Incredibly easy World Book Day costumes for when time runs out!

We love books, so what could be better than World Book Day? But has it crept up again, leaving you with little or no time to organise the children’s costumes? Preparing costumes of characters for World Book Day when you don’t have craft skills, hours to spare or a huge supply of craft materials can be tough.

I’ve seen some guides to making outfits that have frankly made me want to run for the hills. If you had the same feeling, don’t despair. I’ve got plenty of ideas for some seriously easy World Book Day costumes for boys and girls. So skip the stress and get straight to the bookish fun!

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I know some parents love putting costumes together. Some kids aspire to be the finest of cosplayers and are already attending fan conventions in character. And that’s great!

But for those of us who just can’t handle that, read my fun guide. It may be a bit tongue in cheek but it also has a lot of serious suggestions to help you get together some really easy girls and boys World Book Day costumes!

World Book Day costume ideas

A quick overview of ideas for World Book Day kids costumes

Here’s a quick look at some really simple book character dress up ideas. There’s more detail below on each of these options.

Costume essentialsto dress asCharacter costumeBook coverCostume prices and availability

Gruffalo onesie

The Gruffalo from The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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The Bear from We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

The bear from We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

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Tiger onesie

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

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Unicorn dress

Lola from the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child

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Long-sleeved tops

Charlie from the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child

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Grey school uniform skirt

Cassidy from the Completely Cassidy books by Tamsyn Murray

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Pirate costume

A pirate from The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

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Witch costume

The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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Harry Potter costume

A Gryffindor student from Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

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Snow White costume

Snow White from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Jacob Grimm

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Supergirl costume

Supergirl from Supergirl: Age of Atlantis by Jo Whittemore

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Viking helmet

Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

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Green cape

Podkin One-Ear from The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

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Families share their costume successes!

Before we get into our full guide let’s hear from two families about the fantastic costumes they created. Both costumes had special associations and were fun and easy to put together.

“Our little Harry Potter baby”

Our family has always been huge Harry Potter fans. We cannot WAIT to read the series with our baby as he gets older.

When our baby was born with a rare “coup de sabre” indentation on his forehead, we always joked that he was our little Harry Potter baby. But earlier this year, we met with a specialist and had a major health scare.

Luckily, after a biopsy and lots of testing, we found out that it was a different (and even rarer!) disorder. Thankfully it isn’t nearly as scary. Now we affectionately say that he’s the Boy That Lived. Obviously we had to do Hogwarts themed costumes. We dressed him up as Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter World Book Day

Photo by Danielle from Piece of Cake Parenting

We loved these for two reasons. First, they were super easy to put together. You really only need a Harry Potter cloak. You can make the rest of the outfit work with sweaters, pants, and shoes that you have lying around the house. If you want to take it to the next level, you can add glasses, scarves, ties, wands, or cauldrons.

We also loved how warm these costumes are! They are perfect for anyone going out in the cold winter months. Kids can stay warm during all of their Harry Potter-themed activities!

Danielle from Piece of Cake Parenting 

Alice from Alice in Wonderland – with a twist!

We wanted to do a twist on a classic costume for our book-themed costume. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a popular choice. So we focused on a particular moment when Alice becomes stuck in the White Rabbit’s house after growing too big.

The Alice house costume itself was really easy to put together, using items we had at home. A box, scrap paper, paints and some elastic were the main materials to create the costume.

Alice in Wonderland costume World Book Day

Photo by Holly from Simplify Create Inspire

My daughter wore a blue dress she already owned. I created a very basic white apron from plain cotton fabric out of my sewing basket. This was hand-cut and hand-stitched, so no fancy sewing skills needed.

The costume itself was too bulky to wear all day. So she only wore the house during the school parade. She still got to be Alice for the rest of the day, which made her happy. She loves the Disney film version of Alice in Wonderland. However, her costume also inspired her interest in the book.

Holly from

I love these book character costumes and how special they were for the families involved. Read on below for more great costume ideas!

What if you don’t have time to make kids book character costumes?

One of the problems for parents and carers is lack of time and notice. The first time I heard about the annual World Book Day dress up, we had two days notice of the event. At the time I was working 9-5 and had no time to rustle up an amazing homemade costume.

That year we had no choice but to do the easiest thing. We opted for the shop-bought Batman costume that was already in the wardrobe. We were soon to find out that such sloppiness was frowned upon.

The following year when the reminder letter arrived –  again with just two days notice – it declared “No superheroes! No princesses! Book characters for book day only!” Er… there are lots of books featuring superheroes and princesses. And the kids really love them, so why not?

No worries, there are still lots more book characters to dress as and my son didn’t want to go as Batman that year. He wanted to go as the squirrel from The Gruffalo.

I spent a few hours throwing together a completely naff squirrel costume using glue, fake fur and an old top. It didn’t look good as book characters  costumes go. But my son was fairly happy. In defiance of the ban on heroes, his year group teacher turned up in a Bananaman costume.

Lots of other kids dressed as superheroes and princesses too … good for them!

