My family loves to play dress up. Since my girls were born we have encouraged them to dress up and enjoy pretend play. I keep an extra large box of costumes, wigs, wings, and accessories on hand at all times and have even loaned many of our props out.
Every year we throw a costume ball and encourage everyone (even adults) to participate. We like to go all out with our characters and role play and I love that. It’s great to not only encourage kids to explore pretend play, but to participate in the fun with them. My youngest daughter was only seven weeks old when I dressed her up for the first time. She was the cutest ladybug next to her big sister and me. It was a lot of fun.
What makes pretend play so enjoyable is that kids get to be whatever they dream of being. The sky’s the limit. Dressing as different characters fosters dialogue that is creative and expands children’s imagination.
I’m always looking for resources that encourage this kind of playtime for kids. Recently, I was introduced to Great Pretenders and I’ve found great costumes, props, and accessories on their website. They manufacture award-winning toys and are an innovative leader in the pretend-play market for children.
“ Confidence is brought about in children by the realization that they have the ability to be anybody they want in this life and accomplish anything they desire. Our goal at Great Pretenders is to help kids achieve that level of confidence and to start young”
-Kate Muddiman, Creative Director, Great Pretenders
“Back to Pre-School”
Benefits of Pretend Play
Children learn by imagining and doing. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas. Dress-up play is vital to a child’s development. According to licensed child psychologist Dr. Laurie Zelinger, “It fosters the imaginative processes, and allows for play without rules or script. Dress up allows for experimentation, role play and fantasy.“
Major benefits include:
Social and Emotional Skills:
Dress up allows for experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, children learn societal rules such as how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. Character play means that the child is “walking in someone else’s shoes” and it encourages teamwork along with an interest in peers. The child also learns to negotiate which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. Since children see the world form their own point of view, cooperative play helps them understand the feelings of others.
When children engage in pretend play, you will hear words and phrases you never thought they knew. Pretend play requires children to invent and tell stories and since almost all children narrate their pretend play experiences, they train their minds to transform ideas into words. Children usually mimic words and ideas from parents, teachers, daycare or what they hear on TV. This repetition builds vocabulary and helps kids visualize what they say, especially when adults offer feedback to help kids better understand the words they use. This also helps with grammar – they may not know the rules but they are training themselves to speak like adults. This also helps make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help them to read.
Young kids typically have little self-control. During pretend play, children have to take a role and play within those boundaries, especially when other kids are involved. Studies show that children control their impulses significantly better during pretend play than at other times. Did you ever wonder why parents often make up a game to get their children to eat their vegetables or finish chores? Transforming an unappealing task into a make-believe game is a popular trick among clever parents and educators.
Problem Solving Skills:
Pretend play also provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it’s the logistics of sharing toys or a pretend problem the children are escaping from, the child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever. Role playing games lead children to face situations that far exceed kids’ real-life experiences. Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way. Children often use pretend play to work out more personal challenging life events too, whether it is coping with an illness in the family, the absence of a parent or divorce, or a house fire. Although kids may not always act logically during tough pretend dilemmas, the very process of problem solving becomes habitual. By practicing problem solving in an artificial environment, kids are better prepared to think of creative solutions to their own real-life problems
By giving your child complete control in their pretend world and accepting them as a silly character, you are enhancing their self-esteem. While they use their own initiative to develop story lines, their creative imagination to expand stories and their own personality to choose a character they enjoy, you are enhancing their self-esteem by allowing them complete power in the world & enjoying it with them. Take for example superheroes. Considering the thrill children get out of pretending to be a grown-up, it’s no wonder that they’re also crazy about mimicking the most powerful version of adults: superheroes. Pretending to be Batman or Wonder Woman allows a toddler to feel brave and invincible, which helps them develop self-confidence. Similarly, all that running and leaping keeps them active and builds strength, balance, and coordination.
Allow Kids to Get Into Character
When my daughter Bella was two years old she would not leave the house without pretending to be KiKi from The Fresh Beat band. This lasted for months. As her feet grew throughout the year we had to buy the same pair of sneakers over and over so that she could stay in character (she refused any other shoes). She really enjoyed pretending to be a member of the Fresh Beat Band and she always stayed in character. It was entertaining to watch, because she made sure that she looked just like Kiki. She was only two years old but she interpreted the character in her own way. Being KiKi to Bella meant wearing her hot pink headband, pink zip-up hoodie, pink skirt, and white and pink sneakers.
It’s been a long time since Bella has dressed up as KiKi, but I still have all the pieces to the costume. I keep them on hand just in case another small child attends one of our dress up parties. Pink skirts go a long way. Those sneakers came in handy at our costume ball last year when Gabby, my youngest daughter, dressed up as Agnes from Despicable Me.
3 Ways to Encourage Pretend Play
- Collect costumes and props— It’s important to have pretend play items that can be accessed at any time. Once your child starts to dress up on their own, their imagination will take them very far. Trunks and plastic storage bins are perfect for keeping costumes organized. To save space I have also used Space Bags.
- Give them ideas—Share costume ideas with your child by showing them costumes online and in shops year round. My girls love seeing new costumes all the time. They get great ideas to their collection. Some days I’ll turn around and they’re dressed in pieces from several costumes and props they’ve repurposed to create a new character of their own. It cracks me up to see what they come up with.
- Invite others join in—Have a costume party and get their friends involved. Make believe doesn’t always have to be held within the confinement of children’s play areas. Make it a classroom or community event.
Would your child love to expand her pretend play collection?
Enter my Great Pretenders Crystal Queen
(Elsa Inspired ) Costume Giveaway
One lucky winner will receive a Crystal Queen Prize Pack.
The costume, inspired by Queen Elsa in the movie Frozen, includes: