Writing a children's book may seem like a breeze from a distance. After all, most children's books aren't very long — especially when compared to novels of 100,000 words or more. But just because children's books are shorter, doesn't mean they are easier to write. And sometimes, the hardest part is coming up with a good story idea in the first place.
So whether you're writing a picture book or a chapter book, this article can help. We'll go over some ways you can generate children's book ideas yourself, but we'll also give you plenty of prompts that can get the creative juices flowing!
- Tips for writing a children's book
- 50 prompts to get you writing
- How to test your children's book idea
Narrow Your Focus for a Great Children's Book Idea
I'm going to assume here that you want to write a children's book not just because it's something you're passionate about, but because you'd like it to be successful. After all, what's the point of writing the book if no children read it? Ideally, you want to touch as many lives as possible, helping children learn and grow through your book.
Unfortunately, in the publishing world as in the rest of life, good intentions will only get you so far. So before we get into the meat of the story ideas in this article, we need to cover some tips for writing a successful children's book.
Firstly, it's a good idea to narrow your focus when coming up with a story idea. Children's Book is a phrase that covers a wide range of books and age-ranges. So the more specific you can get, the better.
Different Age Ranges for Children's Books
To help you narrow your focus, here's a broad look at the most popular types of children's books and their age ranges.
- Board Book – Ages 0 to 3 – Minimal words, mostly pictures.
- Picture Book – Ages 2 to 5 – 200 to 400 words, pictures on every page.
- Chapter Book – Ages 6 to 10 – 3,000 to 10,000 words, pictures on most pages.
- Middle Grade Book – Ages 8 to 12 – 30,000 to 45,000 words, limited pictures.
Most of the ideas we'll cover in this post can be tailored to fit any of the age ranges above. But we'll mostly focus on picture books, since they're among the most popular.
That said, it's important to have an age range firmly in mind so you can write for your audience. Parents will be the ones to buy the books, and they're very good at picking out age-appropriate books for their children.
Popular Children's Book Themes and Settings
Starting with a theme is a great way to nurture an idea for any book, not just a children's book. Theme can help you determine plot, characters, and message. So, here are some great themes for children's book ideas:
- Discovery (Learning)
- Big Changes
- Social Issues
- Growing Up
The setting of your book is also a fundamental building block for a children's story. If you put a theme and a setting together, you're halfway to a great book!
Let's say you want to write about friendship (theme) in the jungle (setting). You can choose jungle characters, or you can make your main character an animal that's not from the jungle, so he/she is scared . . . until they meet a new friend!
See how easy it is to get the ideas rolling? But we're not done yet. Let's explore some different types of children's books now.
Types of Children's Books
There are some tried-and-true types of books that many a young reader will love. Some children's book writers prefer to start with a type and move to theme and setting from there. Let's take a look:
- ABC Books
- Dinosaur Books
- Bedtime Story Books
- Food Books
- Imagination Books
- Early Reader Books
- Sibling Books (to prepare for a new brother or sister)
As you can see, you can mix and match, picking a theme, a setting, and a type of book. This should help you solidify your children's book idea. But if not, we've still got some prompts coming up!
Children's Book Idea Prompts
- Write about an animal that moves to a strange city.
- Write about a child going to a farm for the first time.
- Write about a child learning to read with the help of a few furry friends.
- Write about an animal learning the meaning of loyalty.
- Write about a character learning to make a new friend from a different background.
- Write about a cast of animals learning how to work as a team to accomplish some goal.
- Write a story about a character learning to share their favorite toy.
- Write about a character learning to be brave amid adversity.
- Write about a kid learning the importance of honesty.
- Write about a sloth who wants to become a comedian.
- Explore the difficulty of losing a pet (or experiencing a drastic life change).
- Write about a magical box that operates on kindness.
- Write about a group of animals who must deal with human-made changes to their environment.
- Explore Halloween through a magical pumpkin and a surly scarecrow.
- Write about the power of dreams, showing the importance of getting enough sleep.
- Write about a kid who discovers a magical pair of shoes.
- Write about healthy vegetable characters and unhealthy fast-food characters.
- Explore the impact a single kind act can have on the world.
- Write about a character learning the power (both positive and negative) of technology.
- Write about a child taking care of a jellybean that turns out to be an egg.
- Explore the power of a misunderstanding — and the importance of empathy.
- Write a picture book about a character who is an aspiring photographer.
- Write a rhyming story about Freddy the Friendly Fish.
- Write about a couple of characters who make a mess and work together to clean it up.
- Explore a character learning to swim.
- Write about a character learning to not compare himself to others.
- Explore the implications of anger with a shark, hippo, or some seemingly angry animal.
- Write a story about an animal who is a picky eater.
- Write a story about wild things becoming tame over time.
- Write a story about a young girl making friends outside of her age group.
- Explore family dynamics through a family of dinosaurs trying to make it in a prehistoric world.
- Write a story about an aspiring writer learning to spell (and to use his imagination).
- Write a bedtime story about a pillow who waits all day for her chance to shine at bedtime.
- Write about a character who becomes unintentionally famous.
- Write about a character who learns a new skill that changes his life.
- Write about a character accepting the blame for something she didn't do to help a friend.
- Explore what happiness is — and what it isn't — through the main character's eyes.
- Explore how fear can be good, but also how it can be bad.
- Write about a child who accidentally invents a time machine.
- Write a story about the life cycle of water and its importance to all life on Earth.
- Write about an event not going to plan, but what happens instead is good in its own way.
- Explore the meaning of Christmas with the help of a polar bear, a penguin, and an elf.
- Write about a main character learning to go potty by him or herself.
- Write about a character who’s fiercely individualistic, meeting one who is a staunch conformist.
- Write a mystery about what happened to the main character’s favorite toy.
- Write a story about a child whose imagination goes wild and starts affecting the real world.
- Write about orphans and adoption from the perspective of a young child who has lost her parents.
- Explore what Thanksgiving is all about with animals getting ready for a harsh winter.
- Write about a child who climbs the tallest tree in the world, making friends along the way.
- Write about a family of rabbits who are also detectives, helping solve mysteries for the forest creatures.
The fifty ideas above can help you craft a story for young children. Most of the ideas would be good for a picture book or even a board book. But before you get too far into the children's book writing process, it's important to vet your idea to ensure it has the best chance of success.
Vetting Your Children's Book Idea
There are a number of ways to ensure your children's book idea is in line with the market. One way involves cruising Amazon, researching books similar to your idea. By doing this, you can gather relevant data on book covers, illustration styles, and which categories will be the best. Unfortunately, this can take hours.
This is why we designed Publisher Rocket. It saves children's book authors time and energy by doing the heavy lifting.
- Publisher Rocket's keyword search tool can help you determine what phrases and keywords Amazon shoppers are actually using when looking for children's books on Amazon.
- The Competition Analyzer helps you to see what other children's literature authors are doing and approximately how many sales their books get per day and per month.
- The AMS Keyword Search function can help you construct the best Amazon Ad campaigns for your book.
- Lastly, the Category Search function helps you to choose the best categories when you initially publish your book on Amazon.
You can learn more about Publisher Rocket here. No subscription needed! One single payment includes all future updates as we continue to improve functionality and tools.
Children's Book Ideas: Final Thoughts
Whether you're looking to write a picture book for young children or a chapter book for older children, the strategies and ideas in this article can help. Children's books can help teach children important lessons and develop literacy skills that will serve them the rest of their lives.But getting the book in front of new readers and their parents isn't always easy. It takes some know-how and planning to ensure that the book has the best chance of success when you publish it. And for best results, this planning should start at the beginning of the book-writing process, not after the book is done!