Look for the simplest Book Day dress up ideas

The good news is that the rush to gather the costume should, in theory, get easier. Year by year us parents might start to vaguely remember the timing and mutter, “World Book Day is coming up isn’t it?” at the school gates.

We might even remember to have the conversation with our children about a week in advance, ask who they would like to go as and come up with some kind of plan. We might begin to visualise the perfectly planned and executed costume.

However, part of the struggle of finding World Book Day ideas for kids costumes can be ensuring you have a character your child is willing to go as. Your idea of the perfect costume might be one they hate.

It can take a while for them to decide, by which time you could again have run out of time to create, forage or buy this amazing ensemble.

Child dressed as Podkin One Ear for World Book costumes

It does get easier. This recent Podkin One-Ear costume was simple and hassle-free! Photo by Angela from Reading Inspiration.

I suggest looking for the simplest possible options for kids costumes for World Book Day. Try to avoid spending lots of cash on fancy accessories that won’t get used again.

You could find lots of exciting online guides to make great costumes or you could choose one of the following options for easy World Book Day characters ideas:

5 Options for some really easy World Book Day costumes

Let’s take a look at five options for kids World Book Day costumes – each with potential to create a lot of great ideas!

1) Easy animal book character costumes for kids

Does your child have an animal onesie? There are lots of books with animal characters – so there are lots of World Book Day outfits ideas right there!

Suggest a book character to match the animal onesie the child has, particularly if the onesie works well with a book character they are fond of. Animal onesies are also great comfortable options for toddler World Book Day costumes.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The Gruffalo costume ideas

If you already have a mouse onesie the child can be the mouse from The Gruffalo. A ready-made onesie is a very easy to make book character costumes option!

A generic mouse onesie will do, but the mouse who outwits the Gruffalo is also available as a specific character outfit that is ready to go!

Click here to see prices for the mouse onesie

Children will also love to dress up as the scary Gruffalo, with his terrible tusks, terrible claws and terrible teeth. The Gruffalo is such a wonderful children’s book, it is great to honour it. And that can be really easy with a onesie!

Click here to see prices for the Gruffalo onesie

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt costume ideas

A bear onesie can be a We’re Going on a Bear Hunt costume.

Probably the easiest World Book Day costume for us was the year my son chose to go as the bear from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and wore the bear onesie that he had conveniently got for Christmas.

It may be an easy costume but the book is a classic, and was a huge favourite of ours during my son’s childhood. We were once lucky enough to meet the author of the book, Michael Rosen and get the book signed.

Memories like this can make a book day a really special day for a family to look back at moments associated with a favourite book, no matter how simple the costume is!

The bear onesie can also be a Goldilocks and the Three Bears costume. Carrying a wooden spoon can help establish that the bear is about to eat his or her porridge!

Click here to see prices of bear onesies

The Tiger Who Came to Tea costume idea

A tiger onesie can be the tiger from The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.

It could also be Tigger from A. A. Milne’s classic Winnie the Pooh. I think you are getting the idea of how we can make these animal onesies work…

Click here to see prices for the tiger onesie

2) Choose characters who dress like ordinary kids

There are a lot of book characters who look and dress like everyday boys and girls. You are even sure to find some book characters that wear jeans, including Eddy Stone and Charlie from Charlie and Lola.

Lola from Charlie and Lola costume ideas

Lola from the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child wears various outfits in the charmingly illustrated books. Your child probably has something similar. If you are looking for something special to get the Lola look, this cute unicorn dress is as day-dreamy as Lola can be.

Click here to see prices for this dress

Charlie from Charlie and Lola costume ideas

World Book Day costume ideas for boys include Charlie from Charlie and Lola. Charlie often wears two-tone long-sleeved tops like these. Pair them with jeans and trainers and you’ve got the look!

Click here to see prices for these long-sleeved t-shirts

Cassidy from Completely Cassidy costume ideas

World Book Day costume ideas for girls include Cassidy from the Completely Cassidy books by Tamsyn Murray. The look can be achieved by a basic school uniform consisting of a grey pleated skirt and a white shirt.

This type of skirt is also perfect as part of a Hermione Granger costume, check out the reviews of the item which also advise on sizing.

Click here to see prices and reviews for this grey skirt

More characters like this

More characters that you can try this approach with include Penelope from the Penny Dreadful books by Joanna Nadin. The look is messy hair and various coloured tops. Have a look at the covers and you may be able to choose one your child already has!

Tom Gates from the Tom Gates book series by Liz Pichon is also an option. A top with a collar and any trousers will cover a Tom Gates dress-up costume.

Eddy from the Eddy Stone books by Simon Cherry wears a black or green top and jeans.

Luke Parker from My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons wears a blue and red striped top, blue cardigan and trousers or jeans.

You can probably think of lots more examples. Make sure your child is carrying the book so that it is evident who they are dressed as and no-one thinks they have just tried to get away with wearing their own clothes, heaven forbid!

