Themed spirit days at school can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s so much fun for the kids to dress up, but can be a lot of work for the adults who have to put a whole costume together, especially with short notice. (Because your second grader left the note in the bottom of his backpack for weeks, naturally.) For your child’s next book character day, these costume ideas are incredibly easy to achieve.
For my oldest son’s first book character day at school, I knew that I needed him to pick a character whose look was super simple to recreate. The less I had to buy, the better. I’m also not the most crafty person in the world, so I also didn’t want to have to make much either. As it turns out, a couple of pointy paper cups glued to an old headband paired with a yellow t-shirt and a pair of yellow gym shorts transformed him into an adorable version of the main character from one of his favorite tales,
Nibbles the Book Monster.
Classic characters from your own childhood can also be a great source of inspiration. Most of their looks are simple enough to recreate with things you probably already have at home like overalls for
Corduroy or a floppy hat and blue dress for Madeline. Take a look at this list with your kids the next time you’re in need of book character costume inspiration for a school spirit day, Halloween, or any other costume-wearing occasion. 1 Corduroy Bear
The beloved bear from author and illustrator Don Freeman’s 1976 classic children’s book,
Corduroy, is an iconic main character with a super easy-to-achieve look. Just like Corduroy himself, your child can wear a pair of green overalls with one strap undone (missing button optional) over a long-sleeved brown shirt to signify the well-worn brown teddy bear’s fur. Then, you can add a pair of brown, fuzzy bear ears to top off the look. If you’re feeling extra-detailed, you can use black eyeliner to make Corduroy’s nose on the tip of your child’s own. Those small touches can go a long way on book character day. 2 Nibbles The Book Monster
My kids absolutely love the zany fairytale-chomping main character in the book
Nibbles: The Book Monster, by author and illustrator Emma Yarlett. If you aren’t already familiar with this hilarious tale, it’s definitely worth a read, even if it’s solely to help you craft an easy book character costume. Nibbles is solid yellow from his four fingertips on each hand all the way to his floppy feet, so your kid really just needs head-to-toe yellow clothing to pull off this character costume. You can also glue two pointy paper cups (like the ones found on office water coolers) to a headband to make his horns. 3 Pete The Cat
Pete the Cat books are a favorite of so many elementary school-aged kiddos. Pete is a blue cat, so a long-sleeved blue top and blue pants are all you need make the base of your child’s costume. Then, you can draw whiskers on their cheeks with eyeliner and fill the tip of their nose in with white paint to create Pete’s face. Throughout the series, Pete dons many different looks, so for book character day, your kids can choose from a variety of accessories to complete their costume, like a yellow raincoat with colorful buttons, a Santa hat, red sneakers, a guitar, and more. 4 Madeline
Ludwig Bemelmans’ iconic children’s book
Madeline was first published in 1967, but in the years since, the story’s main character has become a pop culture mainstay. In the original book, main character Madeline is pictured on the cover wearing yellow, but in subsequent books and the popular 1998 film, the sweet heroine wears blue. For book character day, either color dress works well — especially if you already have one or the other. Your child can wear the dress over a white collared top paired with a floppy hat, white knee-high socks, a pair of black flats, and a red scarf tied loosely around their neck. 5 The Mouse From ‘If You Give A Mouse A Cookie’
The main character from the book
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff is an adorable little mouse whose look is super simple to recreate for book character day. All you need is a pair of denim overalls worn with a long-sleeved grey, brown, or tan shirt to resemble the mouse’s fur. Top the costume off with some drawn-on mouse whiskers, a painted-on pink nose, and a pair of mouse ears.
To complete the look and let people know exactly which character your kid is, have them carry around a big “cookie” cut out of brown construction paper with “chocolate chips” drawn on with a marker. If their teacher approves, they could also bring a bag of cookies to school to share with the class.
6 Max From ‘Where The Wild Things Are’
The classic story
Where the Wild Things Are by author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has one of the most memorable main characters of any children’s book I can think of. Max, the adventurous little boy at the center of the story, dresses in a wolf suit in the book, but you absolutely don’t have to make a homemade wolf costume to dress your kid like Max.
A pair of long john-style pajamas in white or beige will work just fine, but you can also add big buttons to the front to make it look more like Max’s wolf suit. You can also craft a simple crown out of felt and add some faux fur around the base with glue to recreate one of the more iconic scenes from the story.
Your child may be more familiar with the lovable aardvark, Arthur, from the PBS show, but I guarantee there are at least a handful of
Arthur books on their school library shelves. Achieve this book character costume look with a yellow sweater over a white collared shirt, some baggy blue jeans, red sneakers, and a pair of rimmed glasses in the classic round shape the character sports. A red backpack and some felt aardvark ears on a headband can also put this look over the top. 8 Waldo From ‘Where’s Waldo?’
When your child dresses like the star of the
Where’s Waldo? book series by Martin Handford, there will be no second-guessing who your kiddo is in their book character costume. A red and white striped sweater or long-sleeved shirt can be paired with blue jeans to recreate the base of Waldo’s unmistakable attire. Black, round-rim glasses and a red and white beanie top off the look. One helpful hint for this costume idea is to shop for the top around the Christmas holidays when you’re more likely to find clothing with red and white stripes. 9 Paddington Bear
Author Michael Bond’s book
Paddington, originally illustrated by R.W. Alley, is one of the most beloved reads of all-time about an adorable bear in London. In the story, Paddington sports a dilapidated red hat and a stately blue coat over his brown fur.
To recreate his look, your child can don a floppy red hat and a long, blue coat over brown clothing to represent Paddington’s fur. Paddington also carries a well-worn suitcase, so to add to the already charming nature of this book character look, your child could carry an old suitcase to school if you happen to have one at home.
10 Angelina Ballerina
A book character costume based on the main character from the
Angelina Ballerina series written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig is incredibly easy and fun to make. If your little one is a tiny dancer themselves, you likely already have a pink leotard, ballet slippers, and a pink tutu at home. If not, these items are easy enough to come by at local dance wear shops and online. Then, add a pair of grey mouse ears, draw on some mouse whiskers, paint on a pink nose, and call it done. 11 The Cat In The Hat
The title character from one of Dr. Seuss’ most iconic stories,
The Cat in the Hat, is such a fun choice for a book character costume. Your child can wear all black clothing with a large white circle cut out of felt or paper stuck on their belly and a pair of white gloves. Then, draw a cat nose and whiskers on their face with black eyeliner. Top off the costume with a red-and-white-striped top hat like the cat wears in the book. The big hat is probably not something you already have at home, but they’re actually pretty easy to find at party supply stores, craft stores, and online. 12 The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The beloved title character from author and illustrator Eric Carle’s
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an iconic choice for a book character costume, especially for younger kids who love the story. All that is really required to create this costume is a long sleeved top or sweater that has alternating dark and light green stripes paired with a red beanie to serve as the caterpillar’s face. Easy enough, right? If you’re feeling crafty, you can also cut bug eyes and tentacles out of construction paper or felt to stick on the hat to make the costume more detailed. 13 Thing 1 (And/Or Thing 2)
This is a fun book character costume from
The Cat In The Hat and several other Dr. Seuss spin-off stories to team up with a sibling or friend to wear together. A red shirt and black leggings or black pants is all you really need to get the clothing part of the costume covered. For the “Thing 1” or “Thing 2” emblem on the shirt, you can literally just cut circles out of white paper and use a black permanent marker. You could definitely go all-out and invest in a spiky blue wig as well, but you could also use blue temporary hair color spray for the day.