Top Tips and Ideas for a low-cost World Book Day23rd February 2023
Hooray! World Book Day is nearly here (this year it falls on Thursday March 2nd). A day to celebrate all things books and foster a lifelong love of reading. For many children and schools this will involve dressing up as favourite book characters. Dressing up is a popular way to encourage children (particularly those that aren’t keen readers) to engage with reading, and World Book Day is a great opportunity to do this. Children get to share the books they love, and their enthusiasm helps create fun and excitement around reading. However, we know that for many parents creating World Book Day costumes can be a source of anxiety, especially when finances are squeezed.
The good news is that money should not be a barrier to dressing up this World Book Day, and we have some great tips and ideas for budget and DIY costumes. Schools can also help by approaching it differently – maybe organise an ‘Only 3 items’ World Book Day where children have to get creative and only use 3 items from home to create a character. Teachers can also lead the way by discussing what they will be wearing and how they are not spending a penny to do so…
Schools can also help students by sharing the tips below to motivate pupils to create no-cost or low-cost and easy book character costumes this World Book Day.
Adapt comfy clothes, everyday clothes or borrow from family
Think about what is already in a child’s cupboard. Do they have black trousers and top that could be used for a Cat in the Hat outfit, or an animal print onesie that can be used for Giraffes Can’t Dance or a creature from Dear Zoo? A stripey jumper that can pass for Where’s Wally? Plain PJs and pillow and an optional balloon are all a child needs to be a member of David Walliams' The Midnight Gang.
Ask friends and family for items – grandma’s old walking stick for Gangsta Granny or Grandpa’s old flat cap for Allan Ahlberg’s Burglar Bill, or for Tom Oakley from Goodnight Mr Tom.
Raid the Dressing-Up box, or take advantage of hobbies
Children love dressing up and they may already have items used at Halloween, Christmas or even access to a friend’s costume from last year's World Book Day- so use them!
A fairy costume can make a great Rainbow Magic fairy (with endless possibilities). A witch costume (or just stripey tights and a black dress) can be used for a multitude of witchy characters like Winnie the Witch, The Room on the Broom, The Apprentice Witch or Witch Wars! Last year’s Halloween Skeleton outfit will be perfect for Funnybones. Meanwhile a pirate or knight’s costume can be used for 10 Little Pirates or The Kiss That Missed. We actively encourage mixing and matching too – fairy wings together with a blue (ahem) Disney princess dress will make a lovely Blue Fairy from Pinocchio.
A child’s hobbies can also provide a wealth of options. Are they learning ballet? Add some cardboard puppy ears on a headband to their ballet outfit and they can be Biff from Dogs Don’t Do Ballet. Older children can dress as Delphie from Darcey Bussell’s Magic Ballerina Books, with extra points if they carry some ballet shoes and tell everyone they’re magic…
Do they play football? They’d love to get their kit on and go as Frankie from the Frankie’s Magic Football series, or older children can combine sleuthing and football and dress up as Danny Harte from Tom Palmer’s Foul Play series.
Kit for riding bikes, horse riding and karate can also be used to great effect. We don’t recommend swimwear for early March though, even if Jabari Jumps is a child’s favourite read!
Use everyday items and toys and games you already have
What makes books so extraordinary is that children can see themselves reflected in characters, and a lot of the time these characters are ordinary children – this makes dressing up like them relatively easy! Everyday clothes with an ‘accessory’ will transform them into a book’s protagonist. Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs just needs a bucket full of dinosaurs, Billionaire Boy needs a wallet full of Monopoly money, or tuck a queen of hearts playing card into a hairband as part of an Alice in Wonderland outfit.
It’s not only toys and games that come in handy – everyday items are useful too – a pile of books tied with a ribbon for Matilda, or a pillow stuffed under a red outfit for Mr Greedy.
Get crafty with cardboard, paint or felt tips
Have a go at painting a golden ticket for Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or cover an old white T-shirt in black spots for Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians, or wrap some cardboard with leftover gold Christmas wrapping paper to make a shield for Tom from Beast Quest. Attach cardboard to hairbands, alice bands or tiaras to keep ‘ears’ in place, or attach cardboard pieces to a belt.
Get crafty together and use a paper plate with a piece of elastic tied to it and draw on a character’s face, whether it be an easy round one like Moonface from The Magic Faraway Tree, or something that needs a little bit of drawing, like a bear for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
If you’ve got paint, and boxes from a recent online delivery you can fashion an outfit from cardboard, like a red robot for the No-Bot : The Robot With No Bottom!
You can be literal and go as a Dictionary! Get a child involved and use and old T-shirt and old leggings and fabric/marker pen and get them to cover the outfit in their favourite words.
