You probably already have some kind of idea of a children’s book, but even if you do, these prompts will help you refine it.
Read these prompts to get a sense of the possibilities of children’s picture book fiction! And who knows? You might find that you want to borrow one of these ideas and mix it with your idea to create something entirely new.
Remember, it’s better to refine your idea before you start, rather than writing your children’s book and then needing to throw it away and start over again. These children’s book prompts are fertilizer for your imagination, so mix and match them as necessary.
For the sake of organization, I’ve split them up into 25 different categories, each with four examples apiece. This should help you find the type of subject that you want to write about, but remember to survey some of the others as well — any subject can give you the spark of a new idea.
Once you get your idea, head over to my post on how to write a children’s book, and you’ll get all the guidance you need to make your book into an incredible story.
Make It Yours
- The prompts are a launchpad, not a blueprint. Feel free to tweak the characters, settings, or conflicts. If a prompt is about a lonely goldfish, and you think a hermit crab would make a more compelling story—go for it!
- Always remember, you’re not writing a novella. Picture books are visual mediums. So, think visually. How does each scene translate to an illustration? What visual elements can amplify your story?
Conflict & Resolution
- Most of these prompts concentrate on the initial problem (the conflict). Which means it’s up to you to provide a happy ending (the resolution). The resolution should offer something valuable—an emotional payoff, a lesson, or a funny twist.
And remember — these aren’t ideas for Middle Grade (MG) or chapter books. These are ideas specifically for children’s picture books, which are usually under 1000 words.
Other Founts of Inspiration
The 200 prompts below, as part of the children’s book idea generator, are spectacular places to find inspiration. But if they don’t work for you (or even if you do) here are 16 other great places to get ideas for new children’s books:
1. Listen to Kids’ Conversations
- Listen to kids’ conversations. No, I’m not asking you to spy, but kids say the darnedest things, and those little nuggets could turn into solid gold story ideas. I’ve had dozens of authors tell me their newest book idea came from them overhearing a kid’s conversation.
2. Mine Your Own Childhood
- What funny or amusing things happened to you as a kid? For instance, when I was a kid we had a crazy dog who could climb fences! That’s a great start for a wacky and lighthearted children’s book.
3. Life Changes
- Think about the milestones in a child’s life—starting school, getting a pet, welcoming a new sibling. These are relatable and ripe for exploration.
4. Your Own Kids/Grandkids
- It’s always good to be inspired by kids closest to you. What do they care about? What are their personalities? What do they want? What funny or silly things do they do?
5. Keep a Dream Journal
- Dreams are like nightly free movie tickets to the most bizarre stories. So, jot down those wild dreams because they might just be the oddball inspiration you’re looking for.
6. Wander through Art Galleries
- Stroll through an art gallery or flick through an illustration portfolio online. Sometimes a single painting or even just a color scheme can ignite a story idea.
7. Real-Life Happenings
- Local News: Scan through community stories, you’ll be surprised what could inspire a storyline.
- History: Think about significant events that could be simplified for kids.
- Family Stories: Personal anecdotes often make compelling narratives.
8. Fairy Tales with a Twist
- Take a classic and flip it on its head. What if Cinderella was a soccer star? Or Snow White a tech genius? The key is not to retell but to reimagine.
9. Mix and Match Genres
- Ever thought about a detective story set in space? Or a Western featuring dinosaurs? Genre mash-ups can create some epic adventures.
10. Social Issues
- Don’t underestimate children’s ability to grasp serious topics. Be it environmental issues, diversity, or mental health—children’s books can be a great platform for awareness.
11. Seasons and Holidays
- Each season and holiday comes with its unique vibe, colors, and themes. Think “Easter Bunny vs. Tooth Fairy: The Ultimate Showdown.”
12. People Watching
- Cafés, parks, public transport—watching everyday interactions can spark character ideas. Maybe that quirky barista could be the next big children’s book sensation!
13. Borrow from Other Cultures
- Myths, legends, and folklore from different cultures can be an absolute treasure trove. Just make sure to do it respectfully and authentically.
14. Social Media Challenges
- Trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge or even simple hashtags can spark ideas for a plot. Imagine a story where animals take on a ‘Kindness Challenge’.
