Introduction: Robot Costume for Kids

The key to making a costume for a wiggly three year old (or at least my wiggly three year old) is to make it flexible and as non-constrictive as possible.  I did do some sewing for this costume but it's entirely possible to make it without sewing thanks to duct tape.  I'll discuss each major part of the costume in its own step and talk about alternative ideas.

Step 1: 1: Assemble the Helmet

The hardest part of the helmet is finding the right size box.  If you can't find one at home, you could either construct a smaller box from a big one or go someplace where there are a lot of boxes, like ask at your local grocery store.  This part of the costume my son liked the least and he was prone to taking it off.  There was a light drizzle when we were out so I managed to convince him to keep the helmet on to keep his head dry. 

After I cut the box to size and cut an opening (see my attempts to check the size on my model), I then covered it with foil.  It was pretty easy to wrap and only needed a small piece of glue and tape to finish it.  I then attached the "ears" which were small tin pans on the sides and an inverted pan with a pipe cleaner antenna on top.  I did cut out notches on the sides to make clearance for my son's shoulders.  All of the pans were attached to the foil by tape.

So, the bill of materials for my helmet are:
* 1 box
* 3 small tin bowls
* foil
* black pipe cleaner antenna (leftover from another Halloween project)
* tape, and lots of it (masking and duct)
* sharp cutting tool (a box cutter would have been idea but I had to settle for half of my take apart scissors)

Other options for helmets include:
 * Use a gallon milk jug, sides cut out; spray paint it silver - this will probably fit your child's head more snugly
 * Get a gray ski cap and attach pipe cleaner antenna and maybe some goofy ears

Step 2: 2: Assemble the Body

I knew I wasn't going to be able to use a box for the body so instead I got a metallic pleather from the local fabric store (Joann).  Since it was near Halloween, they had all sorts of funky fabrics they don't normally have.   It was on sale for about $7/yard and I got only a half yard.

The tunic itself I cut out as a big rectangle (this fabric was 36" wide, so I just cut a 14" wide strip).  You can see the pattern and measurements I used in the graphic I drew.  I cut a neck opening in the shape of a diamond.  In theory, you could cut a slit in the back (marked as a dotted line in the drawing) to make the opening big enough to fit over your child's head.  In my case,it fit without the slit, so I didn't cut it.  I also finished off the edges by turning them under and sewing them.  This gives it a more finished look (at least as far as I'm concerned).  You could skip the sewing and be fine.  The pleather won't fray on the edges.  I did find that the tunic did have a tendency to flap around, so I cut two small strips (about 3" x 7") which I taped into place under the armpits once it was put on.  Adjust the tunic measurements as you need for the wearer.

Bill of materials for this step:
* 1/2 yard of silver or gray fabric
* scissors
* sewing machine and thread (optional)

Step 3: 3: Add Some Bling

This is the part of the costume that really brought it all together.  Of course, it's got blinky lights.  Who can resist blinky lights?  Anyway, I knew I wanted buttons of some sort on the chest when I got my big brainstorm: use LED lights. 

First, let's look at the bill of materials:
* Twinkling LED lights from Phillips (~$7 from Target) and batteries
* 4" x 6" plastic photo frame
* Vellum paper (at least 4" x 6" in size)
* Black paper
* Sharpie markers
* corrugated cardboard (a small amount)
* scissors
* knife for slicing foam (a serrated bread knife works well)
* piece of styrofoam (at least 4" x 6" x 1" or so)
* piece of ribbon
* tape (duct and masking)
* glue

First to construct the light box.  I took out the cardboard insert from the plastic frame and cut a piece of vellum to fit inside.  I also cut a piece of styrofoam (a serrated bread knife worked well). into 4" x 6".  I then assembled the black paper frame for the lights.  I glued small 1/4" strips cut to length to form a grid.  I had the strips precut from some scrapbooking work so I didn't have to do to much cutting.  Once I had the black frame assembled, I cut some corrugated cardboard and made slits to interlace the pieces together to form a grid.  The baffles were originally 1/2" tall but I trimmed them to 1/4" in the end.

I then set about coloring the the lights on the vellum using Sharpie markers (had the best and richest color saturation).  I then stacked in the box the black frame, the vellum, the baffles and then the styrofoam.  I then used a skewer to punch holes in the styrofoam for the lights.  I poked the lights through the foam holes to check out positioning and the effect.  It looked good.  I then tried to find a way to make the light box as flat as possible.  With the baffles trimmed to 1/4" tall, the foam sat mostly flat along the back of the box.  The battery pack for the box needed a home though so I used the knife to hollow out a space in the back of the styrofoam for the battery pack.  I then taped (using duct tape) the heck out of it.  I taped along the edges of the clear box to prevent light bleed through.  I also used the same tape to tape up the back and hold the battery pack in place. 

The last issue I had was how to attach the unit to the tunic.  I was hoping for something reusable.  In the end, I decided on a ribbon around the neck a la Twiki and Dr. Theopolis.

Step 4: 4: Put It All Together

For under the tunic, I had a gray turtleneck shirt and gray pants.  I also had a gray sweatshirt in case it got too cold (we weren't expecting particularly nice weather this year).  You can customize the thickness of your under layers as your local climate demands.  As far as shoes, my son loves red, so I went with red Converse tennies.  I didn't think he'd keep on any sort of foot covering which is why I didn't bother.

So, along with all the parts from steps 1 - 3, you'll need:
* gray pants
* gray long sleeve shirt (turtleneck, sweatshirt, t-shirt, whatever works for you)
* shoes to complete the outfit

Add one candy collecting container and you are ready to go trick or treating!

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