activity paper bag costume

Paper Bag Vests

Turn that grocery bag upside down and get funky in vest-town! This dashing, recycled costume brings your preschooler’s design skills and pretend play to life.


Be prepared: The more materials you choose to work with, the messier your area will be.

MATERIALS - click to buy
  1. Scissors - For adult’s only!
  2. Large, paper grocery bag, one per child. The best bag size is approximately 17 by 12 inches like this example on Amazon.
  3. Large, child-safe, washable markers and/or big crayons like these. You can learn more about choosing preschool-friendly drawing materials and much more in our Materials guide.
  4. Decorative materials of your choice. Gather up your spare buttons, assorted colorful sequins like these, scrap bits of construction paper, pom poms like the ones found here, grosgrain ribbon, or one of our vest-making favorites, colorful turkey feathers.  
  5. Quick-drying glue such as Aleenes found here. Dress up in that creation as soon as possible!
  1. Skilly Spark: See this big paper grocery bag? Do you think we can make it into something to wear, like a vest or waistcoat? Chat about what a vest is and how it would look. Who wears a vest and when? Give your child an example, maybe as a costume for Halloween or as a Thanksgiving vest. How would you decorate it? But first, let's make the vest.
  2. It helps to remember “Bottom’s up” is how this works.  The bottom of your bag will be the top of the vest.
  3. Adults, if your bag has handles, cut them off. Then, to make the front of the vest, please cut straight up the middle of the front of the bag, stopping at the square, bottom part of the bag.
  4. Since the bag’s square bottom will be the top of the vest, you'll need to cut a large round opening for your little one’s neck. You can trace an opening with a marker if you’d like a guide.
  5. Now, try it on your preschooler to be sure it is large enough. If it’s too tight, no big deal, just cut it to make it bigger.
  6. Cut the vest’s armholes next. The top of your armholes should be ½ inch to 1 inch from the bottom of the bag, also known as the top of the vest. Trace your arm circles if needed. Cut one on each side of the bag and make them big enough for your child to move her arms easily.
  7. Again, try it on your little one for size to be sure they’re large enough. If not, just cut them bit larger.
  8. Skilly Spark: Put on your vest and let’s see how it looks. Now that you child is wearing it, ask them think about how you can make it special by decorating it with your bits and bobs. You can use as many things as you want to make it your very own special vest.  Adults, you can help cut the opening into a v-neck or whatever shape your child's vision calls for.
  9. Your little artist then uses crayons and markers to make designs all over the vest. Materials for details can be glued on wherever as your preschooler desires.
  10. All finished? You can add fringe on the bottom “hem” as a finishing touch, by cutting the bag’s bottom edge with scissors.


Keep the fun going
  • Have a pretend play group - Invite your friends to make a vest, too. Come up with a theme for the vests, like a bird party. Glue lots of feathers on to create one-of-a-kind bird vests.
  • Get spacey! Make a space explorer vest, covered with aluminum foil. Put on that vest, get out those sponges on the feet and play Spongy Walkers!
  • Become a favorite book character. Make your vest into a costume and go right ahead and wear it when you read the book together.

Inspiration/Illustration credit goes to Simplicity Pattern #5048 for western-style gents shirts, circa 1970.