15. Take a Course
- If you’re keen on an organized, step-by-step way to hone your ideas, consider a structured course like Two Weeks to Your Best Children’s Book. A focused environment can do wonders for inspiration.
16. Hire a Professional Editor
- When all else fails, or even if it doesn’t, getting professional feedback can give you a whole new perspective on your story. Get feedback on your book to see where it can go and how it can grow.
All right, let’s dive into 200 prompts that’ll kickstart anyone’s imagination for crafting a children’s picture book. Buckle up!
200 Children’s Book Prompts
- A squirrel who hoards something other than acorns—like toy cars.
- A penguin who is afraid of the water but dreams of surfing.
- A kangaroo with empty pockets who discovers treasure but can’t carry it.
- A dragon who sneezes bubbles instead of fire.
- A little girl who turns invisible when she laughs too hard.
- A boy who thinks his shadow is a separate being and tries to “lose” it.
- A child who can grow plants just by humming to them.
- A kid who has a special chalk that makes whatever they draw become real.
Conflict with Antagonists
- A mouse who must outwit a conniving snake to save the cheese festival.
- A young witch needs to solve riddles posed by a malicious forest spirit to save her village.
- A polar bear who must face an evil ice sorcerer to bring warmth back to the Arctic.
- A robot child trying to dismantle a villainous supercomputer threatening the city.
- What happens when a cloud becomes too heavy to float?
- What happens when a spider is afraid of heights?
- How does a tree feel about being a home to so many creatures?
- What occurs when a young mermaid finds a sunken pirate ship filled with treasure?
- A young knight goes on a quest for a sword that can only be found in the Cave of Whispers, but the catch is, he’s afraid of the dark.
- A magical cat who can grant wishes but only for those who make her laugh.
- A space explorer kid who finds a planet where everything is made of jelly.
- An adventurous grandma who rides a scooter and solves mysteries in her neighborhood.
Whimsical and Weird
- A sloth who races against a snail to win the title of “Slowest Creature in the Forest.”
- A land where kids’ lost teeth turn into mountains.
- A fish who wants to fly and an eagle who wants to swim—so they trade places for a day.
- An astronaut dog who chases a celestial cat around the moon.
- A detective giraffe who uses his long neck to solve crimes.
- A secret underground world accessible only through a magic slide in a playground.
- A treasure map hidden inside a book in a children’s library.
- A ghost who helps kids find lost items but can’t find his way to the afterlife.
Friendship and Values
- A lonely cactus and a wandering tumbleweed become the best of friends.
- A sunflower who teaches a young girl the importance of standing tall and facing the sun.
- A migrating bird who teaches a stationary tree the beauty of seeing the world.
- A rock who wants to be as useful as a tree, only to realize his importance during a storm.
- A pirate cat in search of the world’s biggest yarn ball.
- A young sailor who sails a paper boat in a giant puddle.
- A sea turtle who gives underwater tours but forgets the way back.
- A starfish who wants to become the next big constellation in the sky.
- A dinosaur who discovers a hidden underground cave filled with ancient murals.
- A young Pharaoh who loses his magical staff and must find it before the coronation.
- A colonial-era boy who discovers he can time-travel through portraits.
- A young girl in ancient Japan who wants to become a samurai against all odds.
- A lonely streetlamp who finds companionship with a firefly.
- A kite who’s tired of soaring and wants to stay grounded for a while.
- A pair of mismatched socks who set off to find their original partners.
- A clock who runs backwards and makes everyone late.
- A blade of grass striving to be as tall as a daisy.
- A young volcano who wants to erupt but is too shy.
- A rainbow that wants to shine at night.
- A winter snowflake desperate to survive the summer.
Emotions and Feelings
- A tear that doesn’t want to drop.
- A giggle that gets stuck in a jar and creates an uproar in the town.
- A scowl that makes everything it touches wilt.
- A yawn that escapes and puts the whole zoo to sleep.
- A key that opens a door to different historical periods.
- A treasure chest that only reveals its contents when sung to.
- A maze that reconfigures itself whenever someone solves it.
- A young explorer who discovers an island where all the legends are real.
Fantasy and Magic
- A gnome who loses his hat and, with it, his magical powers.
