The wonderful World Book Day is almost upon us (Thursday 7 March) and, to celebrate, lots of schools will be asking little ones to dress up as their favourite fictional characters. I have so much fun choosing characters with the kids at this time of year, but to my horror, my daughter, who’s only 4, wanted to go as Lord Voldemort, but luckily, we’ve managed to dampen that one down!

With so many brilliant books out there, it can be difficult to choose, so to inspire you, we’ve asked the wonderful editor of Storytime magazine – the illustrated story magazine for children to come up with some ideas.

Character ideas for 3 to 4 years

At nursery, preschool and reception age, you really can’t go wrong with costumes inspired by animal stories, nursery rhymes or fairy tales.

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a perennial favourite and ideal for little foodies. A long green t-shirt (use dark green fabric pens to draw on stripes if you like), a basic headband with two card antennae and red face paint will do the job. For props, cut out a couple of fruit shapes from coloured card and punch holes in the centre to show where your little caterpillar has nibbled.
  1. Mog by Judith Kerr made a comeback over Christmas, much to our delight. For a simple costume, pair black or grey trousers or leggings with a matching long-sleeved top. A white bib made from card or t-shirt material and tied around the back of the neck will give you Mog’s trademark white tummy, and stick grey card cat ears to a headband.
  1. It’s hard to choose a favourite from Julia Donaldson’s extensive canon. If The Gruffalo feels too ambitious, The Stick Man dressed in head-to-toe brown is easy to achieve. Sprout a few green paper leaves here and there (stuck on with fabric glue) and make a tall brown card headband, decorated with extra leaves and some sticks from the garden to make it look more authentic.
  1. Fairy tales are a rich source for dress-up ideas. Princess dresses are easy to come by for a wannabe Cinderella or Rapunzel, but how about the Princess and the Pea, for something different? You just need a dress and a ball of green tissue paper for the pea. Jack and the Beanstalk is also easy. No beanstalk required – just rolled-up trousers, a waistcoat over a t-shirt, some dried beans and gold coins made from shiny card. You can also download a Jack and the Beanstalk mask from our Storytime website.
  1. Getting a group of little friends to dress as characters from the same nursery rhyme can be really exciting for the children taking part. What about Old Macdonald and the animals from his farm? Or the cow, the little dog and the fiddle-playing cat from Hey Diddle Diddle? Or Jack and Jill? Look through your favourite nursery rhyme book for more ideas.

The Best Children’s Costumes for World Book Day

Ages 5 to 7

During key stage 1, children still enjoy picture books, but also make the leap to illustrated early-reader chapter books, so there’s even more choice for your World Book Day costume.

  1. Roald Dahl’s books are as popular as ever and for good reason – they are brimming with imagination and humour. With The BFG film out this year, why not whip up some big ears from peach-coloured card and attach them to a headband? For easy props, label an empty plastic bottle with a sticker saying ‘Dreams’, and take a seaside fishing net to catch them in.
  1. If you have a seven-year-old, they will probably have heard of the super-doodling schoolboy series Tom Gates by Liz Pichon. Using the artwork in the books as inspiration, get your child to doodle a plain white t-shirt with a black fabric pen. Add a Tom Gates facemask, made from white card, and you have an excellent arty costume.
  1. Classics like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and The Hundred and One Dalmatians (which have all been featured as extracts in Storytime magazine) still stand the test of time and are teeming with fantastic characters to inspire you. From Tinker Bell and Dorothy to the Mad Hatter and Tin Man, there’s something here for everyone.
  1. Alex T. Smith’s Claude series is full of wit and warm-hearted adventure and its canine star has a distinctive costume. To copy it, you’ll need a red beret with long black felt ears stitched to either side, plus a long-sleeved red top. Complete it with a white dog collar with black spots (you can make this easily from card), and a dab of black face paint for the nose. Perfect!
  1. Don’t rule out characters from graphic novels or comics – anything that engages your child in reading is a good thing. They may jump at the chance to dress up as their favourite superhero, superheroine or Beano baddie, like Dennis the Menace – and this type of costume is easy to get hold of at the last minute.

Ages 8 to 11

Key stage 2 is an exciting time for young readers, who’ll be exploring more chapter books in a variety of genres – and it’s often when they identify and fall in love with specific book characters.

  1. It would be unwise to miss out J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, as it is so beloved by young readers. Great fancy dress costumes are available to buy online, but are equally easy to muster up with a little clever shopping around – unless your child wants to go as Nearly Headless Nick, of course.
  1. In a similar spooky vein, Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl series is a huge hit. Her look is Edwardian in style, with a hint of steampunk – opera gloves, a long skirt, a cape and a feather plume in a headband should do the trick. A black wig is a bonus. It’s a far cry from dressing up as a princess, but heaps of fun.
  1. Sticking with historical characters, Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather book series is also enormously popular and spawned a TV series last year. Think Victorian maids with white aprons and mob caps. There are many other characters in the books, including circus performers, to inspire you.
  1. If you’re looking for something action-based, the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson and Stephen Cole follow the adventures of a teen James Bond in the 1930s – cue bow tie! Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books – still being released in graphic novel format – call for jeans, trainers and a bomber jacket (easy!), and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is full of mythical heroes – and who doesn’t want to be a Greek god for the day?
  1. Finally, like Julia Donaldson and J.K. Rowling, it would be an error to miss out David Walliams. There’s a huge opportunity for fun here with The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny and Mr Stink all up for grabs. Or perhaps your Billionaire Boy can dish out fake £100 notes for the day?

Still undecided? Whatever costume you choose this World Book Day, make sure you read the book too – it will really help your child to get in character!

This article has been contributed by the editor of Storytime, the UK’s only story magazine for kids. It’s packed with fairy tales, myths & legends, poems, and much more – all beautifully written a

By The Editor, Storytime Magazine

About The Author

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