With a little paint and cardboard, a whimsical carousel horse costume can make all your child’s dreams come true! And for under $5, this costume is a win for parents too.
My daughter’s favorite ride at any amusement park or carnival is definitely the carousel. She LOVES them! The first time I ever took her on one was in May, just before her second birthday. It was the carousel at the Washington DC zoo when we were visiting Malissa.
The first expression on her face was amazing! As the carousel began to turn, she got a confused/concerned look. Not unhappy but there was a definite frown. Imagine a questioning frown with wide eyes and that’s the look. It was hilarious! But it only took her a second to decide it was awesome! She quickly began to smile, laugh and say “wooo!” We got some really cute videos of that ride. And by the end she was crying and kicking when I took her off. Only distracting her with gummy worms made her okay with leaving that ride.
Now, when she rides a carousel, the concern is gone. From the beginning, she is “woo”ing and laughing and smiling and waving. She wants to ride them over and over again. She runs to the carousel when we see one and can’t wait to choose her animal.
I distinctly remember as a child the carousel being one of the only rides I ever wanted to ride. I was such a scaredy cat! Big rollercoasters terrified me and so did most of the small ones. But I remember loving the carousel. It was just so non-scary. No one else was ever too interested in riding it with me though. Except my mom. My mom was definitely my amusement park buddy. She always sat out of the “scary” rides to stay with me. She never complained about it or tried to push me into riding the ride. Having that support from my mom is always something I will remember, cherish and try to emulate as a parent.
As I’ve gotten older and over some of my fears, I’ve still always loved the carousel. More now because of the aesthetics though. Aren’t they, like, the CUTEST ride!? No matter how many running-away/predator scenes they happen to make it into in the movies, I will always think they are adorable and completely non-threatening. They’re usually so ornate, with carvings and little scenes on the inner pillar. And all the animals are so dressed up! I wish more people put multi-colored saddles, ribbons and sashes on their horses!
Anyway, with Stella and mine’s combined love of the ride, I decided it would be the perfect Halloween costume for her! Actually, truth be told, I started brainstorming this costume last Halloween, before I even knew how she felt about the ride. I always thought it would make such an adorable costume. My plan was always to have this be her costume this year. Having Stella actually love carousel horses was just a bonus!
It took me a while to figure out a way to make this costume, I was brainstorming all kinds of ideas. Horse costumes usually aren’t very cute. Finally I decided to turn to my favorite crafting material, cardboard. And boy am I glad I did! Not only was this costume super easy to put together, it was incredibly forgiving AND it cost me less than $5. Even if you have none of the materials lying around for this costume, you’re looking at $10 tops. With costumes easily coming in at $40+, this one can be a lifesaver (at least a wallet-saver!).
The templates for the horse outlines are all included below. Feel free to be creative with the colors and decorations too. And don’t hesitate to make this costume for an adult! Its super easy to size up and carousel horses are NEVER too juvenile :)
- Cardboard box in appropriate size for person wearing it //
- Extra flat cardboard/additional box //
- Xacto knife //
- Craft paints in assorted colors //
- Horse templates //
- Wrapping paper roll or shipping tube //
- Hot glue and gun //
- Ribbon //
- First assemble your box. My daughter is in size 3T clothes and this box measures 11″ x 17″ x 9″. I got it at the UPS Store for $4. I would not recommend re-using a box that has had tape on it and do not assemble yours using tape either. It will be accentuated once painted. If you remove the tape, the frayed cardboard beneath it will also stand out once painted. I recommend using a never-before-tapped-box and attaching it together using hot glue. Glue under the flaps fairly lightly at first.
- Trace and cut out a hole big enough for the costume wearer to stand in. I used a bowl I had that was plenty big for my daughters waist. Trace it on top of the box, a little further from the front than the back (we need to leave room for the pole).
- After cutting that out (I really recommend an Xacto knife, they’re super cheap and they work best on cardboard. If you don’t have one, a basic serrated knife will do), trace the bowl again on the bottom, directly below the hole and cut that out.
- Reinforce the box with glue around the hole.
- Trace your pole piece about 2″ in front of the hole. I just used an empty wrapping paper roll. Grab a dollar store roll or a shipping tube!
- Cut this out, push the pole into it and trace it on the bottom (make sure pole is straight!). Then cut that out. Reinforce box as needed with glue.
- Finally, cut four slits that are the same width as your ribbon.
- Print out Horse templates for the head, tail and legs. (see note about legs in step 16 before cutting them out to decide if you want to use them). These will need to be put together kind of like a puzzle once printed. Cut around the outlines and match them up.
- Trace these pieces onto flat cardboard.
- Cut out with Xacto knife.
- Paint all your pieces. I did a few coats with spray paint and then brushed on white craft glue. The spray paint is not necessary but it helps you have to do less coats of craft paint. I do recommend gold spray paint for the tube though. It seems to be more metallic than any gold craft paint I’ve found and will be much quicker. Do whatever works for you.
- Cut a slit in the front and the back of the box for the head and tail pieces to be inserted into.
- Now draw an outline of your horse’s accessories. I used a couple photos online for reference. Saddles, sashes, ribbons, there is basically no limits on carousel horses! Be as creative as you want.
- Paint on your decorations. I used coral, pink, blue, turquoise, gold, and yellow to accent my horse. Any colors work! I did two coats of all the colors.
- Insert pole.
- Tie on ribbons. Cut four equal lengths, tie a knot on one end of each and guide it through the slits so the knot stays inside the box.
- I really didn’t know how or if I was going to use the legs in the beginning. I waited till this point to see if I liked them enough to use them.
*Here is my HONEST opinion about the legs. They look adorable and totally complete the costume. But they make it pretty unpractical for a toddler. When they’re wearing it, they can’t bend down. I also think the legs made my daughter more uncomfortable cus there was just more to worry about. I think this costume would look great without the legs but if you want to do them here is what I did:
- Lay a front and a back leg piece on top of your painted horse.
- Use a pen or pencil to mark where the box hits underneath the pieces.
- Cut along those lines.
- Use these pieces as a template for the other two pieces and remove the same section from those legs.
- Attach to the front and back corners with hot glue. Reinforce well.
The hardest part of this project HONESTLY was photographing my toddler wearing it! She did not want to cooperate :D But in the end, I think we got some that work! It may seem like a lot of steps but I promise I felt like this project was really easy.
My mom mentioned when she saw it that she would feel overwhelmed by the painting on of the decorations, DON’T. I am seriously not a talented free hand artist. If I can do it, I feel pretty confident you can. But, remember, you can make it as easy as you need/want! Just do a saddle and mane/paint the tail and call it good.
Do your toddlers love carousels too? Or do you?! Would you consider being a carousel horse rider for Halloween? Let me know in the comments!