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Cheap and easy ideas for last-minute World Book Day costumes

Children in cheap, easy costumes
World Book Day: the time of year that can send all parents into a last-minute, no-costume panic. Don't stress: with a bit of thrifty creativity your child can still join in with the literary dressing-up fun, even if the shops are closed and it's the night before the school costume parade.

It's wine o'clock and the kids are in bed when it happens: the sinking realisation that in just twelve hours your child is supposed to be dressed up as a book character for school. We've all been there, which is why TheSchoolRun has compiled a list of super easy, extremely last-minute costume ideas for WBD. No-costume panic sorted!  

Mr Bump or Little Miss Whoops

This one is wonderfully simple, and potentially very accurate for those of use with accident-prone children! Mr Bump and Little Miss Whoops are classic characters from the Mr Men series.

What you will need:

  • Blue clothing
  • Toilet roll for bandages around head and arms

The Football Boy Wonder (or any other football-based book)

Got any football fans in the house? This one is incredibly easy to put together.

What you will need:

  • Football kit (or just a football t-shirt)
  • Football

Harry and his Bucket Full of Dinosaurs

Most of us have a bucket somewhere, usually a beach one, and dinosaur toys are popular with most kids. This book is a well-loved one and Harry is an instantly recognisable character.

What you will need:

  • A bucket to carry
  • Toy dinosaurs to put in the bucket (or printed pictures of dinosaurs to stick onto it)

Pippi Longstocking

A classic outfit for a classic children's character, and it will take minutes to put together. Pippi is a lovable scruffball with super-human strength and a bit of a temper. If your child has a tantrum in this costume then maybe they're just getting into character!

What you will need:

  • Plaited hair
  • Odd socks
  • Dungarees (or any scruffy, loose clothes) 

Saucepan Man from The Magic Faraway Tree

Enid Blyton's famous Saucepan Man could be the answer to your prayers on World Book Day, but just be prepared for an empty kitchen cupboard and extra dirty dishes.

What you will need:

  • A saucepan (to go on their head)
  • More pans (for them to carry)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a book with simple illustrations of its every-day child protagonist, which makes it ideal for easy costume ideas. A kid going to school with a backpack on? Now where have we seen that before...

What you will need:

  • Cardboard or paper and a pen for a mask (think stick man; simply draw dotty eyes, and a thin mouth)
  • Normal clothes
  • Backpack


Tintin was originally a comic book about the adventures of a reporter and his dog. This character never goes out of style, and has even been portrayed on television and in cinemas. Tintin's ensemble can be put together faster than you can say "Professor Calculus".

What you will need:

  • Gel for flicking up your fringe
  • Blue jumper
  • White toy dog optional

Captain Underpants

If you have a child with a good sense of humour then this is a great pick. The more outrageous the underwear, the better.

What you will need:

  • Underwear (to wear over trousers)
  • Red jumper (to wear around neck as a cape)

101 Dalmatians

Unless you have polka dot clothes lying around, be prepared to mess up some white shirts/trousers/dresses because black dots will be everywhere!

What you will need:

  • White clothes
  • Black pen for drawing big black dots

Sophie from the BFG

Sophie is the befriender of giants and a key character in Roald Dahl's famous book, but it's lucky for us she is also a down-to-earth dresser.

What you will need:

  • Pyjamas
  • Glasses (although you can always draw them on)

Thing 1 and Thing 2

These crazy things are from Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. They cause a lot of mischief and mayhem, but the great thing is that you'll likely have some additional props you can use to add to this look. Got a box or a kite? Add it to the costume for more detail.

What you will need:

  • A red shirt
  • Scisssors to cut out a circle or a pen to draw one onto the shirt (with a number in middle)
  • Make your hair blue if you happen to have temporary dye or hair chalk lying around!

The Boy in the Dress

This costume is pretty self explanatory but it's worth mentioning that David William's book offers a positive message about cross-dressing and a great opportunity to let a child who loves dresses really embrace it.

What you will need:

  • A dress to wear
  • A football to carry

The Proudest Blue

This book is about Faizah and Asiya's first day at school, and Asiya's first day of wearing a beautiful blue hijab. A fantastically easy WBD outift and a  great way to introduce a beautiful book to those who may not know it.

What you will need:

  • Just a blue headscarf!

Billionaire Boy

Billionare Boy is all about a rich child with no friends. His dad made money from Bumfresh toilet paper, so if you really want to be clever you could stuff some paper "money" into a toilet roll as a prop. 

What you will need:

  • Grey trousers
  • Messy hair
  • A bunch of paper money to stuff in pockets

Tracey Beaker

Tracey Beaker is the original kid with attitude and her 90's wardrobe is, thankfully, still similar to what kids wear today.

What you will need:

  • A red or stripy red shirt
  • Curly hair if possible
  • Anything denim

Stick Man

Julia Donaldson's Stick Man is perfect for a last-minute WBD costume, especially if your child has some brown clothes and is fond of the outdoors.

What you will need:

  • All brown clothes
  • Grab some sticks/leaves on your walk to school for added effect!

Check the toy box for quick and easy World Book Day costumes

You may already have the perfect costume under your very nose!

Old costumes/props you may already have:

  • Witch's hat (Winnie the Witch, Room on the Broom)
  • Skeleton costume (Funny Bones books)
  • Vampire costume (The Little Vampire, Mona the Vampire)
  • Princess costumes. There are so many princesses in so many books, and if you have a crown lying around your child can wear any clothes they like plus the crown and be a princess from the book Not All Princesses Wear Pink.
  • Ballet outfit (Angelina Ballerina, Belinda the Ballerina)
  • Also, a furry onesie makes for an excellent bear (from We're Going on a Bear Hunt), big bad wolf (from Goldilocks), or even a Gruffalo!

Raid the face paints for last-minute World Book Day characters

Esther Sweet, mother of two teen boys and veteran WBD costume maker, swears by versatile, readily available face paint. "Face paints generally are your friend. I did Moon Face, Fantastic Mr Fox and a Zombie werewolf (requested by my son) over the years, and they just wore normallish clothes."

Other face paint gems include:

  • Yellow and black face paint for a lightening bolt and glasses (Harry Potter)
  • Orange and black face paint for whiskers and lion fur (Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
  • Lots of orange face paint (Oompa Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Want more no-fuss, no-sew costume ideas? Have a look at our dress-up hints and tips for Nativity plays, Halloween, historical dressing up and Roald Dahl costumes.

If you happen to have a bit more time and money and would rather buy a pre-made costume for World Book Day, look through our round-up of the best.

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