Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

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

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.

Roaring cats costume

Save cats this Halloween

Do-it-yourself lion costumeLet your child roar his way from house to house as an African lion and help save big cats in the wild! Children love animals, so they’ll enjoy helping make a difference by collecting change that will be donated directly to National Geographic‘s Big Cat Initiative, a program that funds research and solutions that can help save these animals from extinction. This is a fun opportunity to spend quality time with your kids, get them involved in making their own big cat costumes and teach them about these magnificent creatures!

Follow these simple instructions and pick up a free trick-or-treat collection box at your local Pottery Barn or order one at, and you’re on your way to a purr-fect Halloween.

Do-it-yourself lion costume

It’s easy to transform your child into the king of the beasts. You just need some easy-to-use tools, a few materials, and your imagination. You don’t even need to sew any of the pieces — everything is made using glue or a stapler, or by tying pieces of material together. Furry paws, a long tail, fun face paint and a wild mane make this lion costume. Just combine them with clothes already in your child’s closet.

Lion paw cuffs

What you’ll need:

  • Tan vinyl fabric (1/4 yard)
  • Tan furry fabric (longer “fur”) (1/4 yard)
  • Hook-and-loop (Velcro) material (two 3-inch sections)
  • Mini hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife or razor blade
  • Pen


  1. Lion paw cuffs

    Cut two rectangles of tan vinyl. Make the width 4 inches and the length to fit around your child’s wrists.

  2. Lay the fur on a table so that the back of the fabric is facing you. Trace a half-oval shape around your child’s hand. Draw a flat edge at the bottom of the hand shape.
  3. Cut two pieces of the fur fabric. Try not to cut the fur. See No. 4 below for help.
  4. TRY THIS! Cut fur from the back of the material. Use an X-Acto knife or razor blade to cut the netting that holds the fur. This will keep the fur hairs long and even on the other side. Using scissors can cut fur hairs into short, jagged pieces.
  5. Put a line of glue on the bottom flat edge of the furry side of the fabric. Press it to the middle of the wrong side of the vinyl. Hold it until the glue sets.
  6. Stick one side of the hook-and-loop piece to a short end of the vinyl.
  7. Turn the vinyl over. Stick the other side of the hook-and-loop piece to the opposite short end of the vinyl.
  8. Wrap the cuff around your child’s wrist and stick the hook-and-loop pieces together. The fur hangs over the hand like a paw.

Lion face paint

Lion face paint

What you’ll need:

  • black, white and brown face paint
  • cosmetic sponges
  • paint brushes
  • cup of water
  • paper towels


  1. Start with the white face paint. Use a damp paintbrush and draw a circle from below the nose to around the chin (see photo). Fill in with white paint; you can blend this a bit with a cosmetic sponge if you’d like. Paint white along the top of the nose, then make a few white spikes on the forehead. Add white under the eyes and make small lines coming from the hairline into the face.
  2. Now use the brown face paint. Paint brown along the sides of the nose. Feather onto the inner cheeks. Add strokes of brown along hairline next to the white stokes. Put a few whiskers coming out from both sides of the white circle by the mouth. Add a few lines at the bottom of the circle.
  3. Next, use the black face paint. Paint the bottom part of the nose, then paint a line down from the middle of the nose to the middle of the lip. Line the top lip and add lines that extend past the lip on each side; make the lines curl up at the tip. Outline the bottom of the lower lip. Then add two rows of dots above the lip on both sides of the line from the nose to mouth. Paint a few black whiskers on each side of the white circle. Add a black line above each eye; make the lines curl up at the ends. Add a few lines around the hairline, and you are done!

Makeup tips:

  • Pull hair back with a headband and start with a clean, moisturized face.
  • Use a slightly damp cosmetic sponge to apply makeup to large areas. Pat sponge on a paper towel if it is too wet — too much water makes the paint look streaked.
  • Use a damp paint brush for darker, more precise lines.
  • Make dots with the hard end of a paintbrush.

Up next: How to make the lion tail and hood >>

Leave a Comment