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DIY Tractor Halloween Costume

October 25, 2016
My son is OBSESSED with any sort of farming or construction machine.  Tractors, trailers, combines, excavators, backhoes, bulldozers, rollers, cranes, forklift…you get the point.  I know more about construction and farming vehicles then I ever thought I would.  So, when you ask a little boy what he wants to be for Halloween, guess what he said?  Yep!  Tractor.  Well, backhoe to be exact.  He had a hard time deciding between the John Deer combine and the Caterpillar backhoe, but eventually the backhoe won.  I think it was the dual buckets that helped him finally make a decision.  At any rate, I was glad he picked one because I was anxious to get to work on it!

I grew up in a family that always made their own Halloween costumes.  From birth actually, my mom either made or helped us make our costumes each year.  I honestly can’t even remember wearing a single store bought costume my entire childhood.  In my onion, that’s half of the fun of dressing up…getting to create your own, unique costume!  I mentioned before that I absolutely LOVE Halloween and this is the main reason why.  I really enjoy the creative aspect of coming up with an idea and then watching it come to life little by little.  I will post some past Halloween costumes that I’ve made, but this post is going to be quite lengthy because believe it or not, this costume was more complicated then it originally seemed.  So, let’s get to work!
Several cardboard boxes
Box cutter (optional, but it will save you from having to cut so much)
Yard stick
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Duct tape (the spray paint sticks to duct tape better then packing tape)
Spray paint (I think I ended up using about 3 cans total-2 yellow and 1 black)
Ribbon for the straps
Modge Podge (to glue the logos onto the tractor)

I started by cutting out what was going to be the cab of the backhoe.  I just drew an approximate shape and used a steak knife to carefully saw it.  
I then used the cut out piece to trace onto the opposite side of the box so they would be the same size.  My box wasn’t perfectly square, so the sides had a slightly bigger opening then the front and back.  But, I used the same process on the front/back by cutting one out then tracing it for the other.

After I knew how big the opening was going to be, I cut an opening in a 2nd box, which is going to be the bottom part of the cab.  I hot glued and duct taped the flaps from opening. 

 On to the bulldozer bucket.   I used the edge of a bowl to trace a half circle, then I used a ruler to make a square coming out of the sides of the circle.  I then drew a line diagonally to create more of a bucket look, as you can see below. 

 Once I had one of the bucket sides the shape I wanted, I traced it to make a match.  Please excuse the half painted cardboard!  I previously used this piece for a different project.  #recycling
For the rest of the bucket, I cut a piece of cardboard that was  17″ wide by 27″ long. 
Make sure you are cutting this piece so that you can bend it along the ridges to make it easier to glue to the sides of the bucket.  I pressed mine against the edge of a table to help it bend and curve.
 I secured the sides with hot glue and then cut notches in the end.
 And, 2 coats of paint later, it was looking pretty good!

 Next, I drew out the boom for the backhoe.  I just kind of had to wing it, like a lot of steps in this process, but I ended up making it about 33″ long.  I drew a straight line, then a slightly diagonal line and connected them at the top with a semi circle.  The width of the bottom was about 6.5″ and the width of the top was 3.5″.  I cut the corner off of the bottom because that’s where I was going to attach it to the body of the tractor later on.   (Sorry this pic is upside down!)
 Then, like in previous steps, I traced it to make a match.  
I later decided to cut the other corner off because it looked funny sticking out the back.  
Then, I made the arm of the backhoe.  It was about 21″ long by 3.5″ wide.  I made 2, and you’ll see why later.  
Now, on to winging the digger bucket.  This is a picture of the side, which ended up being about 12-13″ long.   Copy it to match for the other side.
Then I applied the same idea as I mentioned for the bulldozer bucket…cut this piece to ensure the ridges are going horizontally so you can bend it around the bucket curve.  This piece was about 20″ long by 7.5″ wide.  I ended up shortening it after I took this picture.  Use hot glue to secure the 3 parts together just as we did with the bulldozer.  
Now, it’s time to connect the digger arm to the bucket.  I cut a slit in the bottom of one of the arms, and then another slit on the top of the bucket (see pic below).
They fit snuggly into each other.  Repeat for the other arm, spacing them about an inch apart on the bucket.  Secure with some hot glue.
Then connect the arm to the boom using hot glue.  I put the top of the arm inside the smaller ends of the boom and glued like crazy. Then, you’re ready to paint it.  My boys wanted yellow and black tractors, but you could definitely paint them John Deer green or any other color for that matter!
Time for the wheels!  I used a 9″ cake pan to trace the smaller wheels, and a larger serving bowl for the large ones.  I wanted yellow hubcaps, so I painted the middle part first.  I cut out small circles using card stock and then used them to cover the yellow paint before spraying the rest of the wheel black.
I used ticky tacky to hold the white circles in place while I painted them black.  A small amount of black paint still seeped underneath, but it wan’t enough to bother me, so I just left it.  However, if you want your yellow circles to be perfect, you might want to tape off the area.  

