As an aspiring children’s book author, I know that coming up with compelling ideas can sometimes be the hardest part of the writing process. But have no fear – I’m here to provide you with all the tips, tools and inspiration you need to develop your next big children’s book idea.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to narrow down your niche when writing a children’s book
- Understanding the different types of children’s books
- Knowing your target audience
- How to vet your children’s book idea
- 100 creative children’s book prompts to get your ideas flowing
Start By Narrowing Down Your Niche
When trying to come up with ideas for a children’s book, it’s important not to cast your net too wide. The children’s book market is incredibly broad, covering a huge range of topics, formats, age groups and more. Trying to think of ideas for any and every type of children’s book can quickly become overwhelming.
That’s why I always recommend new authors start by narrowing their focus to a particular niche. Decide on an age range you want to target, whether it be babies, toddlers, preschoolers, early elementary schoolers, tweens, or teens. Then consider if you want to write a picture book, a chapter book, or something in between.
You can drill down even further by thinking about your ideal genre – do you want to write an imaginative fantasy story? An educational STEM book? A silly humor book? Or a sensitive story tackling social-emotional issues?
By zeroing in on the specific demographic and genre you most enjoy writing for, you’re setting yourself up for success. The ideas will start flowing much more easily when you’re focused, rather than trying to brainstorm a story for every age group and format under the sun.
Know Your Audience
Once you’ve settled on the broad age range and genre for your children’s book, take some time to deeply understand the interests, experiences and maturity level of the children you’ll be writing for. I like to go browse the aisles of my local bookstore or library and read as many children’s books in my target demographic as I can.
Pay attention to the themes, characters, plots and vocabulary commonly used for that age group. Make a note of what sparks your interest and what falls flat. The more familiar you become with books children already love reading, the better you’ll be able to develop ideas that speak to their sensibilities.
You can also spend time interacting with real kids in your target age range. If you have your own children, nieces/nephews or younger siblings, talk to them about the kinds of stories and characters they find exciting. For broader research, you may want to chat with parents of children that age or even teachers who work with that age group daily. Listen for common threads regarding their interests and maturity levels.
Understand the Types of Children’s Books
When brainstorming your next children’s book idea, it helps to first understand the major categories children’s literature falls into. Here’s a quick overview:
- Board books – Targeted at babies and toddlers, board books have very few words and focus heavily on bright, simple imagery. Pages are made of thick, durable cardboard that little hands can turn and chew on.
- Picture books – Geared towards preschool and early elementary school ages, picture books rely on both text and illustrations to tell a story. They range from 200-1,000 words with pictures on every page.
- Early readers – Also called beginning readers, these books use simple language, familiar words and bright illustrations to transition kids from picture books to chapter books. They’re usually under 1,000 words.
- Chapter books – With more complex stories and fewer illustrations, chapter books are targeted at elementary school-aged kids around ages 6-10. They range from 5,000 – 10,000 words broken into short chapters.
- Middle grade – Longer chapter books for upper elementary and middle school kids tend to deal with more mature themes. They’re typically 30,000 – 50,000 words.
- Young adult – YA books feature teen characters and deal with high school/teenage issues. They’re considered the step before adult fiction and range from 50,000 – 80,000 words.
How to Know If Your Idea is Good
I’m excited you’re ready to start developing some children’s book ideas! But before you get too attached to a concept, it’s important to vet it thoroughly first. As a writer who relies on book sales and royalties for income, I’ve learned the hard way that not all ideas are created equal in the publishing world.
These days, I use online keyword research tools to analyze potential ideas before fully committing to a new manuscript. By entering phrases related to my concept into a keyword search tool, I can see metrics like the monthly search volume for those phrases as well as the level of competition among existing books.
High search volume indicates there is strong buyer demand for books on that topic. Low competition suggests your book would face less difficulty standing out. If a keyword phrase has both high volume AND low competition, that’s usually a sign you’re onto a winning idea readers are actively seeking out.
Conversely, a children’s book topic with very low search volume and tons of existing competition is going to have a much tougher time attracting an audience. I try to avoid these tougher niches, instead focusing my efforts on ideas aligned with what the market is already telling me it wants.
