"I'm a big fan!"
September 4, 2019 11:26 AM   Subscribe

My four year old has decided he MUST be an oscillating fan for Halloween. We are not crafty people. Please walk me through how to build this in case I can't convince him to be Buzz Lightyear instead.

My son is four and he's pretty obsessed with fans. I made the (rookie) mistake of jokingly asking him if he wanted to be a fan for Halloween and he LIT UP as he didn't know this was a possibility and now it is all he's talking about. I think it'd be pretty funny but I also am not the crafty costume-making type of parent and I don't have a lot of free time to construct a wearable fan, which is why I'm asking this two months in advance. Googling "fan costume" gets mostly punny sports-fan costumes.

He also has specific Fan Requirements because OF COURSE he does. This must be styled like an oscillating pedestal fan. Not a ceiling fan, not a box fan, but this type of fan.

My best guess is I'll have him wear all black, and then he can have a "fan hat" on top of his head? It should have some sort of propeller or fan component that is spinnable, maybe made of foam? (a propeller beanie would not be "fan enough" for him, and anything actually motorized will probably get him kicked out of daycare) Ideally it might have some pressable light-up buttons he can wear, maybe on his arm? He intends to oscillate himself by slowly moving his head from side to side, as he will happily demonstrate to anyone who asks. I have no idea what I'm doing so please use small words or link me to really, really basic tutorials with lots of pictures.
posted by castlebravo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Instructables has instructions for sewing your own propeller beanie. You could adjust the propeller from something purchased to cardboard fan blades attached to a large washer and get something more like a fan. You could also look at the propeller assembly they've created and rejig it to fit through a fabric and elastic headband so he could wear it on his forehead rather than the top of his head.

You could probably even buy and take apart a mini electric desk fan (about $10-15 in hardware stores) and use the actual fan blades. With the weight they'd add, you might need to secure the hat (if you go the bean route) to his head with some elastic straps to keep the whole thing on.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:37 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My first move would be maybe look at a garden store or similar and see if they have those lawn-ornament pinwheel spinner things? That would get you a spinny mechanism of the right size and you could tape plain white paper "fan blades" over the existing pinwheel arms?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:40 AM on September 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

One way to do this could be to build it around a backpack. I'm thinking a board with straps. Mounted to the board could be a beam that goes up and holds the fan structure above his head. Might be better than relying on your kiddo's neck strength.
posted by entropone at 11:41 AM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

Maybe make a mask out of poster board or white cardboard? He could wear all one color, and you could draw a round fan grille with blades on cardboard, with eye holes. You'd just need cardboard, string, and a sharpie. (I am also not handy or crafty.) If he wants buttons, get a solid t-shirt and draw them on with fabric markers or fabric paint.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:43 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was assuming you'd get some soft of ring slightly larger than his face and put his face in the centre of the ring and have the blades rotate along the ring -- kind of using the ring like a track.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:43 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Generally I think this might work best if his torso is the fan, not his head. Also, this is an *extremely* charming idea and I hope you can work it out in some way.
posted by ewok_academy at 11:44 AM on September 4, 2019 [21 favorites]


Okay I suggest you go to a thrift shop and get a fan to disassemble for the grate and (maybe?) detach the blades.

I love this idea. I love your son. I know someone who was desperate to be a traffic light and they grew up amazing.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:47 AM on September 4, 2019 [35 favorites]

Also not crafty! But do you have or could you buy an old cheap fan and take it apart? (Like maybe at Goodwill? It might be a good time of year to find this. You could also try posting on your neighborhood website for anyone who has an old broken fan they don't want.) He could wear the cage part with suspenders over his shoulders, sandwich-board style. And then you can use the blades or somehow make them out of cardboard to attach to his shirt? And a propeller/beanie hat would be cute too!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I would start by getting a fan you can disassemble. Use the blades and the cage to build kind of a backwards backpack. You may be able to pull the spindle off and figure out what you could get at the hardware store to serve as a spindle. If the fan you get has a base with buttons, mount those to a shoe.
posted by advicepig at 11:49 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, your profile implies you are in my state. If you are near Minneapolis and want my help, I'm open to it.
posted by advicepig at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I think I'm basically picturing a bicycle tire rim but without the spokes.

Also, this is why I'm always glaring at my parents when they ask my son if he wants to do-crazy-ass-thing. I know this is going to be me eventually, trying to figure out how to make his bed into a streetcar or something.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:52 AM on September 4, 2019

for the grate that goes on top of the fan, obviously a real metal grate would be too heavy. I would get some crochet string/yarn, crochet it into a very long chain and then lay it in the appropriate pattern (maybe with some glue spots) over an appropriately sized ball or balloon. Then douse the whole thing in sugar water and wait for it to dry. It will be stiff once fully dry. Here's a video on how to do the sugar water stiffening.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:55 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm agreeing with all the people who are suggesting getting an actual fan and using its parts for the costume. If you make something then people will think its a helicopter or airplane. If you use the actual parts, they still might say that, but there is a bigger chance they will recognize that he's supposed to be a fan.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:04 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think you should use a flower costume as your inspiration. This homemade sunflower has it going on. And then I love the pinwheel idea. He can "be the fan" by blowing on the pinwheel. Maybe write "Vornado" on his forehead with an eyeliner pencil. This one behind the head is appealing.
posted by amanda at 12:05 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you're worried people won't know it's a fan, you could put some buttons with appropriate writing/pictures on the shirt/base. Maybe even a brand name if there's one that's obviously a fan brand (I feel like there is but I can't think of it...Maybe Sunbeam). So put a button, write "oscillation" under it, and at least the adults will catch on.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2019

