If you’re a parent or teacher, you’ve probably already witnessed the transformative effect that a pirate’s eye-patch, cape, or crown can have on a child. In an instant, they go from being your child to a swashbuckling hero - all thanks to dressing up!
Children throughout the ages have enjoyed dressing up in costumes and engaging in dramatic roleplaying. The creative process of trying on different hats - literally and figuratively - helps children develop storytelling and benefit them cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally.
And perhaps most importantly, dressing up is always fun for children (and parents) to watch.
Here are 10 developmental benefits of dress up play for kids.
It’s hard not to smile when you witness your child mimic your behavior or words. These are their first forays into “acting”. Dress-up engages a child’s brain and memory and dramatic play requires kids to remember what they’ve seen or heard.
When a child steps into a role, they imagine what the character they are playing would say. This helps them stretch their mind and gives them a chance to expand their vocabularies with words and phrases that they might have heard in stories, but wouldn’t ordinarily use. Role playing helps them to be more creative and try using words in brand new ways.
When children engage in dress-up play, they have to make tough decisions. Who gets to be the pirate? Who is a forest fairy? These conversations help them practice problem-solving problems when deciding on what costumes elements and props each character needs to act out a scenario.
Playing with dolls helps create and increase empathy. It helps a child practice nurturing skills – whether pretending to be a parent coddling a baby, a doctor taking care of an injured patient, or a firefighter putting out a fire. Dramatic play helps children understand the role that helpers play in in our lives.
Children process their fears through play, which helps them make sense of the world, and overcome their feelings of helplessness. Allowing your children to act out these scenarios helps them learn real-life coping skills and learn through play how to deal with tough situations.
When children engage in role-play, they have to act the part. This often means jumping like a monkey, leaping like a ballerina or dashing off to rescue someone like a firefighter. They also develop fine motor skills by putting on dress-up clothes, whether buttoning a shirt, zipping up pants, or tying on a pirate’s bandana.
When children choose costumes and characters to be, they are able to explore different gender identities and the behaviors of those characters. It is important, normal and healthy for children to try on different gender roles as they learn about the world. A child should never be ridiculed for pretending to be a different gender. Instead, encourage children to explore dress-up clothes on their own without any direction from parents.
Children learn about the world by imitating the lives of the adults and others around them. Through dress-up and dramatic role-play, children explore the lives of other people by imitating their actions, feelings and words. It is both endearing and often fun for you as the parents to watch.
Dress-up play encourages cooperation and taking turns. Children learn how to negotiate as they agree on stories and rules. Plus they have to often share the most sought-after role-play pieces and work on learning how to give-and-take.
When children engage in dress-up play, their imaginations are given free reign. There is no limit to who, where, or what they can be. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, believed that imaginative play in early childhood is the key to creative thinking during the adult years.
A child’s imagination is absolutely limitless so allow them to flex those creative muscles using dress-up.
Here’s a list of recommended items to include in your child’s dress-up basket:
Play Silks can become capes, veils, a pirate’s head band, a belt, or a baby blanket.
An elastic waist Fairy Skirt can become a fancy dress or a veil when worn on the head.
Our knight’s Sword Holder Belt can hold a wooden toy sword or a tool like a hammer.
Sunglasses, long gloves, strands of beads, and headbands add glamour.
Hats of all kinds– a cowboy hat, a fedora, a Robin Hood hat, a tall cone-shaped princess hat.
A chef’s hat and child-sized apron.
A doctor’s scrubs, and face mask.
And don’t forget to add your child’s Halloween costumes to the basket when the holiday has passed!
What items are in your child’s dress-up collection? Please add your suggestions in the comments below!