World Book Day is an annual event dedicated to inspiring children to enjoy reading for pleasure. In 2023, it will take place on Thursday 2 March. To mark the day, children are encouraged to dress up as their favourite book characters. While this is fun for them, it can be a bit of a nightmare for parents and carers.
This is especially the case if you have a few siblings to dress. Costumes can be expensive, and many of them get put at the back of the wardrobe after being worn once too so they’re not always cost-effective. Plus, with the cost of living continuing to put a strain on people’s bank balances, many simply can’t afford to buy a new outfit, especially year after year.
It’s not just the kids who are asked to dress up either, teachers are also asked to get in on the fun and also swap their usual work attire for a costume for one day only too.
You’ll be pleased to know that whether you are a teacher or parent, you can sort a fantastic World Book Day costume for yourself or your little one without having to spend a lot of money. In some cases, you may not have to spend any money at all because you can use clothing already owned.
Here’s our guide to some of the best and easiest costume ideas for children of all ages, and teachers, and how to achieve them.
Okay, so this one is possibly a little bit of a cheat, but we know that many young children already have a princess costume in their wardrobe and won’t need to be asked twice to spend a whole day wearing it. Some princesses might be the focus of a film, especially when you think of those much loved Disney princesses, but there are plenty of books about them too so that still counts, right?
It wouldn’t be World Book Day without at least one child dressing as everyone’s favourite wizard from JK Rowling’s iconic fantasy book series. It’s also a really simple, and easily recognisable, costume for teachers too.
If you have a cloak leftover from Halloween then you can easily repurpose it to become Harry’s cloak. Or, if you don’t have a cloak then simply dressing you or your child in an all-black outfit will do the trick.The most important thing about Harry Potter, of course, is his signature glasses and scar. Both of these things can easily be drawn on your child’s face in moments using your eyeliner pencil.
If you can add some scarlet or gold accessories for those classic Gryffindor colours to finish the look - or if you have yellow and black accessories, they can go as a Hufflepuff wizard, or with blue and bronze they can belong to Ravenclaw, or green and silver they can be part of Slytherin.A wand can quickly be made from a toilet or kitchen roll tube, and if they have time the kids could make it their own with any craft materials you have at home.
This is another classic World Book Day costume, but one that’s so easy to achieve. Matilda is, of course, the sweet book-loving girl from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book of the same name.
All you need to make your little girl look like her is a blue or denim dress and a red ribbon to tie in a bow in her hair. If you don’t have a ribbon then you can pick one up for just a few pennies at your local market or craft shop, but if you don’t have time to head out to buy one then you could even get the red felt tip markers out on a white ribbon or place a red hair clip in her hair. Give her a pile of her favourite books to carry around too to finish the look. She can then share these stories with her friends, and that’s what World Book Day is all about.
Another costume inspired by a book by iconic children’s author Roald Dahl, who has recently been in the news regarding potential ‘offensive’ references. However, this one is in regards to the titular character of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Charlie Bucket is the poor boy who finds one of chocolatier Willy Wonka’s famous golden tickets which allows him exclusive access to the chocolate factory - along with four other children.
Now, as the character is known to have come from a family with very little money - perhaps a basic t-shirt and pair of jeans will do the job nicely. They don’t even have to style their hair if they don’t want to, their messy bed hair will actually compliment this look!
The most important thing is that golden ticket, which they can easily make for themselves the night before using a gold or yellow piece of card. You can encourage them to get creative with any craft supplies they have to create their own special invitation. Simply add some string so you can hang it around their neck.
For an alternative costume idea based around the book, you could even dress your child as the golden ticket. To do this, all you need is an old pillow case, scissors and a fabric marker. Cut holes for their head, body and arms and then write the words “Wonka’s golden ticket” on the pillowcase. To make it extra easy, choose a yellow pillow case or get some gold fabric paint to colour the case first. They then need to wear a simple t-shirt and jeans to complete the look.
For little ballerinas this is the ideal no-fuss costume because all they have to do is put on their pink leotard and tutu, as if they are getting ready for their dance class, and it’s job done. Angelina Ballerina is the titular character of a book series of the same name, and is a mouse who dreams of being a prima ballerina.
If you have some face paints then you could paint your child’s face with a little mouse nose and whiskers, but if you don’t have them then these features can be drawn on quickly and easily using an eye-liner pencil. Finish with a pink ribbon tied in a bow in her hair, or any kind of pretty hair clip. A sweet and easy outfit.
Another super easy costume, all you need for this one is a basic white t-shirt and black felt tip pen. You simply have to draw some dalmatian spots on the t-shirt and that’s it. This really is an outfit that you can quickly pull together the night before, even if it’s 11pm. So, it’s a good choice for teachers who are rushed off their feet as well as busy parents. If you have face paints then you could also paint some spots on their face, but this isn’t necessary. Perhaps just use a black eye liner pencil to draw a dalmatian nose.
