As a child I loved Halloween because then I got to dress up in costume. As I got older I realized dress-up didn't have to be just for Halloween and I made sure my kids had a tickle trunk (just like our favourite children's entertainer Mr. Dress-up). As Quite a Character I will often don a costume of a storybook character, a kangaroo or pirate, in fact, I have a costume closet bigger than my personal clothes closet. And my children, now adults, still dress-up for various events and sometimes with the work they do.
And now, as a grandmother, there are always a number of fun costumes to chose from for dress-up fun. Costumes are not just for Halloween because they offer a wonderful chance to expand imaginations, explore self, strengthen relationships and improve communication.
Book recommendation: Zany Zebra features a character who loves to dress in crazy clothes. By the end of the book, his friends are all enjoying dressing-up too!
This book is available through the Quite a Character bookstore or Amazon.
Dressing up can build a child's imagination. As an animal or astronaut they can imagine what it would be like to live in a jungle or explore space. It can foster literacy and story-telling skills if they dress-up as a favourite book character. And it can help them learn empathy as they can think about what it would feel like to be that character.
Dressing up can be a way to improve communication skills. Often, when someone plays a character it makes it easier for them to share a story or talk about important topics, it is a way to step out of themselves for a moment. It can also improve observation skills, especially if they are acting out a particular animal or person, they must observe how it moves and what it does in order to act it out the same.
When kids dress-up together and tell a story it builds socialization skills, enforces the idea of taking turns to talk and can help teach problem-solving skills as they discuss how to act out the story together. Kids can enjoy the fun of costumes and even learn to appreciate people's differences in choosing what they wear or how they want to look.
Learning through play is a great way to encourage the kinds of skills we want children to have as they grow. And dressing in costume is a fun and exciting way to play!
Providing a dress-up box for kids doesn't have to mean filling it with expensive costumes. You can offer a number of accessories to inspire them to create characters. Put in some scarves, a boa, some costume jewelry and funky hats. Add an old sweater, maybe a rain poncho or apron. You can have them make some masks, some wands or some crowns. Save your old halloween costumes, dance costumes, or items from the school play.
It isn't so much about what is in the box, but that there is a box filled with opportunities to inspire a character, to imagine a make believe world and to tell a story.
“I say, dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says ‘Here I Am!’ today!”
– Iris Apfel
One popular dress-up idea is super heroes. Check out my blog post The Super Hero In Us for some ideas to play and learn with super heroes!