Berenstain Bears Halloween costumes

We did another full-fledged family costume this year for Halloween. Last year it was Jake and the Neverland Pirates. This year: Berenstain Bears (yes, that’s how it’s always been spelled).

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Corban discovered the Bear family thanks to the extensive collection of books my parents have from when I was a kid, and these past few months we have been compelled to read multiple Berenstain Bears books a day. You can’t get away with shortcuts with Corban either—he notices if you skip so much as a sentence.

This is a good thing, though: good moral lessons, childhood reminiscence, enjoyable storylines. Naturally, Corban draws connections between the Bear family and our own family of four. He is Brother Bear, Mara is Sister Bear.

So despite a new Star Wars obsession that has them plotting next year’s costumes already, they were excited to dress up as the Bear family for Halloween.

You can’t just go out and buy a Berenstain Bears costume (I looked and came up empty), so we had to get a little bit creative.

Thankfully, I came across this Etsy shop, which sells handmade embroidered Berenstain Bears masks. They only come in kids sizes, so they looked slightly off on Peter and me, but they were perfect for the kids. Without these masks the costumes would have been really obscure, especially since the Berenstain Bears are not normal-looking bears.

Brother Bear was the easiest: blue sweatpants and a red long-sleeve polo (found at Old Navy).

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Papa Bear was simple, too: Overalls and a yellow plaid shirt.

My original plan for Mama Bear was to buy a blue nightgown and paint white polka dots onto it, but upon realizing how expensive even the most basic long-sleeve nightgowns and dresses are (at least the ones that I could find), my mom offered to sew me a dress. She has years of sewing experience and has made many Halloween costumes throughout my life, and I’m grateful for her expertise and eagerness to help! She used blue polka-dot fleece fabric and modified a basic dress pattern, adding a white collar.

Sister Bear was my project. For her shirt, I just used fabric paint to paint pink polka dots onto an old long-sleeve shirt of Corban’s. I could have bought a pair of regular pink overalls, but Sister’s overalls are slightly different—they have scalloped straps and a straight line across the front and back (no bib). So after hunting around unsuccessfully, I got inspired by something I saw on how to turn an old pair of jeans into shorts overalls.

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I bought two pairs of pink fleece sweatpants (thank you, Walmart) and went to town. First, I cut two rectangles out of one leg of one of the pairs of pants in order to bring the waistline up to nearly chest-height. I sewed those two pieces together then sewed them to the waist of the other pair of pants.

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Unfolded:

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No hemming needed with fleece; yay!

For the straps, I put the newly modified pants on Mara, measured the length the straps should be and cut a scalloped pattern out of poster board.

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I took the other extra pant leg and cut along the seams to create two long rectangles of fabric. I folded each long rectangle in half lengthwise and cut the scalloped line out of the open side. Then I pinned the edges to prepare to sew them:

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I carefully sewed along the scalloped edge.

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Then I turned them inside out and ironed them flat (in the photo below, the top strap shows it before being turned inside out and the bottom one after).

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I sewed the front of the straps to the front of the pants, and my mom sewed snaps onto the inside of the back straps and back of the pants. The snaps ended up being unnecessary, though; Mara just pulled the straps up over her arms. I did end up pinning the shoulders of her shirt to the straps so they wouldn’t fall down (thanks to the double layers of fleece, you couldn’t see the pins).

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Oh, and the kids were super excited to wear these gorilla feet slippers we spotted at Walmart. They look enough like bear feet, I guess. They weren’t the easiest to walk in while trick-or-treating, though.

I also concocted some furry gloves for all of us by sewing some felt pieces to cheap cotton gloves to make it look like fur was coming out of our sleeves. If I were to do that again I would have hot-glued the felt…my quick hand-sewing job didn’t really hold up. Mara also refused to wear them, so there’s that.

It was a fun Halloween weekend: costumed play date party Friday morning, adult party Friday night (my solo Mama Bear costume isn’t quite as cute without the rest of the fam…), pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating Sunday and a Halloween party for the kids at our gym this morning.

