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Trick-or-treat for big cats in a DIY lion costume this Halloween

Erica Tiffany is a graduate from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in digital media. She has now joined the SheK...

A roaring good cause

National Geographic is on a mission to save felines in the wild, and you can help. This Halloween, encourage your kids to collect change donations along with their candy while they’re trick-or-treating. And with this easy DIY lion costume, your child can dress up like her favorite big cat while helping save lions, tigers, leopards and more.

A roaring good cause

Lion tail

What you'll need:

  • Dark-brown felt (half of a 9 x 12-inch piece)
  • Tan fleece (approximately 1/2 yard)
  • Polyester stuffing
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Knitting needle or stick (optional)


  1. Start by making the tuft: Cut the felt into thin strips, cutting from long end to long end.
  2. Take four strips and set them aside. Pile the other strips together. Make the short ends even. Then fold the pile in half. Hold the folded end tightly and tie one of the remaining strips around the end. Set the tuft aside.
  3. Cut an 8 x 20-inch piece of tan fleece. Fold the piece in half so the long ends touch. Cut from the middle of one short end to the middle of the unfolded long end at an angle.
  4. Staple 1/4 inch in along the cut edge of the fleece. Turn the fleece piece inside out so the staples will not show on the outside of the tail. (Do this carefully!)
  5. Push the folded end of the tuft into the small opening of the tail. Tie a few of the felt strips around the fleece that is over the top of the tuft. Tie them tightly.
  6. Fill the tail with the stuffing. Use a knitting needle or stick to push the stuffing down. Leave the top 2 inches of the tail empty.
  7. Cut a strip of fleece to use as a belt. Make the width 2 inches. Cut the length to fit around your child's waist.
  8. Put the top of the tail in the middle of the belt. Staple the belt to the top 2 inches of the tail. Staple in a rectangular shape so that the belt is attached securely. Now, just tie the belt through the belt loops of your child's pants.

A roaring good cause

Lion mane hood

What you'll need:

  • Dark-brown felt (half of a 9 x 12-inch piece)
  • Tan fleece (same material as tail, approximately 1/2 yard)
  • Tan tulle fabric (1 yard)
  • Poster board (3 x 8-inch piece)
  • Scissors
  • Mini hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • Vase or tall container with a wide opening
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Pins


  1. A roaring good cause

    Cut two 15 x 18-inch pieces of tan fleece to make the hood. Lay them on top of each other. Use a few pins to hold the pieces together.
  2. Cut a rounded edge on one of the four corners. Start from about the middle of one side to the middle of the other side. This will be the back of the hood.
  3. Measure 4 inches in from one flat end and mark the spot with the pen. The flat end will be the front of the hood.
  4. Cut strips into the fleece from the outer edge to the middle of the piece. Make the strips approximately 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Continue around the curved edge of the hood to the other flat edge of the fleece. Make sure you cut through both pieces of fleece.
  5. Tie the strips of fleece together. Tie a strip from one hood piece with a strip from the other hood piece.
  6. Open up the hood and set it on the vase. This open side is where the mane will be. Cut strips approximately 4 inches long and 1 inch wide along the open sides of the hood.
  7. Cut two 1 x 10-inch strips of tan fleece. These will be the ties for the hood. Knot one tie to each bottom strip of the hood.
  8. Now cut the tulle pieces. The tulle will make the mane fluffy and full. To make one tulle piece, cut an 8 x 12-inch rectangle. Fold it in half so the short ends touch. Cut strips up toward the folded edge, then roll one folded corner to the other folded corner. This makes a kind of tulle pom-pom with loose wild ends. Make approximately 20 tulle pieces.
  9. To attach the tulle pieces to the hood, sandwich one between two fleece strips. Tie the tulle in place. You may have to make two knots to keep it securely in place. Continue around the hood until all the fleece strips have been tied to a tulle piece. Save four tulle pieces for the ties.
  10. Cut 4 inches up from the bottom of the ties. Knot two tulle pieces at the end of each tie.
  11. Cut thin strips from the dark-brown felt. Tie them onto the fleece. Add them around the top and the bottom of the mane. Add a few strips to the ties, too.
  12. Now add the ears. Cut two pieces of poster board in the shape of a rounded triangle, then two pieces of tan fleece for each ear. Leave an extra inch of fabric at the bottom of the ear.
  13. Use the mini hot-glue gun to sandwich the poster board between two fleece pieces. Put glue only on the poster board. This leaves an open flap of fabric at the bottom.
  14. Open up the flaps on each ear. Mark where you want to place the ears on the hood. Put glue on the flaps of one ear and press the flaps to the hood. Hold in place until the glue dries. Repeat on the other side with the other ear.

Cool lion fact!

Lions are the only big cats to have tufts at the end of their tails.

Note: For lynx and cheetah costume instructions, and more info on how to support National Geographic's Big Cat Initiative, visit

More Halloween costume ideas

5 Fun Halloween activities for the whole family
The ultimate Halloween costume guide
Halloween costumes for moms

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