Inspiration using a cardboard box as the base
Box without its inhabitant
This is an epic idea.
posted by XtineHutch at 12:14 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rather than on his head, the cage part (however you choose to make it) could hang from his neck by a strap, and to oscillate it he could either just swivel or swivel while holding it in his hands.

If you want to get fancy you could mount the blades on a dowel that rotates fully such that he can spin it, or even attach elastic or a rubber band to the rod so that he can spin it one way and then have it spin back on its own while he's swiveling.
posted by trig at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

oh God bless him.

You can cut this out of cardboard. All of it. Securing the fan part to his chest so it doesn't sag will be the biggest technical challenge. I think you can do it with straps like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:27 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have him wear a sandwich board, and attach a lazy susan to the chest, then attach blades to the lazy susan. You'll still have to account for the grate, but this should take care of the fan.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

Do you have an oscillating fan? The cage part from the front of my fan comes off by design--just 3 little clips around the edge, I think for cleaning. You could take that off and connect it to a hat or helmet of some kind to wear over his face like a catcher's mask. You could use face paint to paint the blades on his face or use the actual blades (but that seems more difficult/less wear-able).

If he wears monochrome colors for the pedestal, his shirt could have a high, low, off button painted or drawn on (or he could wear it as a necklace/pendant around his neck if you don't want to ruin a shirt). If someone selects high, he oscillates his head back and forth more quickly.

I love this idea and I hope you do it!
posted by kochenta at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Could the grate be based on a hula hoop?
posted by beandip at 12:37 PM on September 4, 2019

Hello my nephew from 7 years ago! I’ve been trying to dig up pictures but when my nephew was that age he was similarly OBSESSED with fans (like all the other kids had stuffed animals as their pre-school “lovies” and my nephew had a heavily reinforced Home Depot catalogue.)

My nephew was a ceiling fan rather than an oscillating floor fan, but perhaps your kiddo can be persuaded. I believe he was dressed in all black, a cardboard cutout of a fan/X shape on his chest and then a tap light in the center with a short chain hanging off of it for the ceiling fan/lamp combo.

He was easily recognizable despite not having other accoutrement and I think that the fun of the tap light replaced the disappointment of the fan part not being mobile.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:02 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Y'all are great for helping my fan-loving child, and this is giving me a lot of helpful ideas. It's OK if people don't immediately get that he is a fan because he WILL enthusiastically announce it to everyone within earshot, so I'm not worried too much about brand names or logos. We'll print out a Lasko or Air King sticker.

The idea of his face being the center of the fan is hilarious, and that's probably what he is imagining, but I'm not sure how to get the blades to rotate around his face. I think the spinning blades part is probably crucial, he will not be satisfied with just blowing air through his mouth. The lawn ornament idea is great and will probably be my fallback if I can't use real fan parts - we own a spinning plastic lawn flower I could spray-paint black. I agree having the fan be on his torso is probably best, but he really wants the "pedestal" look; I'll see if I can convince him. (also we're in Minnesota so this will need to be compatible with wearing a coat or heavy layers, which is why something on or above his head has so much appeal to me)

I did also find this on Amazon, if I can figure out how to mount that on something wearable while preserving the spin function, that has potential. (Additionally this is a "three blade" fan, his favorite number of blades...). Happy to hear more ideas as they come!
posted by castlebravo at 1:33 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Actual fan grille. Attach comfortable handles to the back or sides so he can just hold it up in front of his face.

Lightweight cardboard fan blades stuck to his nose with spirit gum -- if you can make that work well enough that it will stay on -- or a cat/other nose thing that stays on with elastics with lightweight fan blades attached, or just use makeup to suggest fan blades on his face.
posted by amtho at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2019

there are actually some easy looking examples here
posted by tangosnail at 2:46 PM on September 4, 2019

My 6 year old was a tornado siren last year, and Saturn the year before that. My only advice is that while my son LOVED these costumes, they were sort of terrible to trick-or-treat in (the tornado siren hat kept falling off and losing pieces throughout the night). Just keep that in mind; if you can figure out a way to make him not top-heavy or too clunky, that will work in your favor! I wonder if a clip on fan might work for a spinning element?