3) Re-purpose a Halloween costume or other dress-up outfit the child already has

There’s lots of scope here for some really easy children’s World Book Day characters costumes. There are many books which include pirates, vampires, ghosts, mummies etc.

Children’s existing fancy dress outfits can be re-purposed for World Book Day dress-up costumes. If you don’t have a costume on hand, it’s also a super easy option to buy a ready-made one at the last minute.

Pirate World Book Day dressing up costumes

Got a pirate costume? Match it up with books that include pirates. Some examples include Treasure Island, Peter Pan and The Pirates Next Door.

Click here to see prices for this pirate costume

Witch book day costume ideas

If your child has a witch costume, they can go as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, or one of many other favourite witches, such as Winnie, from the Winnie and Wilbur books or Meg from the Meg and Mog books.

Click here to see prices of this witch costume

Harry Potter book character dress up

A Harry Potter dress-up is, of course, a reliable classic for boys or girls World Book Day costumes for wizarding world fans. This costume recreates the Gryffindor uniform, so your child can dress as any member of the Gryffindor house.

This does not have to be Harry. It can be Hermione Granger, Katie Bell, Lily Evans, Neville Longbottom, Minerva McGonagall, Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley, George Weasley or Fred Weasley (there’s a lot of Weasleys to choose from!) Your child could even go as a young Albus Dumbledore.

Click here to see the Harry Potter Gryffindor costume

Princess costume book day ideas

You most likely have a superhero or princess costume already in the wardrobe. But beware, as noted above, this choice is risky. If you want to go this route and not be judged, make sure you arm your child with a copy of a book or a list of books these characters appear in!

You may be surprised yourself how many of these characters appeared in many, many books before appearing on-screen. Certainly, most of the Disney Princesses did. Yes, Snow White is definitely a book character!

Click here to see prices for this Snow White costume

Superhero costume book day ideas

If you are looking for World Book Day costumes for girls who are not interested in princesses and would rather look heroic, there are plenty of great girls superhero costumes to choose from.

And yes, novels about superheroes, like this Supergirl novel count for World Book Day too. They are books! Of course, you can always just ignore the judgey brigade!

And there are plenty of heroic World Book Day ideas for boys too.

Click here to see prices for this Supergirl costume

4) Embrace the DIY aesthetic

Make a little effort, bring a bit of a DIY aesthetic into it, but make it shoddy and don’t care about it. At least you will never be roped into last-minute panto/nativity costume making, as you will have shown off how poor your costume skills are!

Take instructions from one of the many costume making guides around and bring it down a notch to make it as easy as possible.

Viking costume ideas

One year, we put in a bit of effort and my son dressed as Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. We pulled this off with:

  • a regular pair of trousers and a t-shirt
  • a plastic Viking helmet. These are often available in museum gift shops and you can also find it online here.
  • a dragon tattoo drawn on the forehead with eyeliner and
  • the leftover fake fur from a previous years squirrel costume draped over the shoulders. Reuse!

Click here to see prices for the Viking helmet

Here’s a more thorough guide to a Hiccup costume if you want it to look even better.

Podkin One-Ear costume idea

Last year my son decided to go as the fierce rabbit hero Podkin One-Ear from The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood. This is a book (and growing series) that my son really loves.

The look was pulled off with a dark green cape like the one Podkin wears. My son wore a pair of shorts and top from his wardrobe that matched Podkin’s colour scheme, and borrowed a red bandana as Podkin wears from my drawer. We bought a cheap rabbit mask and cut the ear off to get the one-ear effect.

Click here to see prices for this green cape

5) Let older kids sort it out themselves

This year, my son’s planning to go as the heroic Black Panther. Of course, he made sure to have a junior Black Panther novel with him to complete the look. He has adapted a costume he created in the summer for his character called Cat Kid. It’s made out of black clothes and some silver paint.

My child is now showing more craft initiative than me (make that a lot more than me). So, if you are lucky enough that your child takes that step, just go with it and let them come up with whatever fun costume they can, whether it looks totally pro or a bit shabby.

Don’t forget to use your World Book Day tokens for free books for your children!

Plenty of thorough guides to make homemade costumes for World Book Day are out there if you want to make a lot more effort.

But do you really want to spend all that time getting tangled up in piles of cloth, cardboard, paint and glue? Or be honest now, wouldn’t you rather be reading a book?!

The important take away from World Book Day though is not competitive costume making, it’s about enjoying books and having fun. So don’t forget to use your £1 token, given out by most schools.

These will get you money off books or free special World Book Day books by renowned authors.

Over to you

What World Book Day costumes did your child wear in the end and did you find it easy or difficult to pull off? Do you enjoy making costumes or would you rather take the easy option? (Either way, I am not judging!) Let us know in the comments below!

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Angela is the kind of parent who wants to discuss the latest hero movie or middle-grade book series on the school run. She grew up on the Lord of the Rings books and has a background in education & publishing. She believes all children & young people can enjoy wonderful story-telling and loves sharing ideas with others.