Ever find your child running around using a bath towel as a cape? Or maybe with a kitchen pot on their head acting like a robot? It is a part of every childhood to dress up and pretend to be something different. Maybe something stronger, faster, or kinder. With Halloween just around the corner this is the season for dressing up, but once all the trick-or-treating has come to an end don’t store or throw away those costumes, use them all year long for pretend play!
Why is it Smart to Pretend?: Dressing up and pretending to be something else builds many skills. As your child pretends to be a racecar driver they are not actually learning how to drive a car but to “put on” a seatbelt by themselves that you have to turn the key and steer with the wheel. These are all motions that they see you do all the time. While your child is being a prince/princess having a tea party, they are using fine motor skills to poor that tea and using good manners. Superhero play encourages your child to be active rather than just sitting and watching TV.
Imagination at Work!: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning,“ said Mr. Rodgers. Giving a child items for dressing up will encourage imaginary play. You could give a metal pot and a towel to three different kids and they could come up with three different stories. Dressing up encourages children to create a story, while one kid uses the pot as hat, another will use it as a steering wheel and the last child is using it as a drum. What about the towel? It could be anything from a magic carpet, cape or even the only safe zone from lava. You never know what a child’s imagination will come up with and giving them these tools will only make their brains work harder than ever before.
Super Strength Working Real Muscles: Pretend play works out more than just the mind but does the body good too. Typically your child plays differently every day and what they play or who they pretend to be will affect their bodies. Pretend to cast a line like a fisherman is a much different movement than figuring out how to tie a cape on. While your child pretends to be in a circus they would be using their whole body while maybe the next day they play doctor practicing fine motor skills as he/she operates.
Dress Up Basics: With Halloween just weeks away, there are hundreds of costumes for sale now, but that will only last a little longer. What to do the other 11 months out of the year? Well thrift stores, goodwill, and the dollar store are always a great place to start, but often you can use items you have around the house. That white button down shirt in your closet is a great lab coat and those toilet paper rolls can easily be the binoculars that an explorer needs. Needless to say we all here at Kidspace love to dress up and love to see children in their own creative costumes. Make sure you come show them off not only at our Pumpkin Festival Oct. 18 & 19, but our Halloween Hunt Oct. 26 too. It inspires a lot of great play that will help your child in the long run. So keep those costumes around and create a dress up bin in your home.
Samantha Mendoza, Outdoor Education Specialist, has been with Kidspace since 2011. Her previous experience includes teaching at the Los Angeles Zoo and St. Louis Zoo.