Why a dress-up box is so important
Facilitating Pretend Play in Young Children
It starts around the age of one. I see it with my own daughter as she puts “baby” in the cradle, covers baby with “blankie”, looks up, and, placing a finger to her lips, tells the room “shh”. She then repeats with “baby”, “blankie”, and “shh” as the running script. After several rounds of bedtime for baby, the doll goes in a stroller for a “walk” around the room, then repeat.
Facilitating this play in your child can sometimes be tricky for the parent who wants to direct the play. We want to talk the whole time, praising our children and commenting on every new move we see. It’s often best to sit on the floor nearby, smile, label slowly, and let your child repeat the sequence until they are ready to move on. Try this experiment: sit cross-legged near your child, keeping your hands folded in your lap. When your child looks up at you, give a word or two with animation. Be consistent in your message, and allow for silence. See what develops.
As your child grows with imaginative play, they often take on the character role themselves. A super-hero cape (or a sheet!) transforms a child into a new role. If you want to join in the play, don your own cape, but try and let your child take the lead. Question-asking: “What’s this big mountain over here?” and problem-posing: “On no! I hurt my shoulder! What should I do?” can allow your child the opportunity to problem- solve and create their own storyline.
My go-to dress-up clothes include the following:
(I opt for things that can be interpreted and manipulated many ways, rather than entire pre-fab costumes)
~Several scarves (for sashes, head wraps, arm wraps, etc.)
~Gloves, hats, and glasses
~Capes (I have a super-crafty mother-in-law who fashioned a sleek cape with a Velcro closure. Just be careful of capes that tie around the neck.)
~Nametag holder and lanyard (like what a parent might wear at a conference)
~Wands, swords (they do make handy weapons, so be careful)
~Masks for older kids (age 5 and up)
Opt for items your child can mostly put on themselves, to save you time and interruptions. Once the box is overflowing, purge a few items. Until then, keep it open and available for free play… and watch what transpires!