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Learning Through Play – Dress Ups

Learning Through Play – Dress Ups

Dress ups inspire role play and dramatic play, helping to build empathy, creativity and imagination – all skills that help with the emotional development and mental reasoning skills in children. And it doesn’t have to be something as fancy as a superhero costume to get your child excited about dress ups.  Most children love to don a costumes or adult items and supplying a few key items is all they need.

Gender Roles Don’t Apply

Don’t worry about the gender of costumes you child chooses for dress ups. Parents shouldn’t assume a boy who like to girl’s shoes and a dress as a four-year-old will be transgender. Wearing items of clothes from the other sex is perfectly normal and a step in the process of gender self-discovery as well empathy and appropriate emotional responses. In fact, studies have shown that children who engage in dress ups are more likely to have empathy as adults. If you child is not responding to your choice of items for dress ups, or to remove the gender stereotypes from your child’s play, offer both kinds of clothing or costume:  items that are traditionally worn by men like police uniforms, hard hats and more feminine items like tiaras and tutus.

Dress Up for Role Playing

The importance of role playing is one of the key experiences of childhood that helps develop a number of critical skills. Role playing in costume introduces a child to some the bigger issues of adulthood like right and wrong, equitable outcomes, power and control, and the need for acceptance. Asking your child about how he or she feels in the role they have assumed by dressing up can help them discern different feelings and highlight negative and positive responses, fairness and realise empathy.

Dress Up Communication

When a child assumes the appearance of a fireman they also have to consider how they would be in the world as a fireman. This kind of role playing spurs communication skills. You’ll find when your child assumes a new role for the first time they will begin to use language and make actions that you’ve never seen them say or do before. Dress ups encourages new forms of relating to others that will influence and improve their communication skills.

Start with a Single Item

It’s surprising how excited a child can get about a particular item like shoes, a hat, a wig, a wand or a tutu. Shoes have particular interest for pre-schoolers and are considered a symbolic way for a child to empathise with others – ie walking in their shoes. You may find when a whole costume is offered a single item is all that the child wishes to play with. Don’t despair if that’s the case. An obsession with one part or aspect of a role play is normal.

Bad Taste Dress Up

Some mothers fear their four year old, who loves to wear a tiara, tutu, beads, slippers and a wigall at once (and everywhere in public), will end up with the same gaudy choice of clothes as they grow up. A child’s preferences when they are young will change dramatically as they grow older as different experiences and people influence their style. Allow your child as much freedom as possible in dress up time and don’t judge the resulting appearance. Everyone looks fabulous in dress up.

The years when a child wants to dress up are important for the child to begin to learn a range of important life skills – and for the parents to get plenty of great photo opportunities. Allow you little one all the freedom they want to be whoever they choose. Dress ups is a magical experience of learning through play.