The Paper Dolls is a much-loved children’s book by Julia Donaldson about a young girl who creates a string of five paper dolls and then takes them on lots of adventures around her home. The little girl depicted in the book is wearing a classic school dress, with a red cardigan and tigger slippers, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. So, all they have to do is put on their usual school uniform, and get cutting to make their own paper doll chain. Tiger slippers are not mandatory.
The Boy in the Dress
This one is pretty self explanatory. ‘The Boy in the Dress’ was the first book written by comedian David Walliams, and is about the star striker of the school football team, who feels different and just wants to wear a dress. All that’s required for this one is a dress that will fit your son. If he has a sister perhaps she could lend him one for the day, but if there isn’t one in your house that will fit him then a quick dash to your local supermarket will surely provide one cheaply. To make the costume a bit more obvious, he simply has to carry around a football too.
Tracy Beaker is the main character in Jacqueline Wilson’s best-loved book ‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’. She’s a young girl who lives in a children’s care home which she calls the dumping ground. The character is known for wearing stripy tops, particularly red and blue, and a denim jacket. Pair with denim jeans and you’ve got yourself an outfit. Tracy is also known for her dark curly hair, so if your child has this naturally then that’s another easy win, but if not then you can always curl her hair in the morning before she sets off to school using your hair straighteners or curling iron. This is also another outfit that could be easy for an adult to achieve also.
Room on the Broom
This is another super easy costume choice if you’ve already got a witches costume laying around from Halloween. The Room on the Broom is another book by Julia Donaldson. This one is about a kind witch and her cat who invite three other animals to join them travelling on her broomstick.
There’s a cat, dog, bird, and frog, so - to make the costume more believable - encourage her to take in soft toys of all of these animals if you have them. The broom of course can be a classic domestic broom which we all have down the cellar or in a cupboard somewhere. If you don’t have a witches costume then you can still achieve this look using a classic black dress. If you’re a teacher who has an old Halloween costume at the back of the cupboard, or a black dress, then you could also achieve this look.
An ideal costume for a teacher is Gangsta Granny, another beloved book written by David Walliams. For this one, all you need is a cardigan, a black skirt, tights and some old slippers. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to spend the whole day feeling comfy in their slippers? To look like granny, you’ll need a black bandit mask. You can easily make one out of whatever you have laying around - be it some card or material - or you could even draw one using black face paint. You don’t even have to buy a wig, simply use rollers, a curler or straighteners - whatever you have - to curl your hair into tight curls.
We all know and love the Little Miss and Mr Men books written by Roger Hargreaves, they’ve been firm favourites for families for generations. One of the easiest characters to dress as, both for teachers and pupils alike, is Mr Bump. All you have to do is dress all in blue and add a bandage around your head and also around your middle. If you don’t have a bandage handy you can even use toilet roll. If you have it, you could even paint the face, hands or arms blue too but this isn’t imperative.
Peter Rabbit is a mischievous rabbit made famous by the book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ by Beatrix Potter. This is another outfit choice that would be easy to achieve for children or adults. All you need is a blue top, possibly a blue jacket or blazer if you have it, some brown trousers - and of course some bunny ears. Now, the chances are you may already have some bunny ears in your house from previous Easter celebrations. If not, you can easily make some yourself out of cardboard and tape them to a headband. Lastly, use face paint or an eyebrow pencil to draw whiskers on the face. For an alternative version, use a pink top or blazer to dress as Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, Peter’s sisters.
This could be a really easy option for a teacher who doesn’t have a lot of time to plan and sort a costume. In fact, depending on your usual work attire you may not have to do much different from your usual routine. All you need is a tweed jacket, smart black trousers, a white shirt and a red tie. Then, part your hair at the side and use hair products to slick it down. Job done.
One of the Midnight Gang
The Midnight Gang, written by David Walliams, is a secret gang of children who go on midnight adventures in the hospital. These children are all dressed in their pyjamas, so all you need to do is get your child up, washed and then back in a clean pair of pjs for the day. It literally couldn’t be any simpler, and they’ll be super cosy too.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The very hungry caterpillar is a distinctive character known for having a green body and a red face, so to make it as simple as possible you, or your child, could dress in an all green outfit and paint the face red with face paint. If you have a bit more time on your hands, you could make a caterpillar body using circles of green card, and then use some string to hang this around your neck, or the neck of your child.
This one might be a bit of a cheat, but the dictionary is still a book, and nobody said that World Book Day has to focus on -fiction books. It’s the ultimate last minute costume for everyone, you could even pull this together on the morning of World Book Day. All you need is a plain t-shirt, in any colour other than black, and a permanent marker or fabric pen. Then, simply write the word “dictionary” in the middle of the top and then various words all over it. If you’re a teacher choosing this costume then it could be a great way of introducing your pupils to new vocabulary to further their learning.
Percy Jackson is the main character in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a series of five fantasy novels written by American author Rick Riordan. All you need for this one is ordinary casual clothing - ideally a blue jumper or top if possible - and then some cardboard to make yourself a sword and shield.