Dress-up games let your child play different roles, explore ideas and develop their imagination. Preschool educators are well aware that when children use their imaginations, they are also working a host of other important academic and emotional muscles.
While dress-up is an incredibly fun activity for most children, it plays a much greater role in their development as it supports them in extending their vocabulary and their confidence (Rock, 2019). Dramatic dress-up play is roleplaying and storytelling that helps children develop ideas about how the world works.
When they strap on a tool belt, they are trying to figure out what it’s like to be a construction worker. Or they put on your high heels and skirt, and grab some props like a purse and a doll, acting out what they think it’s like to be a mummy (Priesnitz, n.d.).
Dress-up play allows children to act out different roles, explore ideas about the real world and develop their imagination, such as becoming a pirate stomping around and scaring people, or a doctor giving her teddy a check-up. Dress-up games and pretend play also allows children to explore and express emotions in a safe way. For example, your preschooler could pretend to be kind like a teacher or brave like a police officer (Raising Children, 2019).
During the preschool years, many children experiment with gender roles while playing. It’s not any different than pretending to be a superhero or a firefighter (Rice, 2020). Rice explains that children often imitate what they observe in the world around them. Boys may enjoy things that their mothers or sisters wear, such as sparkling jewelry, nail polish and twirling skirts. On the other hand, girls might pretend to shave just like Daddy does. During the early years children should engage in a wide variety of fantasy play, and pretending to be a different gender is simply one variation. Children are exploring who they are, but at this age, they are also very clearly delineating the gender differences between girls and boys. It is natural that they might want to experiment with being a different gender, just as they might want to pretend to be a puppy (The Orange County Register, 2011).
Social skills: Dress-up and roleplaying not only encourages interaction and communication with others but also promotes teamwork and an interest in other children and what they’re thinking and doing. Children learn to negotiate in this way, to collaborate, take turns, and create and play by rules.
Imagination and creativity: One of the big aspects and fundamental values of dress-up play is that it uses a child’s limitless imagination. Using different things in new ways – pretending a piece of cardboard is a sword or a long skirt tied at the bottom is a mermaid’s tail – flexes those imagination muscles.
Motor skills: By buttoning a jacket, tying on an apron, fashioning a cape from a piece of material, and simply getting in and out of various outfits, strengthen children’s balance, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and spatial awareness.
Dress-up play further encourages developing life skills and confidence, supports working through emotions and trauma and aids in healthy development.
Roleplaying and dress-up play is an important part of children’s growth and development, as well as in their role identification as they grow into adulthood. So help them dream their dreams and let their imagination kick into high gear.
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