“Costume Day:” a Golden Family Tradition
Stella has always loved to dress up. A couple years ago, I started a family tradition called “Costume Day.” In the early weeks of September, consignment stores (like Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child) gear up for Halloween, putting their gently used kids’ costumes out on sale. My daughter and I love to go as soon as the store opens and score all our favorite costumes to enjoy for the entire year–all excellent quality and at a fantastic discount.
Costumes, not just for Halloween: 4 Benefits of Dress Up Play
Dress up clothing is a staple in Stella’s closet, and not just for play. With my goal of saying “YES!” as often as I can in my parenting, we have enjoyed many perfectly ordinary days in astronaut costumes and princess dresses. There’s lots of benefits of dress up and dramatic play for kids, but here’s four big ones:
1. Playing dress up stretches the imagination
First and foremost, dress up and dramatic play ignites children’s imaginations in a unique way. There is no limit who, where, or what kids can be when they engage in dramatic play, and dressing up is a wonderful way to ignite that spark. (In fact, even from an adult perspective, clothing has the power to transform us. Check out the Invisibilia podcast, The Secret Emotional Life Of Clothes.) Some researchers believe that pretend play in childhood is a predictor of creative thinking in adulthood, particularly divergent thinking. Even Einstein believed that imagination was more important than knowledge. Imaginative play is one of the ways children learn about the world, and it fosters cognitive and social development.
At the start of their dress up play, you may notice they reenact what’s they’ve seen on tv, movies, at home or school. But soon they’ll be making up their own playful, imaginative storylines.
2. Kids develop social skills and empathy
When dressing up, kids are putting themselves in others’ shoes. They start to judge how another person might be feeling in both hypothetical and real world situations. They may work through their own feelings or the feelings of others. When taking part in dramatic play with their peers, they learn to take turns, cooperate, compromise, negotiate, and play by the rules. They learn about skills for different jobs, too, when pretending to be various career professionals.
3. Dress up play helps build strong communicators
When kids dress up and play pretend, they build on existing vocabulary. By playing with others, they learn to communicate effectively as they cultivate the social skills mentioned above. And dramatic play isn’t just about LEARNING new words–dress up makes those words come to life in new and exciting ways! Storytelling, inflection, and experimenting with accents and voice sounds are all important components of learning to communicate.
During dress up play, you may notice your child asking more questions. Always answer them to the best of your ability. Remember that saying “I don’t know” doesn’t help kids learn (no matter how many times they ask “why?”)
4. Children practice life skills and engage cognitively
Through role play, children can learn life skills they may use to navigate real life situations down the line. For younger children, even the simple act of dressing themselves can be developed during dress up play. Kids may try on jobs or imitate household chores and relationships. Some play, like tea parties, may encourage polite manners and social/table etiquette. Children solve scenario-based problems–either alone or with friends, when they dress up. They practice things they’ve learned as well, like colors, writing, and counting.
Fill Your Dress Up Box: The Best Basics
I’ve made a costume checklist to take shopping with you. These are great ideas that are often available at consignment and thrift stores. Take this list with you as you go on your own Costume Day adventure, or pin it to save for later!
What are your kids’ favorite costumes and characters to play when dressing up? Have you ever shopped consignment stores for awesome costumes in the fall? What from this list might you look for this year?