My Son Wants to Play Dress Up!

And the purse matches the pants….

Well, of course he does!  Children love to try on roles of people they see every day. They pretend they are the mommy, the daddy, the fire chief or the grocery clerk. Given a towel for a cape, a child will “fly” through the house as a superhero.  If there is a tutu available, the child will jump and spin like a dancer on stage. An apron encourages any little chef to create a meal, and a construction helmet may stimulate digging in the back yard. And one shouldn’t forget the high heels, an exercise in practicing balance for any young child.

Dressing up is an excellent source of complex play for young children. They get to explore the roles of grown-ups without any rules of how it “should” be. The child can start his play as the fire chief and end the play as the firehouse dog.  His imagination can allow him to build a story around his “costume” and add his own insights as to how the story should progress.  In imaginary play, there is no “right” way to play.  And did you know, there is powerful research correlating complex dramatic play with strong reading skills? Organization of thought, assignment of character roles and sequencing the story line are all elements of literacy children encounter as they learn to read.

But my son is dressing up, you say. Our culture still has powerful messages about “toys for boys” and “toys for girls”.  These ideas belong to retail marketers, not to young children. Having only building toys in the house will not make your child an architect any more than a tutu will make your child a prima ballerina.  So don’t be alarmed if your son grabs the flowered hat and your daughter chooses the football helmet. Listen carefully. You may find out they’re both headed to the Farmer’s Market.

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