A great-looking production doesn't have to cost a ton of time, effort and money. Quick, home-made (or classroom-made) sets and costumes can, not only go a long way toward a complete theater experience, but also make it an extra-well-rounded one that incorporates multiple skills and talents.
You've got several options when it comes to putting together easy, low-cost sets and costumes for a kids' play:
You don't have to be seamstress, a designer or a carpenter to make your own costumes and sets. A rectangle of fabric with a hole cut for the head can be a versatile article -- a knight's tunic, a toga, even a bird if you paint some wings under the arms. PVC piping, heavy cardboard and portable blackboards can easily become set frames.
Your kids may even have costumes and sets at home without even knowing it. Ask them to bring in boxes of old clothes from their attics and drapes or sheets their parents don't want anymore. Some paint, scissors and well-placed stitches can turn them into practically anything.
You can buy your sets and costumes on a very limited budget. Thrift stores are excellent sources for décor, clothing, aprons, shoes and hats, not to mention super-cheap linens you can paint and drape over your set frames.
If your area has any children's theaters or private drama programs for kids, ask about borrowing sets, props or costumes. They might be happy to lend them out for a week for a good cause. (If you go this route, make sure to tell your actors to take extra care with these borrowed pieces!)
Finally, know that you don't have to do it alone. Ask your kids and their parents for help. With some teamwork and home-based crafting, you can pull together your play's sets and costumes in very little time and with the added pride (and, by extension, better behavior) that comes with the kids playing a central role in the process.
Which brings us to one of the big differences between putting on a kids' play and an adult one: With kids, the most crucial "directing" isn't necessarily about lines and blocking.