When you were a child, what did you pretend to be? A doctor? An astronaut? A parent? Perhaps you pretended to be a paleontologist, wearing a camouflage vest and digging up “dinosaur bones”?

Being a child and playing dress-up is somewhat of a rite of passage. This childhood pastime is very common. But did you know there are social and emotional benefits to dressing up? It’s true. Dress-up play can help children grow and learn.

Are there benefits to playing dress-up?

There are many benefits to playing dress-up. For children, play in general is essential. It’s how they learn and interact with the world around them. This allows them to manage their stress and form positive relationships.

Dressing up is a form of imaginative play, which boosts problem-solving and self-regulation skills. Children create scenarios and scenes and act out social events. In a comfortable environment, they can experiment with new ideas and behaviors.

Dress-up encourages creative thinking and communication. It also helps kids practice language development and their social skills. It requires teamwork, cooperation, and sharing to play with another child or adult.

Putting on and taking off costumes or outfits has physical benefits as well. Buttons, zippers, and snaps on clothing encourage the development of fine motor skills. As they dress up and practice their gross and fine motor skills, children are stretching their imaginations and practicing different identities and occupations.

How can you encourage playing dress-up?

Dress-up play does not necessitate fancy, pre-made costumes representing specific characters. In fact, some of the best costumes are created using household objects — and your child’s imagination.

There are many benefits to playing dress-up. For children, play in general is essential. It's how they learn and interact with the world around them. This allows them to manage their stress and form positive relationships.
CREDIT: RED MAGIC CAPE / A MATTER OF STYLE

Scarves, for example, can be used for capes, mummy costumes or long hair. An old jacket can serve as a doctor’s coat or firefighter’s gear, and a plastic bowl or colander makes a wonderful helmet. Keeping things simple will make things easier for you.

Playing with fewer options leads to deeper play, and using open-ended objects, like play scarves and silks, fosters creativity because your child can use them in endless ways. You can also support dress-up play by having clothing and play items on hand.

Keep supplies readily accessible

Most children play with what’s in front of them. They tend to forget what’s out of sight. You can make a costume bin, trunk, or basket and leave it in your child’s room or playroom.

Rotate items frequently

Rotating items to keep things fresh, which is especially important for children. If they get bored, for example, the clothing basket or bin will be overlooked. Rotate items frequently, for example, every season. Dress up your child with old Halloween costumes and dance costumes from your closet and “donate” unworn clothes.

Play with your children, when possible

Playing with your children has numerous benefits. While parents can provide guidance and insight, they can also benefit from stepping back and letting their child lead the play. It serves as a bonding experience and builds self-confidence in your child. When children play this way with their parents, they feel a special connection.

Information you can trust from A Matter Of Style

When it comes to content, our aim is simple: every parent should have access to information they can trust. All of our articles have been thoroughly researched and are based on the latest evidence from reputable and robust sources. Read more about our editorial review process.

Healthline. 2021. Playing Dress-Up: Benefits, How to Start, and Tips. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/playing-dress-up> [Accessed 3 November 2021].

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