Crafting and accessorising doesn’t need to be complicated – it can be just a little ‘hair and make-up’. If you can change a hair style and add freckles or a lightning scar you sometimes don’t have to think too much about the clothes. Putting a child’s hair in bunches makes a great Lola from Charlie and Lola, or coupled with some stripey tights a convincing Pippi Longstocking!
Put a child back into their school uniform
Children may think it’s fun to wear school uniform on a day when they can wear anything else! Wear a school uniform, add a wand and glasses and they’re Harry Potter. There are loads of stories and characters in a school setting; Malory Towers, Demon Headmaster and Wigglesbottom Primary to name but a few.
Twenty-one wallet-friendly ideas:
Peter Rabbit: Blue school cardigan, white shirt and brown trousers, a hair band with cardboard ears stuck on, some facepaint or makeup to draw whiskers and a bunch of carrots from the fridge
Baby Bear from Whatever Next: Tie a child’s favourite teddy to them with a ribbon, and put a colander on teddy’s head
Sophie from The Tiger Who Came to Tea: A dark pinafore dress, a blue/purple shirt and pink/purple or white tights. A purple ribbon for Sophie’s hair, and a good friend’s borrowed stuffed toy tiger
Harry from Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs: Blue Trousers, red jumper, a cleaning bucket and lots of dinosaurs from the toy box
Stick Man: Brown clothes, a couple of twigs or leaves to hold and some green card or scraps of fabric to cut into leaf shapes and attach to a belt or optional hairband
Supertato: Brown trousers and shirt, a black belt with cardboard SP stuck on the buckle, a mask made from black cardboard, and a red cape from the dressing up box. Bonus points for plastic play vegetables
Max from Where the Wild Things Are: White Onesie, cut paw shapes out of carboard and attach on top of trainers and some cardboard covered in gold left-over Christmas wrapping paper to make a crown
Mr Bump: Blue trousers and top, raid the first aid box for bandages to go round tummy and head (or use loo roll!) You can also do other Mr Men/Little Miss Characters like Little Miss Sunshine with yellow top and trousers, hair in pigtails with red ribbons and freckles painted on with lipstick
Goldilocks: Normal clothes and 3 teddy bears, preferably in different sizes. Add a porridge bowl and a spoon for an extra touch, or Goldilocks can take three different sized chairs from the classroom as further props
The Book with No Pictures: No need to be a character! Use an old white T-Shirt that was destined for recycling. With felt pens write some of your favourite words from the book on the shirt in different sizes and colours, we like Blaggitty, Grumph and Blurf!
George from George’s Marvellous Medicine: Red top (turn it inside out if the only one you have has a logo on it), blue trousers and use an old plastic shampoo bottle and stick a 'Medicine' label on it, and cover a wooden spoon in tin foil
Fergus Hamilton from Flying Fergus: Get out a helmet and borrow cycling gear from a keen relative – job done!
Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: White T-Shirt, black shorts and trainers and a black backpack, with a pen and notebook filled with doodles
Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series: Black dress or skirt and top, red hairband, black boots and an umbrella
Joe from Billionaire Boy: Large white shirt, grey (school) trousers and lots of monopoly money, or get the child to help to draw and cut out paper notes
Sophie from The BFG: Pyjamas or a pink dress, and make a Dream Jar with a jam jar, some battery powered fairy lights, glitter and torn up pieces of coloured paper
Percy from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief: Everyday clothes and sword and shield made from cardboard- a spare box is perfect for this
Emmeline Pankhurst: Dress up as a real person from the past. Go as a Suffragette with a black skirt gathered with a belt, a white top, and use a purple ribbon to make a sash with ‘Votes for Women’ written on it, or a badge with the same text. A placard made from cardboard attached to a ruler or stick will round off the outfit
Ultimate Football Heroes: Rashford: Dress up as a sportsperson, especially if a child loved reading about their life…. They can simply get their football gear out!
A Kids Life in Ancient Rome: Go as a Roman. Use a white sheet as a toga (lots of internet tutorials available on how to securely wrap them) Make sure to layer up underneath as it might be chilly! Adapt a princess tiara from the dressing up box by sticking green or gold leaves on it to make a laurel wreath
General Knowledge Genius: For those that prefer non-fiction - especially fun facts - you can get a child to write their 20 best facts on 20 pieces of card which can be attached to a shirt with double sided sticky tape
We hope you’ve been inspired by our budget friendly World Book Day costume ideas. Remember to get children involved in the creative process so that they feel really proud of their outfit when they walk into school ready to have lots of fun on World Book Day!