- A young wizard who mixes up a love potion and a sleeping potion.
- A unicorn who has lost its horn and sets out on a quest to find it.
- A witch who can only cast spells when she’s in a good mood.
Cultural Myths and Legends
- A tengu from Japanese folklore who wants to become human.
- A young Anansi who wants to outwit his elders.
- A Native American thunderbird who is afraid of heights.
- A child who discovers they are related to a famous mythical hero.
- A lunchbox that’s tired of holding sandwiches and wants to hold treasure.
- A school bus that dreams of being a race car.
- A pair of shoes that don’t want to be separated at the store.
- A pencil that wants to draw on its own.
Superheroes and Villains
- A superhero whose power is to make vegetables taste like candy.
- A villain who steals all the world’s socks.
- A sidekick who wants to prove they can be the hero for once.
- A superhero who is allergic to their own power.
Art and Creativity
- A canvas that doesn’t want to be painted on.
- A pot of gold paint that turns everything it touches into gold.
- A bead that wants to be part of a royal necklace, not a friendship bracelet.
- A music note that wants to be part of a rock song, not a lullaby.
- A young firefighter who fights fires in a magical world.
- A little doctor who can hear what germs are saying.
- An aspiring astronaut who first has to conquer their fear of heights.
- A kid detective who solves crimes by talking to pets.
- A snowman who wants to experience summer.
- A jack-o-lantern who is afraid of the dark.
- An autumn leaf that refuses to fall from its tree.
- A spring flower that blooms in winter and feels out of place.
- A Martian kid who finds a lost rover and decides to keep it as a pet.
- An asteroid that wants to be part of a planet.
- A star that’s afraid of burning out.
- A moonbeam that decides to take a vacation on Earth.
Space and Cosmos
- A young astronaut who meets the Man on the Moon, only to find he’s lonely.
- A black hole that doesn’t want to suck things in anymore.
- A spaceship that wants to go on a road trip instead of a space mission.
- A comet that wishes it could stay still and join a constellation.
Fairy Tale Twists
- A Cinderella who doesn’t want to go to the ball.
- A Little Red Riding Hood who is training to be a ninja.
- A Goldilocks who is an interior designer critiquing the bears’ home decor.
- A Hansel and Gretel who are expert survivalists.
- A griffin that’s afraid of heights.
- A siren who can’t sing.
- A centaur who wants to be a racehorse.
- A mermaid who’s curious about life on land but is afraid of humans.
- A toolkit that helps its owner build fantastical things, but breaks whenever a lie is told.
- A cookbook that comes to life to teach cooking but always messes up the recipes.
- A compass that only works when you say please and thank you.
- A magical abacus that solves math problems but creates real-world challenges to make learning fun.
- A smiley face sticker that teaches kids the power of positivity.
- A magic mirror that reflects one’s inner self.
- A teddy bear that comes to life to help a child navigate their first day of school.
- A calendar that helps a child learn the importance of time management by bringing holidays to life.
- A pet goldfish who teaches a lonely child the meaning of friendship.
- A stray dog who guides a lost boy back to his home.
- A falcon who helps a young princess escape a tower.
- A spider who weaves magical webs to help a farmer catch more than just flies.
- A loaf of bread that doesn’t want to be sliced.
- A slice of cake that escapes from a bakery to avoid being eaten.
- An apple that doesn’t want to be picked from its tree.
- A pot of honey that’s tired of being stolen by bears.
- A smartphone that wants to be a traditional, paper book.
- A videogame character who wants to live in the real world.
- An alarm clock that wants to make everyone late so they can enjoy their mornings.
- A TV remote that can change more than channels—it changes seasons!
Time and Timelines
- A day that gets stuck in a loop, but only one child notices.
- A young historian who can “read” objects and learn their past.
- A child who discovers a watch that can pause time but only for 10 seconds.
- An hourglass that can make people older or younger.
Elements and Nature
- A gust of wind that wants to become a hurricane.
- A puddle that aspires to be an ocean.
- A tiny pebble that dreams of becoming a mighty boulder.
- A single flame that wants to light up an entire forest.
- A young cloud who is afraid of thunder.