(here's a pic, hat slipped down over head. bonus taco cat.)
posted by LKWorking at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

for the propeller, you might be able rig something up with a USB-powered cellphone fan and any USB-compatible portable phone charger.

i think the sugar water trick suggested up above is a great solution to a lightweight but very sturdy grille!
posted by zeee at 5:07 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Get an umbrella. Remove the fabric. Add a couple of wire or plastic tubing rings (buy wire or tubing by the yard at a hardware store), attach, with tin ties to the end of the umbrella ribs. make the fan blades out of something like cardboard, or stiff soft plastic. Mount them on ring that fits on the umbrella handle. Use an elastic band to make a stop so the fan blades don't slide backwards. Remove the lower part of the handle so that the child can hold it directly in front of him, or bend it so that he can hold it clamped in his armpit an still be able to have it face directly forward.

Dress child all in white. Make a white box that fits around his torso and put the buttons and the brand name on those.

Child will spin the fan blades with a finger tap to set them spinning. Poke child in the tummy on the buttons to turn the fan on or off and change the speeds.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:24 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've you're going to use an umbrella it might be easier to get a solid colour or clear one and paint on fan blades.

But seriously, this needs to be done with a ring around his face. A pedestal fan has the fan part at the top, and that's way cuter anyway. Use the wheel rim from a toddler bicycle. You can buy a toddler bicycle at value village.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:40 AM on September 5, 2019

You might want to check with daycare before making anything like suggested above. I can guarantee you that most of this stuff would not be allowed at the daycare I work at. Of course, trick or treating is fair game.
posted by kathrynm at 9:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have absolutely no advice, but I desperately need to see photos of the finished costume.
posted by sarcasticah at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

(Additionally this is a "three blade" fan, his favorite number of blades...)

Your kid is awesome.
posted by DigDoug at 5:23 AM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I will find a way to get a photo on here once we have a costume. Currently my spouse and I are debating between more of a "prop" costume (child holds a short pole on which there is a mounted homemade fan) versus a head-mounted fan device.

Halloween this year does not fall on a daycare day for him, so we do not need to worry about following any guidelines other than general costume safety for a 4 year old.
posted by castlebravo at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2019

Currently my spouse and I are debating between more of a "prop" costume (child holds a short pole on which there is a mounted homemade fan) versus a head-mounted fan device.

If you make a costume he has to hold, there is a 1000% chance that the parent will end up carrying the costume. I'd go for something he can wear. If you want to make a prop, let that be a separate project.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:31 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Glad they put the batsignal on the front page, this is great and my life is better for having read it.

I would strongly urge against using real fan parts. Fan grills are going to be effing heavy for a four year old to carry, especially if he wants to wear it on his head.

I would suggest craft foam over cardboard for blades, it's about as light but will flex rather than crease. This stuff. You can get it in 9" square sheets in varyiing colours, too, depending on what sort of fan you have in mind.

A USB fan motor should be strong enough to manage blades made of this stuff. It's also not going to be a hazard if it whaps someone while going. Just cut comically large blades and stick em to the existing ones with glue or tape or whatever. The battery could go on the back of the hat as a counterweight or in a pocket or whatever. Most of the fans that want an external power source have a long cable.

I'd go kids hard hat or helmet with fan stuck to the top, possible on an arm to stick out past his face, foam blades, and some sort of body costume. For my kid a shirt with big ole buttons stuck to it would have been fine. For your obsessive a cardboard or foam cylinder with buttons and logos and god knows what on it would work too. Milk carton lids are a great size and a very appealingly pushable, but just cardboard shapes would work.

If he absolutely wants a grill I'd use a hula hoop on a stick and something appropriate for what he wants. All my fans have radiating grills, so I'd use string or bamboo skewers, and for a mesh style grill some tulle or similar with the grill painted on. Light weight.

Do you think he's going to want a base? EVA would work or rolled up card, but I'd try and steer him away from that just in the interest of practicality.

I look forward to pictures. Your kid is the best.
posted by Jilder at 8:27 PM on September 13, 2019

Response by poster: Here are the pictures of the fan costume!

We ultimately went with a prop-type costume. I know, I was going to try to rig up something involving a fidget spinner + hat but it got lost in the mail. My husband offered to take the lead with constructing it, and since he's the one who takes our kid out trick-or-treating, he was willing to deal with the consequences of having to carry it around if our kid got bored of it. He's 4 so he's only doing a couple blocks anyways.

Special thanks to my mother-in-law who has a barn full of odds and ends and that provided most of the parts for the fan. The fan blades are made of craft foam with lightweight wood backs. The pole is hollow PVC pipe. And it spins, of course!

There's a button on top of his hard hat that we press to turn him on/off or make him oscillate. It's a recordable button so it's him saying "Trick or Treat," which he has pressed approximately one million times so far.

We ran into a couple complications as when he saw the finished fan costume, insisted he had wanted "a RAINBOW fan," but overall he's thrilled.

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions and encouragement!  There is no one 'best answer' but I marked Jilder's as we did end up using a hard hat and craft foam to build the costume. But really everyone's suggestions were great and creative, and it makes me so happy everyone was excited to see pictures of my lil' fan.

Not sure how we'll top this next year, but lately he's been constantly asking to turn on the Roomba...
posted by castlebravo at 8:40 AM on November 1, 2019 [13 favorites]

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