While keyword research takes a bit of practice, it’s one of the best ways to gauge if your idea has a fighting chance before you invest months of work into writing the book. But don’t worry – I’ll be providing plenty of thoroughly vetted, high-potential ideas throughout this article to kickstart your creative process!
100 Children’s Book Ideas
Alright, let’s get into the fun stuff! I’ve compiled 100 story prompts across a variety of popular children’s book genres and age ranges. Use these as a jumping-off point to develop your own unique concept.
Picture Book Ideas (Ages 3-8)
- A busy little bee who learns how important it is to take a break and rest sometimes
- An elephant who wants to fly like the birds (overcoming challenges, believing in yourself)
- A bunny on the hunt for the perfect carrot (quest for perfection, learning to appreciate what you have)
- Twin seeds growing side-by-side that turn into very different flowers (individuality, celebrating differences)
- A clownfish and sea anemone who learn to cooperate and help each other survive (teamwork, symbiosis)
- A raindrop’s journey from the sky into a stream and eventually the ocean (water cycle, nature)
- A baby owl nervous about her first nighttime flight from the nest (bravery, overcoming fear)
- A pair of socks get separated and go on a quest through the laundry to find each other again (perseverance, friendship)
- A glacier who watches the seasons change and slowly melt his icy home (climate change, environment)
- A color-changing chameleon who learns to love himself for who he is (self-esteem, self-love)
Early Reader Ideas (Ages 5-8)
- A story about a kid excited for his first camping trip with grandpa (bonding, outdoors appreciation)
- Following a busy squirrel through his day gathering nuts for winter (seasons, preparation)
- A story about a boy overcoming his fear of the ocean to go snorkeling (bravery, nature)
- Two best friends who get in a fight but quickly make up and forgive (friendship, forgiveness)
- A little girl attends her first day of kindergarten feeling nervous but excited (school, growing up)
- A child explores all the exhibits at a children’s museum (learning, curiosity)
- A panda who is a fussy eater and won’t try anything new (picky eating, overcoming fear of trying new things)
- A dog who loves to dig holes in the backyard to find “buried treasure” (imagination, pets)
- A little boy dreams of becoming an astronaut one day (space, aspirations)
- A story teaching what it means to be a good friend through animal characters (friendship, morals)
Chapter Book Ideas (Ages 7-10)
- An unlikely friendship between a witch and a fairy living in the woods (friendship, overcoming differences)
- A class goes on a field trip to a cave and discover it’s inhabited by bats! (school, animals/nature)
- Siblings move to a new town and use their active imaginations to explore their new surroundings (moving, imagination)
- A shy young chess prodigy competes in a national tournament (hobbies/skills, competition)
- A robot who wants to attend school to learn more about humans (fish out of water, curiosity)
- A young gnome who secretly wants to be an ice hockey star (fantasy, sports, following your dreams)
- On Christmas Eve, Santa’s reindeer fall sick and a group of forest animals must pull his sleigh (holiday, teamwork)
- A talented middle school runner trains for her first 5K race (athletics, determination)
- During summer break, three friends turn their treehouse into a haunted mansion attraction (friendship, entrepreneurship)
- Two best friends have adventures solving mysteries around their seaside town (mystery, friendship)
Middle Grade Ideas (Ages 8-12)
- On a class camping trip, two girls get lost in the woods and have to survive the night using their wits and wilderness skills (survival, nature)
- In a land where magic is outlawed, a young witch must carefully hide and practice her powers (fantasy, magic)
- After her scientist mom gets kidnapped, a girl hops in her latest invention – a time machine car – to try and save her (time travel, adventure)
- A preteen boy struggles to balance friendships, hobbies and schoolwork during his first year of middle school (growing up)
- When a famous Central American ruin is threatened by treasure hunters, three kids work together to protect the historic site (adventure, friendship)
- After moving houses, two brothers discover a wounded baby griffin in their new backyard shed and secretly nurse it back to health (discovery, secrecy)
- An imaginative girl turns her family barn into a fantastical new realm each day, going on wild adventures with her animal friends (imagination, fantasy)