After all of the parts are painted, it’s time to assemble your tractor!  I connected the top and the bottom of the cab with nothing other then HOT GLUE!  That’s right.  You will need to stock up on your glue sticks because we use a lot of them!  I ended up cutting 2 small rectangular pieces of cardboard which I used to attach the bulldozer to the front.  
Here’s a pic of the connectors. 
And here it is connected to the tractor.  I bent the cardboard into a “C” shape, but made sure to glue them facing each other so they wouldn’t both lean to the same side and cause the bucket to tilt.  I glued the bucket so that it was slightly facing upward, which ended up working out great because my son used it as a candy bag and he didn’t have to carry one for his treats!

 I glued a couple of pieces of cardboard to the bottom of the backhoe to help hold the ends apart, and then I glued it to the back of the tractor.  I didn’t get a picture of this prior to painting it, but hopefully it makes sense.

Here’s another angle of the bottom of the backhoe that is connected to the tractor.  

 I glued some grosgrain ribbon to the front and back of the inside cab to make shoulder straps.  To help it from slipping, I added a piece of ribbon across the chest area.
After trying it on my son, the ribbons continued to slip from front to back, so I added some hot glue to the underneath side of the ribbons.  After it dried, it added some much needed traction and really did the trick!  The tractor stayed in place and did not slip on his shirt.

And, here we are!  Just needs a couple of logos and we are all set!  I downloaded some CAT pictures online and then had them printed at Staples.  I wanted to Modge Podge over them, and since inkjet print would have smeared, I opted to just get them from Staples where they have a laser printer.   So, keep that in mind if you want to add a logo.

 Word to the wise…don’t spray paint barefoot.  I had an old plastic shower curtain down in our garage while I was painting, and didn’t realize until later that I was continually stepping in the tiny paint particles!  Live and learn, right?

 So, here he is!  The backhoe driver in action.  He doesn’t look too thrilled in this picture, but he loved it and he was a hit at the trunk or treat!  All in all, it was a fairly time consuming project, but I really enjoyed making it and all of the effort is worth it when he was excited to “dwive my tacor”!
An extra sidenote:  My older son decided to build his own tractor.  He did most of the work himself, but he wanted to do a track instead of wheels.  So, I thought I would add this information incase your little tractor lover also prefers tracks.  
We cut out a large and a small wheel for both sides.  He only wanted one of them with notches, so that’s what we did.  

 I used card stock to make a base that was used to attach it to the tractor body.  The track was 4″ wide, so I cut the card stock to be 3.75″ wide.  I glued it to the back of the wheel and then painted it.

 It may look a little strange, but it will be glued onto the tractor like this…so that it sticks out far enough for the wheel to support the track.  

I found this corrugated cardboard at Hobby Lobby.    Sorry for the sideways pic.  One of these days I’ll figure out how to rotate these.  I’m still new to this blogging thing! 😉

I thought it was connected, but when we opened the package, I realized it was separated into 2 scalloped pieces.  So, we used duct tape to secure the back side to keep the 2 pieces together.  I offered to paint it black, but my son liked how it looked with the tape, so we left it!  I’m not complaining…one less thing to do!
And, here you go!  Tractor tracks in action.  
I hope I didn’t scare you off from building your own tractor/digger/backhoe/bulldozer with my 985 steps!  The entire time I was making this, I kept thinking it would be mighty nice if I had some sort of pattern to go off of, so I am hoping to help someone else in the future!  Good luck!

Niki French

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  • christinav87 September 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Very cool, my son wants this for Halloween, and we just moved so we have the boxes. Thanks for this!

  • Midwestern Mama October 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Awesome! I'd love to see a pic of your final product! My sons LOVED them and played in their tractor costumes for several months after Halloween!

  • Midwestern Mama January 1, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Im glad you enjoyed your visit

  • Unknown October 14, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I am not very arts and crafts inclined. However, when my four year old wanted to be an excavator for Halloween I started scouring the internet for ideas how to make one. I was so SUPER EXCITED to find your step by step instructions with lot of pictures. I'm hoping mine turns out looking half as good as yours.

  • Midwestern Mama October 17, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Yay! I’m so happy this was helpful to you! I’d love to see a picture when it’s completed!

  • Melissa October 31, 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you so much for your step by step digger project. It was super helpful to use as a guide for my son’s excavator, construction guy Halloween costume this year.
    Yay for creative Midwestern Mamas!

    • Niki French November 11, 2019 at 12:44 pm

      This makes me SO very happy! I am so glad it was helpful for you! Thanks so much for sharing it with me!

  • Celine Kimberly October 11, 2020 at 9:37 am

    Hi! We are embarking on making our backhoe loader costume for this year… I’m curious: how does the hold up on your son? Thanks!!

    • Niki French October 13, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Awe, how cute!
      I used hot glue to secure 1” ribbon to the tractor and then he put the ribbons over his shoulders and the tractor raised into the air when he stood. Kind of like suspenders that held up the tractor. I hope that makes sense!

  • Amy October 22, 2021 at 8:51 am

    Hi there! how did you attach the excavator to the tractor? Thanks so much for your tips!

    • Niki October 22, 2021 at 11:02 am

      Lots of hot glue! There’s a photo above that shows how they are attached. I glued cardboard all around the base of the digger piece, which allowed a lot of surface area to put the glue and attach it to the vehicle. I hope that helps!

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    About Me

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    I'm Niki, founder of Midwestern Mama. This lifestyle blog is a place where I get to share things I am passionate about with people like you! I love fashion, home decor, DIY's and easy meals, among other things. I'm so glad you're here! Read More


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