This post is all about how to make paper plate masks, cardboard wings, animal and bird tails, and other costume accessories for kids.
Last week, I told you about our costume making party and how Maia and Daphne and their friends created costumes using Primary clothes as the base. They made masks, wings, and tails (with some help from the parents). Today, I’m going to share more detail about how to make paper plate masks, cardboard wings, funky chicken tails, and comet tails.
Note :: I’ll include a free printable PDF of some paper plate mask ideas at the end of this post.
In other words, all the accessories for the kids’ costumes you saw in the photos of that last post!
First up, the paper plate masks…
How to Make Paper Plate Masks
- Paper plates*
- Scissors or utility knife
- Hole punch
- Thin elastic
- Paint or paint sticks
- Tacky glue
- (Optional) Embellishments such as feathers, pompoms, sequins, yarn, or pipe cleaners
*You can use the sturdy paper plates made by Chinet (or similar) as some of the kids did, or the more flexible and inexpensive paper plates as Lucia, the red fox, did. Both work.
Start by estimating your eye holes and nose areas and drawing them on the paper plate.
We chose to remove the bottom halves of the paper plates to leave noses and mouths more free, but you can keep the paper plate a whole circle if you prefer. To help the plate fit your child’s face better, consider cutting a notch in the top of the forehead area of the paper plate and bringing the two ends together with tape, a glue gun, or staples.
Note :: If you are having a costume making party or just have more than one child making paper plate masks, it might be easier to get the eyes and nose correct once and then trace them onto a second paper plate.
Here are some possible shapes for your paper plate masks.
If your costume requires ears, you can cut them out of a paper plate and attach them with staples or a glue gun. Same with a beak.
Now you are ready to paint and decorate your paper plate mask!
You can use any paint (tempera, BioColor, acrylic, watercolors, etc) but we used tempera paint sticks (Kwik Stix) for the costume party because they are mess free and fast drying (90 seconds).
After you paint the mask, you can embellish as necessary with feathers, pompoms, sequins, glitter, yarn, pipe cleaners, paper, cotton balls, etc. Tacky glue works well for this (sticky and relatively fast drying) as does a glue gun.**
The four masks pictured, clockwise from top left…
- Ezra’s chicken mask. He eventually covered the entire paper plate with colorful pompoms.
- Emily’s blue jay mask, embellished with blue and white feathers, pompoms, and paint stick paint.
- Daphne’s blue jay mask, decorated with marker eyelashes, a blue paint stick, blue pompoms, and lots of feathers.
- Lucia’s red fox mask, made with a paper plate, red and orange paint sticks, and lots of red and orange pompoms attached with tacky glue. She later attached a paper fox nose and pipe cleaner whiskers.
**A note about hot glue gun safety**
- Make sure your kids understand that the tip is hot and could burn them if they aren’t careful.
- Burns do happen sometimes; keep a bowl of ice cubes and water nearby just in case.
- Rest the glue gun on a special tray or dish (such as a disposable pie plate) when it’s not being used so everyone knows where it is.
- Keep extra glue sticks handy.
- I suggest buying a mini size hot glue gun to use with little kids (easier to squeeze) and a regular size glue gun for older kids.
- If you’re unsure about letting a child use a hot glue gun, read this post on glue guns versus white glue by Teacher Tom, my interview with him, or page 181 of my book (more tips from Teacher Tom on kids using glue guns).
Once the mask is finished, tie the elastic string through one hole, fit the mask to the head, and tie it off on the other, trimming off the excess.
Base Clothes for Kids Costumes
Now, what do you need to complete the costume?
I assume you have a base outfit that matches your costume idea. We used colorful Primary clothes and pjs as the bases for our costumes, and really like them. You can also use clothes you already have or pick up something at the thrift store.
If you need wings or a bird tail, this next section will help you. After that, I’ll share how we made fox tails, a super easy fake fur vest (that would work for many animal costumes), and a comet costume.
How to Make Cardboard Wings and Tails for Bird Costumes
- Sturdy utility knife
- Tacky glue
- (Optional) Feathers
- Elastic string
- Hot glue gun
First, have the child lay with arms spread on a large piece of cardboard. Use a marker to draw her wingspan, with the base of the wings going down to the waist. Have her get up and add a fanning bird tail to the bottom.
Next, use a utility knife or strong scissors to cut out the wings (an adult job). If desired, cut feathers along the wings and tail (easiest done after the initial wing shape is cut out).
Then, paint your wings. Regular tempera paint or BioColor works well for this. (The paint sticks we used on the masks are better for smaller areas and details.) Let dry.
Turn the wings over and paint the other side. Let dry.
Now, if desired, you can embellish with feathers. Squeeze a line of tacky glue, then arrange feathers along it. Repeat.
Finally, use a hot glue gun to attach a loop of elastic string where the wrists touch the wings and also at the shoulder area. To wear the wings, slip the arms through the shoulder loops and then wrist loops.
Make a Funky Chicken Tail
For the chicken tail, as seen on Ezra above, we cut a fan-shaped tail out of cardboard and Ezra decorated it with many colors using the paint sticks and then colorful feathers. This can be attached around the waist with elastic or ribbon.
Sew Fox Tails
The fox tails were sewn from fabric and stuffed.
- Lucia’s red fox tail was sewn from red cotton poplin fabric with a white terry cloth tip added and then stuffed with crumpled paper. It was attached to her costume with an elastic string around the waist.
- Maia’s arctic fox tail was sewn from fake white fur that I picked up at the fabric store and stuffed with polyfill. It was attached to the seat of her leggings with a large safety pin.
Sew a Fake Fur Vest
I made Maia a simple white vest for her arctic fox costume with the same fake white fur I used for her tail. I used one of her T-shirts as a sizing guide, laying it on top of a doubled piece of fur fabric with the fold along the top. I cut out a neck hole, trimmed the corners where the shoulders went, and added a slit up the front. Finally, I sewed the two sides closed, with the right sides of the fur/fabric facing each other and then turned the whole vest right side out.
If you don’t sew, you could probably attach the sides with a series of safety pins. And if you want the front of the vest to close, you could add snaps or ribbon ties. Easy peasy.
The $3 Comet Costume
Emerson’s comet costume was made with a splatter painted cardboard pizza circle taped to his chest. To make the comet tail, he and his mom sandwiched the ends of yellow and red crepe paper streamers between two lengths of metallic duct tape from the dollar store. This cape of streamers was then attached at the shoulder and wrist with more of the fancy tape.
Question… What do your kids want to be for Halloween? Would they like to make their own masks or costumes? Or could you make one together?
If you want to try your hand at some masks, here is that free printable of Paper Plate Mask Ideas I promised you. Click the link or image to be taken to the PDF to download or print.
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