in a sailor cap; every child should have one for dress-up! I didn't think of the seaweed in time when I was making the costume, but I did consider making barnacles out of white play-doh and then gluing them on. Ultimately I discarded the idea as a little too gross, but maybe someone out there will take up the challenge. If so, I want pictures. :-)

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      I love this idea and the seaweed would make a great touch!!! The other suggestions about a gondola or pirate ship are terrific, too.

      Cute kid; the sailor cap definitely adds authenticity.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, J.S. I was really in a pinch when I came up with the idea, and it worked out well for my son. Thanks for reading.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a cute idea! This is low budget, fun to do with kids and easy to make in a short amount of time. Voting up and sharing! Nice job! I also liked the additional options and suggestions at the end of the Hub!

      JSMatthew~