With a busy toddler at home, my days are now taken up with thinking of ways to keep him busy and exploring. While it’s so easy to plop him in front of the TV, I’m consciously trying to limit his screen time and promote more play and discovery time. Now that he’s two the possibilities are growing and I’ve been thinking about the ultimate imagination game – playing dress-up.

So like any good parent, I went online to gather some ideas. But every single article had pictures of little girls playing dress-up. While I have no problem with my Son wanting to dress up as a fairy etc in his game I just couldn’t help wondering “do little boys even like playing dress-up? Maybe they don’t and that’s why all the articles are geared towards ideas for girls. Then I thought how ridiculous that thought was, and kept searching.

I soon came across a few sponsored articles promoting various costume warehouses and websites where one can purchase pretty snazzy looking costumes for playing dress-up; for girls and boys alike. The only thing was I would rather not spend much on specific costumes; for one because they are ridiculously expensive, and also because I believe making do with random stuff helps develop that sense of imagination even further.

So I wrote down a list of random stuff I could think of that I could put in a “dress-up box” for my son – so he can let his imagination run free. This includes things I came up with off the top of my head as well as ideas I collated from my reading and research.

  1. A dress-up bag or box

A big bag to store everything or ideally a sturdy box or laundry hamper that can also double as a boat/ship, a car, or simply something to sit/lie in and have a think.

  • Cape and mask

A helmed length of material, with a soft cord attached to one of the shorter sides and voila you’ve got yourself a cape – of sorts. If you are nifty with the sewing machine you can create an actual proper looking cape. A party mask covered with fabric will do, or simply cut out two eye holes in a strip of material and your superhero is all kitted out.

  • An eye patch, various scarfs, etc. for playing pirates.

There are great little eye patches available at the dollar store sometimes, but a DIY version would be a bit of black felt of cloth attached to some elastic. Also, raid your wardrobe for old scarfs that you no longer need, they make for great head coverings, skirts, and other garbs, etc.

  • Assorted hats, glasses, and sunglasses from the dollar shop (with no strength in the lenses)

Once again available at the dollar store or your own old, unused stuff.

  • A Torch – for exploring expeditions.
  • Bling

Cheap bling from the dollar shop or even some of your own old things. Kids just love the stuff, regardless of the character they are dressing up as.

  • Mirror

Because who doesn’t love making funny faces in the mirror?

  • Grown-up clothes

This is a great way for kids to experience and explore the ‘grown-up world’ and make sense of it.  Include things like old shirts, jackets, dresses and skirts, aprons. If things are too long simply cut off the bottoms.

  • Stuff from around the house – especially the kitchen
  • Kitchen roll tubes, toilet roll tubes great for makeshift swords and telescopes.
  • Colander – makes a wonderful helmet
  • Wooden spoon – works as a sword, a wand, a bat, etc.
  • Plastic bottles and lunch boxes
  • Seashells
  • Flags
  • Old socks

After a lot of careful thought, I think I’ve curated a list of inexpensive, easy to get hold of ‘stuff’ for a dress-up box that is suitable for both boys and girls.

I truly feel that encouraging your child’s imagination through play is crucial for their development. Why? Albert Einstein said it best;

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Although dressing up may seem like just a silly children’s game to grownups, when our children don a cape or a crown and what have you, her brain is developing is so many ways; way more than we can imagine.

Early childhood educators say “play is the child’s work”, as it is so integral to the mental, cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of a child. Playing dress-up helps our children’s brains grow, increases their vocabulary, helps them learn problem-solving skills, teaches them empathy, and develops motor skills.

So next time join your kids on an expedition through the dining room hunting dinosaurs. Or sail the seven seas with them that happens to be in your living room. Not only will you be helping your child’s brain develop in innumerable ways, but you’ll also have a ball yourself and create some wonderful memories in the process. Win-win-win!

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