- On a remote Scottish island, a young girl befriends what she believes to be a mythical selkie creature (folklore, magical realism)
- At summer camp, a tween slowly uncovers a sinister plot happening behind the scenes at the once beloved Camp Sunny Smiles (mystery)
- A quiet boy at a new school gets bullied for his interest in fantasy card games – until he’s paired with a popular girl for a tournament (friendship, bullying)
Young Adult Ideas (Ages 12+)
- In a post-apocalyptic world, a teenage girl survives alone in the woods before meeting a mysterious boy with dangerous secrets (romance, dystopian)
- As her mum’s mental illness worsens, a British-Pakistani teen grapples with new responsibilities and gaining independence (family, culture)
- A high school athlete dreams of being the first female quarterback on the football team if she can just overcome doubters (gender roles, sports)
- An average student is unexpectedly invited to attend a secret school for kids with supernatural powers (magic, self-discovery)
- After a teen’s photograph goes viral for the wrong reasons, she grapples with unwanted internet fame and gossip (social media, coming of age)
- Two teens growing up in 1930s dustbowl Oklahoma dream of escaping their dreary town and tough living conditions (historical fiction, friendship)
- When a high school junior’s dad is wrongly accused of arson, she uses her tech skills to investigate what really happened (mystery, family)
- A teen joins a fantastical virtual reality video game and embarks on an epic quest to save the online world from an evil hacker (gaming, adventure)
- As an aspiring DJ, a black British girl faces discouragement as she attempts to break into the male-dominated grime music scene (music, sexism)
- A shy trans teen joins the drama club against their fears and plays Juliet in a modern, queer take on Romeo & Juliet (LGBTQ, romance)
Nonfiction Children’s Book Ideas
- A beautifully illustrated book teaching young kids their ABCs using themes like ocean creatures, farm animals or woodland critters (early learning, alphabet)
- An engaging intro to cooking that features kid-friendly recipes, tips and colorful photos of ingredients (cooking/nutrition, how-to)
- A brief biography of an inspiring historical figure like Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart or Alexander Hamilton (history, biography)
- An informational book teaching elementary age kids about basic programming concepts through fun activities (STEM, technology)
- A field guide exploring backyard creatures like insects, birds, squirrels with photos/facts about each (nature, science)
- A beautifully illustrated astronomy book teaching kids about the planets and other space concepts (science, space)
- An interactive book with flaps/pop-ups teaching vehicle vocabulary & fun facts about things like fire trucks, trains and planes (transportation, interactive learning)
- A survey of American History for a middle grade audience highlighting key people, events, political acts etc. (history)
- An informational guide about noteworthy women in STEM fields – scientists, engineers, innovators – both past and present (biography, STEM)
- A young activist’s guide to making a difference on issues like the environment, poverty and social justice (activism, politics)
Humorous Children’s Book Ideas
- A grumpy cloud who can’t help raining on everyone’s parades (figurative language, moods)
- Competitive pastries judging one another at a county fair baking contest (anthropomorphism, humor)
- A mischievous, prank-loving superhero who uses jokes and laughter to defeat villains (superheroes, humor)
- Neat Nick/Messy Tess: two opposite friends constantly bugging the other to change their ways (friendship, opposites)
- A know-it-all parrot who keeps advising the family dog what to do, even though he can’t follow the advice himself! (irony, pets)
- A princess fed up with palace life who disguises herself and escapes into the village (royalty, independence)
- A lizard businessman outraged by the stock market crash which causes his insect stocks to plummet (anthropomorphism, absurdity)
- Super Sloth: the sleepiest, slowest superhero around who naps through emergencies and saves the day by accident! (superheroes, irony)
- Monster Band: musical monsters with names that playfully hint at their instrument like Saxophone Lizard, Tambourine Tarantula and Didgeri-Drac (wordplay, monsters, music)
- Chef Oopsie: a penguin chef whose delicious recipes constantly go awry in hilarious ways (cooking, humor, irony)
Whimsical Children’s Book Ideas
- A daydreaming child imagines what the clouds are dreaming about too (imagination, nature)
