If you could be anything or anyone today, what would it be?
Come on, close your eyes and think about it.
Would you be a beautiful fish swimming around the coral in the Great Barrier Reef?
A mighty eagle, soaring above the land, a tiny fairy (I did say ANYTHING), sprinkling pixie dust and granting wishes?
A famous actor, an astronaut, a brain surgeon, a leaf – what would you choose?
When you close your eyes and think about it, you are using one of our most wonderful tools – imagination.
This is the key reason dress-up play is so important, but there are lots of other benefits too – read on.
Children can’t help but try things – all kinds of things and trying on different clothes to become someone, or something else is just part of the world exploration.
They are unhampered by the realities that hold back our thoughts. It doesn’t matter that dragons, unicorns and fairies are not real. It doesn’t matter that the tiny three-year-old cannot read, but is practising imaginary brain surgery on a teddy bear.
The best part of all this is that the costume doesn’t need to be elaborate, or accurate because all the fun is in the imagination.
While kids love having specific costumes – four-year-old Goddess loves her Elsa dress – it’s the random bits they adapt to their game that really gets the imagination flowing.
Three-year-old Goddess particularly loves a sarong I bought in Thailand. It has become her favourite superhero cape. The pink sarong with gold elephants is the most unlikely of capes for a superhero – but this doesn’t deter her or take away from the brilliance of her ‘rescues’ and flying (she can do ANYTHING when she’s wearing that cape/sarong).
When my own kids were small I had themed parties for their birthdays and costumes were always encouraged. This made me a winner with the kids, though I think some of the parents were less than impressed they had to come up with costumes each time. Despite this, many went to extraordinary lengths to make amazing costumes.
One of my favourites was an animal-themed party where one kid was cleverly dressed as a penguin and another, as a crocodile using green painted egg cartons for the scales – so clever. It was clear the parents were enjoying the chance to stretch their own imaginations with these costumes.
BENEFITS OF DRESS-UP PLAY
Other than encouraging imagination, there are several benefits to dress-up play which include;
- Confidence – what could make you feel better than being a superhero? For shy kids, donning a costume can mean the freedom to be loud, because they are someone else.
- Role-Playing – practising being other people, professions, even animals, helps you to understand a bit about them. This can manifest later in increased compassion and empathy.
- Socialising – when more than one is playing dress-ups, important socialising skills are practised, such as sharing, communication, cooperating and even planning: “You be the witch this time and I’ll be the superhero”.
- Curiosity and Vocabulary – Thinking outside their small worlds increases their curiosity and also their vocabulary.
SETTING UP AN IMAGINATION STATION
Having some dress-up options for kids does not have to involve spending a lot of money on the latest popular character clothes – while this is fun, it doesn’t go quite as far for imagination as allowing the kids to come up with their own versions of costumes –such as the pink and gold sarong.
Next time you’re considering throwing away an old hat, glasses, handbags or clothes, consider if they could be useful for imaginary play.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on some wigs which are a favourite with the Goddesses.
Old costume jewellery is also always a winner but also consider material scraps and even old socks which can become, in their imaginative tale, glamorous gloves and hilarious hats. Even the humble ice cream container can become the latest trend in headwear if that is all that is on hand.
We have an old piece of underlay from a floating floor installed years ago. It is gold in colour, and in brilliance as it has become our magic carpet.
We stand on that bit of underlay, hold hands, close our eyes, and decide where we are going to go. Then we walk around in a circle on the mat, eyes still closed, and imagine our new surroundings. When we open our eyes, we are ‘there’ – swimming in the ocean with the fish, flying among the clouds – wherever we want to be. We don’t even need costumes for this one – although they are always a fun addition.
With all the imagination flowing so beautifully, why not pair it with some creativity as well?
Have some fun with mask making with the simple instructions here.
If I could be anything today, I would be a dragon – a nice one like Puff.
What would you be?
Wishing you a gleeful week, Tamuria.