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Circus At Home

Art of the Circus: Costumes and Set Design

By now, you’ve learned a bunch of tricks and skills to perform for family and friends, so today, you’ll put it all together. Dust off your old Halloween costumes or dig in the back of the closet because you’ll be using today to create your costumes and stage set. With inspiration from real circus performers and a little history of Big Top costuming, who knows what you’ll come up with?


what you’ll need

  • Your Camp Kinda toolkit
  • Paper or cardboard, colorful scraps of paper, and a sketchbook or blank paper
  • Miscellaneous costume items (old clothes, Halloween costumes, hats, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous art supplies (sequins, pom-poms, whatever you've got!)
  • Blankets

For optional face paint:

  • Cornstarch, flour, or baby powder
  • Face lotion
  • Baby oil or vegetable oil
  • Nontoxic, washable paints
  • Water
  • A bowl and spoon
  • Plastic containers for storage (Tupperware or old takeout containers will work)



Ask About Today

Tell me about the different ways we see "art" in the circus.

Dinner Discussion

A costume can transform someone from a regular person to something magical. How do you feel in a costume during Halloween or at a costume party? Do you behave differently in disguise? Share a story.

Skip the Ads

Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.


60-75 minutes

There is a reason they call them the circus "arts." Performance, expression, design, ingenuity—the circus has everything from architectural creativity and masterful storytelling to ornate costumes and transformative makeup.


Makeup Magic

Circus performers make the whole thing look easy, but that's part of the magic. Behind the scenes, as you know, there's plenty of hard work. At Cirque du Soleil, all of the artists even do their own makeup. Check out how these multi-talented acrobats, dancers, and clowns moonlight as makeup artists.

Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.


Meet the Circus Kids

In this longer documentary, you'll meet a group of kids for whom the hard work of circus life is no mystery—because they've grown up with it.


A Costume for Everyone

Famous circus costume designer Miles White imagined and created costumes for clowns, elephants, and just about everyone in-between for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Learn more and explore this exhibit of his costumes at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.


Genius Juggling

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Circus artists seem to do the impossible. Watch this incredible juggling act from the Cirque du Soleil show "La Nouba."


60-90 minutes

Get a mirror ready...it's time to create your own circus look.


Costume Craziness

Think about what each character in your circus might wear, then draw your designs in a journal or on a piece of paper. Will you transform from clown to tutu-wearing acrobat? What materials will you use? There is a lot you can do with old Halloween costumes, clothes from the back of the closet, and other things you can find around the house.

Ask first: Check with an adult before using old clothing or other items for costumes!


DIY Face Paint

If you want to add makeup to your show, make sure to ask an adult's permission first—then take a look at this simple recipe for homemade, non-toxic face paint. When you're done experimenting, save the rest of your face paint in plastic containers (old takeout containers will work) so you have some left for tomorrow's performance.

Note on Ingredients: If you have any allergies or skin sensitivities, be sure to sure only ingredients that are safe for you. And if you don't have cornstarch, regular flour or baby powder can be used as a substitute. Before you start, remember to ask for permission and mix your paint in a place where it's okay to make a mess!


Set the Scene

What’s a circus without a stage or center ring? It's time to design your circus set. Spend some time making a backdrop. Start with some cardboard and add colorful paper, designs, and anything else you want to make it your own.


45-90 minutes

Behind every great performance, there's plenty of rehearsal.


The Final Rehearsal

Get up and do a run-through of your entire show! A run-through means you practice the show from start to finish, as though you have a full audience. Use this time to rehearse your juggling, stilt walking, clowning, or tightrope performances. All costumes, props, and backdrops should be set up and ready to go (but skip the makeup, since you'll need it for tomorrow).

Challenge Yourself: How can your show be even better? When you’re done, ask yourself what went well and what you can do better tomorrow. Spend some extra time practicing any tricky parts.


The Elephant Game

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Done with rehearsals? If you’ve got a big family (5 people or more), play the “Elephant Game” together. This video shows you how.