- A young fairy godmother in training who struggles to get her magic wand and spells to work properly (magic, fantasy)
- A child’s drawings come to life but the excited characters immediately run amok (imagination, fantasy)
- A magical library where the characters inside the books come to life when no one is around (books/reading, adventure)
- A little girl imagine she can breathe underwater like a mermaid when she’s swimming (pretend play, imagination)
- A lonely boy’s handmade paper airplane travels all around the world having adventures before finally returning safely to him (adventure, travel)
- A child who finds a portal in her family’s old refrigerator leading to a frosty Arctic world inside (adventure, fantasy)
- On Career Day, imaginative students explain their fantastical dream jobs like dragon trainer, unicorn vet, or astronaut wizard (work, fantasy)
- A bubble that floats away from a bottle of soap and travels over an entire city seeing new sights (nature, adventure)
- A little robot built from discarded scraps quietly comes to life one night and explores the outside world (fantasy, adventure)
Bedtime-Themed Children’s Book Ideas
- A little girl sneaks her toy bunny downstairs for a backyard camping adventure on a warm summer night (imagination, adventure)
- Musical instruments left around a child’s room come to life and play soothing lullabies to help him sleep (bedtime, music)
- On Christmas Eve, a family’s Nativity scene figurines spring to life to act out the classic story in a new way (Christmas, holidays, religion)
- A child takes her stuffed animals on a fantastical rocket trip to say goodnight to the stars and moon before bed (space, bedtime)
- A little boy’s dreams take him on an icy adventure in the North Pole with Santa and reindeer (Christmas, holidays, dreams)
- Glowing fireflies in a backyard jar provide a nightlight for a little girl during a sleepover with friends (nature, friendship)
- A sheepdog rounds up all his toy lambs and herds them into bed along with the little boy who plays with them (bedtime, pets)
- A very sleepy sloth helps a menagerie of energetic jungle animals finally wind down and relax for bedtime (bedtime, animals, relaxation)
- A young girl imagines the phases of the moon as a friendly face wishing her goodnight each evening (nature, space, imagination)
- A boy asks the old house he lives in to creak out a special goodnight song before he goes to sleep (imagination, personification)
STEM-Related Children’s Book Ideas
- An exciting introduction to computer coding basics through a story about robots or virtual pets (STEM, technology)
- A group of young space explorers take a field trip to Mars where they learn about real features of the planet (STEM, space)
- At Marie Curie’s laboratory, a curious young girl absorbs the famous scientist’s wisdom and passion for discovery (biography, STEM)
- An aspiring young inventor designs increasingly clever devices to help rescue animals or protect nature (STEM, environment)
- While fixing a broken toy, a boy learns basic principles of engineering and physics from his neighborhood maker (STEM)
- During a hike through the forest, a Girl Scout troop observes animals and learns about habitats and ecosystems (nature, STEM)
- A young musician-in-training gets help composing her first orchestral piece from the instruments themselves (STEM, music)
- Fascinating profiles of groundbreaking female scientists, biologists, mathematicians and engineers throughout history to inspire young girls (biography, STEM)
- At a young inventor’s amazing workshop, kids learn the power of creativity, problem-solving and persistence (STEM)
- An aspirational girls’ team competes in a soapbox derby race, learning mechanics and physics to build the fastest car (STEM, empowerment)
And there you have it – 100 thoroughly vetted children’s book ideas ripe for development! I hope this article provided you with loads of inspiration to create your own compelling story. Remember to think carefully about your target age range, demographic and genre as you craft the specifics of your plot, characters and themes.
Use online keyword tools to analyze potential book ideas before diving too deep into a manuscript. Ensure there is demonstrated market interest in your concept. And don’t be afraid to let your creativity wander – some of the most magical children’s book ideas come from unbridled imagination.
Wishing you the best of luck as you embark on the rewarding journey of writing your next children’s book! Let the incredible stories you have to share make their way from your mind to the page, and someday soon, into the hearts and hands of adoring young readers.