School Spirit Theme Days can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s so much fun for kids to dress up, but it can be a lot of work for adults who have to put together a full costume, especially on short notice. (Because your second-grader left the note in the back of their backpack for weeks, naturally.) For your child’s next book character day, these costume ideas are incredibly easy to make.
For my oldest son’s first day of book character in school, I knew I needed him to pick a character whose look was super easy to recreate. The less I had to buy, the better. I’m not the smartest person in the world either, so I didn’t want to have much to gain either. In the end, a few sharp paper cups stuck to an old headband, paired with a yellow t-shirt and yellow athletic shorts turned him into an adorable version of the main character from one of his favorite tales,
Nibble on the monster from the book.
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 around the house like overalls for
Corduroy or a soft hat and a blue dress for Madeline. Take a look at this list with your kids the next time you need some book character costume inspiration for a school spirit day, Halloween, or any other costume wear occasion.
The Beloved Bear from the classic children’s book by author and illustrator Don Freeman from 1976,
Corduroy, is an iconic main character with a look that’s super easy to pull off. Much like the corduroy itself, your child can wear green overalls with an undone strap (optional missing button) over a brown long-sleeved shirt to signify well-worn brown teddy bear fur. Then you can add a pair of brown fluffy bear ears to complete the look. If you are feeling very detailed, you can use black eyeliner to make Corduroy’s nose on the tip of your child’s nose. These little touches can go a long way on the day of the character in the book.
nibble the monster from the book
My kids love the wacky fairytale main character in the book
Nibbles: The Monster of the Book, by author and illustrator Emma Yarlett. If you’re not already familiar with this hilarious tale, it’s definitely worth reading, even if it’s just to help you make an easy book character costume. Nibbles is solid yellow from the tips of her four fingers on each hand to her soft feet, so your kid really only needs yellow clothes from head to toe to pull off this character costume. You can also glue two sharp paper cups (like those found on office water fountains) on a headband to make its horns.
Pete the cat
that of Eric Litwin
Pete the cat books are the favorite of so many school-aged children. Pete is a blue cat, so a blue long sleeve top and blue pants are all you need to make the basis of your child’s costume. Then you can draw whiskers on their cheeks with eyeliner and fill the tip of their nose with white paint to create Pete’s face. Throughout the series, Pete dons many different looks, so for character day in the book, your kids can choose from a variety of accessories to complete their costume, such as a yellow raincoat with colorful buttons, a beanie hat. Noel, red sneakers, a guitar, and more.
Ludwig Bemelmans’ iconic children’s book
Madeline was first released in 1967, but in the years since, the main character in the story has become a mainstay of pop culture. In the original book, the main character Madeline is depicted on the cover in yellow, but in subsequent books and the popular 1998 film, the sweet heroine wears blue. For the day of the character in the book, either color of the dress works well, especially if you already have one or the other. Your child can wear the dress over a white collar top paired with a floppy hat, white knee-length socks, a pair of black flats, and a red scarf tied around their neck.
Mouse from “If you give a mouse a cookie”
The main character of the book
If you give a cookie a cookie by Laura Numeroff is an adorable little mouse whose look is super easy to recreate for the character’s day in the book. All you need are denim overalls worn with a gray, brown, or tan long sleeve shirt to look like mouse fur. Complete the costume with comic mouse whiskers, a painted pink nose, and a pair of mouse ears.
To complete the look and let people know exactly what your kid’s character is, have them carry a large “cookie” cut out of brown construction paper with “chocolate chips” drawn with a marker. If their teacher agrees, they could also bring a bag of cookies to school to share with the class.
Max from “Where are the Wild Things”
Where the wild things are by author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has one of the most memorable main characters in any children’s book I can think of. Max, the adventurous little boy at the center of the story, dresses up in a wolf costume in the book, but you absolutely don’t need to make a homemade wolf costume to dress your child like Max.
Long john style pajamas in white or tan will work great, but you can also add big buttons on the front to make it look more like Max’s wolf costume. You can also make a simple felt wreath and add faux fur around the base with glue to recreate one of the most iconic scenes in history.
Your child may be more familiar with the adorable aardvark, Arthur, from the PBS show, but I guarantee there are at least a handful of
Arthur books on the shelves of their school library. Get that book character costume look with a yellow sweater over a white collar shirt, loose blue jeans, red sneakers, and a pair of rimmed glasses in the character’s classic round shape. A red backpack and felt aardvark ears on a headband can also put this look on top.
Waldo From “Where’s Charlie?” “
When your child dresses like the star of the
Where’s Waldo? Martin Handford’s book series, there will be no doubt who your child is in his book character costume. A red and white striped sweater or long sleeve shirt can be paired with blue jeans to recreate the basis of Waldo’s unique outfit. Black round-rimmed glasses and a red and white beanie complete the look. A useful tip for this costume idea is to buy the top during the Christmas holidays when you are more likely to find red and white striped clothes.
Author Michael Bond’s book
Paddington, Originally illustrated by RW Alley, is one of the most beloved reads of all time about an adorable bear in London. In the story, Paddington wears a dilapidated red hat and a regal blue coat over his brown fur.
To recreate her look, your child can don a floppy red hat and a long blue coat over brown clothes to represent Paddington fur. Paddington also carries a well-worn suitcase, so to add to the already charming nature of this book character look, your child could take an old suitcase to school if you have one at home.
A book character costume based on the main character of the
Angelina Ballerina The series written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig is incredibly easy and fun to do. If your toddler is a little dancer himself, you probably already have a pink leotard, ballet shoes, and a pink tutu at home. Otherwise, these items are fairly easy to find at local dance wear stores and online. Then add a pair of gray mouse ears, draw on mouse whiskers, paint on a pink nose and call it finished.
The cat in the hat
The main character of 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 clothes with a large white circle cut from felt or paper glued to the stomach and a pair of white gloves. Then draw a cat nose and whiskers on her face with black eyeliner. Complete the costume with a red and white striped top hat as the cat wears in the book. The big hat is probably not something you already have at home, but they’re actually fairly easy to find at party stores, craft stores, and online.
The hungry caterpillar
The beloved title character of author and illustrator Eric Carle
The hungry caterpillar is an iconic choice for a book character costume, especially for young children who love history. All that is really needed to create this costume is a long sleeve top or sweater alternating dark and light green stripes, paired with a red beanie to serve as the chenille face. Pretty easy, right? If you’re feeling smart, you can also cut out insect eyes and tentacles from construction paper or felt to glue on the hat to make the costume more detailed.
Thing 1 (And / or Thing 2)
This is a fun book character costume from
The cat in the hat and several other Dr. Seuss derivative stories to team up with a sibling or friend to wear together. A red shirt and black leggings or black pants are all you really need to cover the sartorial part of the costume. 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 can certainly go all out and invest in a spiky blue wig as well, but you can also use a temporary blue dye spray for the day.