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. I'll go over some ways you can generate children's book ideas yourself, but I'll also give you plenty of prompts that can get the creative juices flowing!
- Tips for writing a children's book
- 101 prompts to get you writing
- How to test your children's book idea
Table of contents
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 I get into the meat of the story ideas in this article, I 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. Start by thinking about what type of books children ask their parents to buy for them. Often, these books will include a specific type of character or setting that currently interests the child. Their parents will then type a related phrase into Amazon and look through the results to decide which books are a great fit. For your book to be successful, make sure a significant amount of parents are actively looking for your topic.
Interestingly, certain character types and settings for children's books are searched far more often than others. Before writing your book, try to identify what parents are searching for on the Amazon store. Otherwise, you might have much more difficulty in having your book discovered.
For example, many young children are obsessed with vehicles- and their parents know that subject will grab their attention. Check out this table below, showing just how dramatically the number of searches on Amazon differs for each phrase:
Data provided by Publisher Rocket
Some of those keywords are getting enormous amounts of traffic! For others, ouch… while it certainly is possible to write a successful book about some of the less popular phrases, you are immediately at a disadvantage.
Remember, choosing the right type of characters and setting for your book can have a huge impact on the amount of sales you make. To ensure that parents are actively searching for your story, make sure to do your research first! For more information on how to start keyword research, be sure to check out this full article.
Different Age Ranges for Children's Books
Children's Book cover a wide range of books and age-ranges. So the more specific you can get, the better. 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 I'll cover in this post can be tailored to fit any of the age ranges above. But I'll mostly focus on picture books, since they're among the most popular.
That said, it's crucial 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. It's important to see what they might be looking for, so your book can fill that specific niche. For example, as shown in the table below, topics for one age group may be far less popular with another.
Data provided by Publisher Rocket
So… if you are planning to write a book about a certain subject, be sure to research what age ranges are most likely to search for it.
Trends In Children's Books
Whether it be driven by the time of year or a new popular TV show, children's books are highly impacted by trends. As you think about the theme of your children's book, be aware of when sales might be hot for your particular subject matter. That way, you know when to best launch your book.
With a little bit of research, we can see exactly how trends impact children's book categories. And with hundreds of children's books categories in the store, there's a trend peaking no matter the month of the year.
For example, children's books in the Christmas category tend to be more popular in the late fall, with their sales accelerating all the way from September through the end of November. During this time, children are anticipating the coming holiday, and parents might also be purchasing these books as gifts.
Data provided by Publisher Rocket
Another example is children's books about math, which are most popular in the month of June. This may seem strange, considering that children are not in school during this time. However, June is just when summer break starts, and parents are out hunting for educational books to help their children keep up with their studies.
Data provided by Publisher Rocket
Seasonal trends are also driven by interest. In this example below, you can see how children's interest in bugs reaches a high in early spring, right when they are seeing them start to appear outside.
Data provided by Publisher Rocket
When it comes to trends, understanding them best comes from watching your future book's categories. That way, you can get an intuitive feel for the market, as well as what might be the next hot topic. With categories, it's also important to know which ones will give your children's book the most exposure, which you can learn how to do here.
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 I'm 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, I'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.
- Write about a robot that learns about human emotions.
- Write about a child experiencing snow for the first time.
- Write about a magical umbrella that transports the holder to a different place or time.
- Write about a character who overcomes fear of the dark.
- Write about a bee that's allergic to pollen.
- Explore the importance of patience through a snail racing story.
- Write about a character learning the importance of self-love and self-esteem.
- Write about a bird that can't fly but discovers its unique talent.
- Write about a child and their friendship with the moon.
- Write about a mystical garden that grows based on the moods of its caretaker.
- Write a story about a mouse who wants to be a lion.
- Write about a kid who finds a special rock that grants wishes.
- Write about a magical forest that changes with the seasons.
- Write about the journey of a lost toy trying to find its way back home.
- Write about a character who loves baking and sharing with their friends.
- Write a story about the beauty of diversity using different-colored butterflies.
- Write about an alien visiting Earth and learning about human customs.
- Write about a character learning the value of giving and generosity.
- Write about a musical instrument that has its own personality.
- Write about an imaginative child who turns their small bedroom into grand adventures.
- Write about a child who learns the importance of hard work by starting a lemonade stand.
- Write about a character who learns to stand up to bullies.
- Write a story about a chameleon who can't change its colors but finds a way to fit in.
- Write about a young wizard learning magic for the first time.
- Write about an ant learning the value of teamwork.
- Write about a character learning to conquer fear of swimming.
- Write about a child who plants a magic seed and experiences unexpected results.
- Write about a dragon who is afraid of fire.
- Write about a day in the life of a cloud.
- Write about a character learning the importance of perseverance by trying to ride a bike.
- Write about a child who discovers they can speak with animals.
- Write about a little ghost overcoming its fear of people.
- Write about a character learning the importance of respecting nature.
- Write about a character who learns to appreciate quiet and solitude.
- Write a story about a lost puppy finding its way home.
- Write about a family of elves preparing for Christmas.
- Write about a treasure map that leads to the most important thing: friendship.
- Write about a child who has to relocate and learns to adapt to a new environment.
- Write about a kid who learns to garden and grows a magical plant.
- Write about an underwater city full of aquatic creatures.
- Write about a character who finds a key that opens any door.
- Write a story about an alien child starting school on Earth.
- Write about a dog who helps his owner cope with moving to a new city.
- Write about a rainy day adventure from a raindrop's perspective.
- Write about a bear who hibernates for the first time.
- Write about a pair of glasses that allows the wearer to see magical creatures.
- Write about a character overcoming their fear of storms.
- Write about a lonely star finding its constellation.
- Write a story about a family of squirrels preparing for winter.
- Write about a kid who learns to appreciate art by visiting a museum.
- Write about a wizard's apprentice who mixes up a potion with surprising results.
The 101 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!