My children are 5 and 3 years old, and I love making coordinating costumes for them to wear for Halloween.  I can’t remember exactly how the idea came to me, but I thought it would be cute to dress them up as a gumball machine and a quarter this year.  These costumes were a good match for my skill set because I can’t sew, but I can wield a mean glue gun!  If you ever needed a testimony to the usefulness and versatility of cardboard, here it is!

For the gumball costume I found a cardboard box that fit fairly closely around my son’s body.  I removed the flaps from the bottom of the box so that it was open, and I cut off the top 5 inches or so of the box to make the top piece of the gumball machine.  I secured all flaps with tape and then spray painted both parts of the box as well as 4 dowels with red spray paint.  I also bought a large quantity of ping pong balls and spray painted them in bright, fun, gumball-esque colors.

Once the box was dry, I had my son step into the box and hold it up to the desired height. I then cut elastic straps (I purchased strips of elastic in the notions department of my local fabric store) to the appropriate length.  I glued them to the inside front and back of the box, criss-crossing them in the back suspender-style for extra support.  I then cut two pieces of red felt, one to be glued inside the front of the box to cover the front of my son’s body, and one to be glued inside the back of the box to cover up his back.  The felt was open on the sides for his arms to stick out.  I cut out a half circle around his neck so that the pieces would go up over his shoulders and overlap. I then placed velcro in the appropriate places on each piece of felt so that the front piece velcroed to the back piece.  Then I really put the hot glue gun to work putting all of the gumballs in place one-by-one.  I cut the dowels to the right length and then hot glued them into the corners of the top and bottom boxes.

The dispenser part of the gumball machine is made from a shoe box lid.  I painted the lid silver, then used an exacto knife to cut the slot where the quarter would go in.  I placed a little scrap of cardboard painted silver behind the slot so that it would all appear to be metal.  I also cut a hole at the bottom of the shoe box lid for the opening from which gumballs would dispense.  I used another scrap of cardboard painted silver to fashion a cover for the dispensing hole.  The cover is fastened to the shoe box lid using a small hinge so that you can actually lift the flap to retrieve your piece of gum as you would on a real gumball machine.  The handle/knob is made of a couple feet of aluminium foil, crushed and shaped appropriately.  I then glued a long screw to the back of the tin foil handle/knob, threaded a few washers onto to keep it from scraping against the actual gumball machine, then cut a hole in the shoe box lid for it to thread through.  I threaded a couple more washers onto the screw, then finally a nut to secure it, and some hot glue to make extra sure it would all stay nice and tight.  The knob actually turns just like a real gumball machine!

Then I simply used colored paper to make the 25 cent signs and glued them to the box.

The quarter costume was made by simply cutting 2 circles out of cardboard and painting them with silver spray paint.  Once they were dry I used a thick Sharpie marker to  trace the image of the front of a quarter on one piece, and the back of a quarter onto the other piece.  I chose to use a Michigan quarter because that is our home state.   Then I used strips of elastic (left over from making the gumball machine) to make straps so that she could wear the quarter sandwich board-style.  I affixed black ribbon to the sides of the cardboard pieces so that when she wears it, the front and back pieces are secured together and don’t flap around as she moves.  I found a sweater dress at our local thrift store and painted it with the silver spray paint (yes, you can paint fabric!!) for her to wear under the cardboard quarter.

These costumes were easy and inexpensive to make, and assembling them was a project that my kids and I enjoyed working on together.  These are super fun, eye-catching and age-appropriate costumes.  We had a great time showing them off to friends and family.  Kids and adults alike could not resist turning the handle and lifting the flap on the dispenser.  These costumes are proof that with a cardboard box and a hot glue gun you can do just about anything!!