Book Week costume hacks for busy parents


I have only nailed Book Week costumes twice in 16 years of parenting.

The first time, my kids had been involved in a school production that let them keep their amazing costumes so I rolled those bad boys out again and, magically, Thing 1, Thing 2 and Harley Quinn were our new favourite literary heroes.

The second time, I found a $2 pre-made Harry Potter costume in the supermarket and bought two, so the best friend my daughter had agreed to match with could also wear one. She was young enough to still go for it (and I never heard a word from the other mum, so I’m assuming she was sufficiently unbothered to let it go too).

Because I can’t be the only one who struggles, right? I am a creative person but I don’t have a crafty bone in my body, so the minute I hear that the annual Easter Parade with its homemade Easter hats is on the way I start making road-trip plans. The same goes for crazy hair day, Halloween – and Book Week.

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Every year, as July rolls into August, a buzz of excitement whizzes through the primary school-aged kids of my household. Book Week means five school days when the literary universe comes alive and characters step out from the pages of much-loved children’s books and onto school grounds.

I’m a writer with a vivid imagination so of course I love it really (really deep down). But the pressure not to show my child (and myself) up at the Book Week parade is immense. Third time around, I’ve started to wonder: is it even fair?

The pressure of the perfect costume

The expectations are clear: conjure up a costume that not only pays homage to a beloved literary character but also stands out in a sea of other mums’ creativity. In a good way. Not because it looks like a toddler made it and it’s about to fall apart, or get swept away by a gust of wind.

In a world where social media means that me and my child will both be scrolling through elaborate, meticulously crafted costumes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. But the reality of time and financial constraints dictates that some of us need to keep it real and play to our strengths.

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For example, one of mine is research – and it’s a great skill to have if you’re looking for Book Week costume hacks.

Phone a friend

First up: phone a friend. Because every friendship group has a crafty mum who can whip up an Oscar-worthy costume from the scraps of her loose buttons drawer.

Find her and ask her for Book Week costume hand-me-downs (she won’t be using them, she’s been planning this year’s costume since last year).

Shop Facebook marketplace

A few searches of Facebook marketplace and buy & sell swap groups, plus a post or two in your local community’s Facebook groups, should turn up a few gems – and foster a renewed sense of community spirit while you’re at it. This makes for a potentially sustainable costume hack too, and anything good for the environment is a win/win.

Shop your wardrobes

Speaking of sustainability, it might feel like a cop-out but there’s a whole lot to be said for recycling clothes from the family’s wardrobes. With a stroke of luck, you’ll have the right shoes, socks, bag or hair accessories to turn a skirt and shirt combo into Scooby Doo’s Velma Dinkley, or some pyjamas into Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Greg Hefley, or trusty Waldo from Where’s Wally.

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Convert a cardboard box

cardboard box book week costume hack

Make Pinterest your friend and get creative with a trusty cardboard box. They’re an incredibly versatile tool for a non-crafty parent in a tight spot as they can make accessories, vehicles, or the costume itself. Remember that a great costume doesn’t have to be a carbon copy – just focus on key recognisable elements of the character.

Not all superheroes wear capes

But most do, and bedsheet capes are a great start to a last minute handmade Book Week costume. Potential characters include Superman, Batman, Robin, Dr. Strange, Magneto, Storm, Thor (just add hammer) and Vision (wow, I am actually quite good at this!).

Pro tip: Engage your child in the design process and let them have a say in choosing the character and contributing to the look and feel of this costume, as this will get them engaged and excited and instantly relieve some of that pressure.

Regardless of what costume you end up with, try to enjoy the journey that gets you there, find joy in the chaos, and remember the true spirit of Book Week – celebrating the beauty of books, nurturing the next generation’s love of reading, and igniting the spark of imagination in (big and) little kids.

Yes, an amazing costume is a wonderful achievement, but it’s not the only measure of success. That can be measured in lighthearted eye rolls, random acts of kindness, fun memories – and laughing emojis when the people who get it reply to your Instagram story.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.