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Hard to believe we are entering November already!

Past years’ Halloween costumes: Pirate/Tinkerbell (2015) | Peter Rabbit/bumble bee (2014) | mouse/cat (2013) | lobster (2012)

My mini mouse (an easy DIY costume)

My mom made almost all of the Halloween costumes I can remember from my childhood. Bride, witch, Barbie doll, Grinch (my brother)… she found patterns to sew, and when there was no pattern she made up her own. I didn’t realize at the time just how much work it was, but I loved every Halloween costume and went all out with it every year through high school, and even college (though by then I was putting together my own costumes).

I would love to do the same for my kids, but this year I found myself browsing Pinterest with less than one week until trick-or-treating, still undecided about Corban’s and Mara’s costumes. At that point, it had to be something simple if it was going to be homemade.

Then I found a pair of mouse ears from my sophomore year of college, when two friends and I dressed up as the three blind mice.

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(I forgot how un-mouse-like that costume actually was…)

Bingo! It would be easy to make him a simple mouse costume, and Mara could even be a cat.

It only took one (long) naptime to make this costume, and I didn’t have to buy anything at all!

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Here’s what I used:

Gray sweatshirt or jacket (light gray is best, but I used what we had)
Gray sweatpants
Two 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheets light pink felt
One 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet gray felt
Needle and thread
EyelinerMouse ears

I cut one sheet of the pink felt to make the pink belly, and sewed it onto Corban’s gray fleece jacket using only a handful of single stitches spaced a few inches apart. I wanted to be able to easily remove it after Halloween without any damage to the jacket.

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I just pulled it over his head to put it on him come trick-or-treat time.

I decided to make mouse paw mittens, which aren’t really essential to the costume, but ended up being my favorite part. If you have gray mittens, you can just sew the pink paws onto them instead of making the mittens themselves, but for some reason I find that hand stitching a pair of mittens is less stressful than going out shopping to find a pair.

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I used Corban’s mittens as a pattern and cut a mitten shape about 1/4-inch larger than them. Then for each mitten I hand sewed two pieces of mitten-shaped felt together. If you have a sewing machine this will only take a minute, but it took me a couple episodes of “The Mindy Project.”

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I turned the stitched mittens inside out and prayed that they would fit Corban (he was still sleeping). Then I cut a few rough circles of pink felt and stitched them onto the palms of the mittens.

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Lastly, the tail. For this, I just hot-glued some pink felt into a roll, including in the middle of the roll a thin piece of wire we had lying around. I ended up making the tail way too long (this is what happens when your child is not in your range of vision — you forget how short he is!) so I pinned it pretty high up inside the back of his jacket once he was wearing it.

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For the nose and whiskers, first I tested out some homemade, all natural face paint by mixing a little bit of baby lotion with cocoa powder (for brown) and frozen raspberries (for pink). I did not want to put face paint on my babies for fear of exposing their gentle skin to potentially dangerous chemicals.

The homemade face paint was a giant fail! If there were a natural way to make black face paint, that would be one thing, but the brown just looked like chocolate (or you-know-what) on my face when I tested it. The pink actually turned out OK, but I don’t think it would have lasted very long on Corban’s or Mara’s noses.

So I went the eyeliner route instead. I’m sure there are chemicals I don’t want to know about in eyeliner, but I just told myself since it’s made to be applied near one of our most sensitive areas (the eyes) it can’t be that bad on baby cheeks and noses.

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My little kitten wore cat ears we already had, a black onesie, black tights and a small boa tail.

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Trick-or-treating was on Sunday in our city (I know, the Milwaukee area is weird and every city has its own trick-or-treat day and time, which is often not on Halloween). We went with friends who have two toddler girls and it was such a blast watching the little ones scramble up to each door on our street and reach their mittened little hands into bowl after bowl full of candy.

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Corban also helped me carve our big pumpkin that afternoon.

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It all reminds me once again what a fun age he is at.

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Your turn: What are your little ones being for Halloween? Or what were you as a toddler? Toddler Halloween is the cutest!