- A bolt of lightning that wants to strike somewhere meaningful.
- A raindrop that wants to water a dying flower in a desert.
- A snowflake that wants to survive until spring.
- A feather that inspires a young writer to pen her first story.
- A quilt stitched with magical threads that tell bedtime stories.
- A metronome that helps a young musician discover their own rhythm.
- A crayon that colors everything in shades of joy.
Teamwork and Leadership
- A group of animals that form a band but can’t agree on a genre.
- A group of flowers that must work together to attract a swarm of bees.
- A team of racing snails who learn the importance of teamwork.
- A young boy who needs to organize a team of mythical creatures for a quest.
- A magical kite that can carry its owner to different dimensions.
- A diary that writes back to its owner.
- A bottle that captures and stores laughter for gloomy days.
- A map that only reveals its details to those who are worthy.
- A sound wave that wants to be part of a famous symphony.
- A perfume bottle that contains the scent of impossible places.
- A taste bud that gives its owner the ability to taste emotions.
- A single pixel that wants to be part of a masterpiece.
Imagination and Make-Believe
- A child’s imaginary friend who wants to become real.
- A drawing that comes to life but can’t stay outside the sketchbook for too long.
- A pillow fort that becomes a portal to another realm.
- A toy soldier who protects the bedroom from nightmares.
Nursery Rhymes Reimagined
- Humpty Dumpty as an architect trying to build the perfect wall.
- The cow that jumped over the moon entering a space race.
- Old MacDonald as an environmentalist trying to make his farm sustainable.
- Three Blind Mice as adventurers on a quest to regain their sight.
- A young owl goes on a quest to find the legendary “Tree of Wisdom.”
- A brave knight who must rescue a dragon from a princess.
- A young girl who needs to find the Fountain of Eternal Chocolate to save her town.
- A magic carpet that can only fly if its riders solve riddles.
Color and Shape
- A red square who wants to become a blue circle.
- A black-and-white world where a child introduces color for the first time.
- A rainbow who is missing a color and must find it.
- A triangle that wants to have more sides and angles.
Revisiting Historical Events
- A young stowaway on Columbus’s ship who realizes they’re going the wrong way.
- A child who finds a time capsule from the Gold Rush era with a secret map.
- A young Leonardo da Vinci who doodles his future inventions.
- A child in ancient Egypt who befriends a young Sphinx.
Mystery and Intrigue
- A pet parrot who mimics voices to solve a mystery.
- A detective agency run by nursery rhyme characters.
- A library where the characters from books come to life at night.
- A dog who solves the mystery of the missing neighborhood cats.
Music and Rhythm
- A drum that wants to be a flute.
- A musical note that gets stuck in the wrong song.
- A metronome that slows down or speeds up time.
- A lullaby that puts the whole world to sleep.
- A child who finds out their sibling is a superhero.
- A family of musical instruments, with a piccolo who wants to be a drum.
- A single puzzle piece that sets out to find where it fits.
- Twins who discover they have the power to switch places.
Back to School
- A schoolbag that helps its owner find lost items.
- A textbook that educates its reader through real-life experiences.
- A lunchbox that provides life advice along with snacks.
- A pencil that grades its own writing.
Space Adventures Continued
- A young star who gets lost and needs to find its constellation.
- An asteroid that wants to grow up to be a planet.
- A comet that’s tired of circling the universe alone.
- A planet that feels lonely in its orbit and wants a moon.
Inclusion and Diversity
- A young girl who realizes her wheelchair can fly.
- A deaf musician who feels music through vibrations.
- A blind painter who sees the world in a unique way.
- A classroom where each student is from a different country and they learn from one another.
Emotional and Social Intelligence
- A young boy who learns to conquer his anger by meeting a calm turtle.
- A little girl who learns empathy by spending a day as a butterfly.
- A shy moon who learns to shine brightly from a brave shooting star.
- A young child who learns about courage from a seemingly timid mouse.
Holidays and Celebrations
- A Christmas ornament that wants to stay up year-round.
- A firework that’s afraid of heights and loud noises.
- A Valentine’s Day card that doesn’t want to be sent.
- An Easter egg that hides itself too well and gets lost.
After you’ve written your spectacular idea … What’s next?
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