Playing dress up and engaging in role-play isn’t just fun and games for kids as they are actually important activities in early child development. The Rookie Parent Society previously explained that while kids take their own time to develop, there are ways to speed up the process. Adding to the activities children can do in order to enhance their motor skills, playing dress up is significant in the development of a child’s identity, skills, and personality. This is why parents and caregivers should encourage children to participate in pretend play.
Creates an identity
Although gender development begins at conception, HealthyChildren.Org reports that it isn’t until age two that children start to notice the differences between boys and girls. Most toddlers grow up to identify with their own biological gender, but others may still get confused. Dress up play gives children the chance to explore the different parameters of each gender.
It is also the perfect opportunity to challenge gender norms, such as girls and boys being made to wear traditional colours, which may have profound effects later in their lives. Tootsa stresses the importance of giving children freedom of choice, so they won’t grow up feeling restricted by their gender. Doing so helps them form a mindset of being happy in who they truly are, and teaches them to strive for what they want to become.
Encourages creativity and imagination
Acting and dress up are some of the ways to get your child’s creative juices flowing. Creativity is even correlated to academic performance because it is a cognitive skill, much like memory. Lead SA reports that the non-profit organisation Play Africa was founded on the belief that playtime, where children can exercise their imagination, is essential in their growth. How they experiment with clothing and appearance can be likened to the way they handle a mound of clay. Their imagination gets to work so that they can create different combinations that they may have not used before, which then develops problem-solving skills.
Develops language and social skills
Active play is a good way for kids to learn to interact with their environment, discover hobbies, and even develop their speech, language, and social skills. Mail & Guardian explains that imitation is a huge part of how children play. They experiment with different voices and mannerisms that they may have picked up from the telly, from their own parents’ dinner conversations, or from people they overhear on the street. They start telling stories that will fit their characters’ storylines which their imaginative skill fuels. Along the process, they also get to interact with other people and cooperate with their peers which helps shy children reach out more.
Exercises decision-making skills
Children learn to make their own decisions when they engage in dress up and pretend play. Picking the color of their character’s clothing, the tools that they carry, the way they speak, who gets to go first, who gets to dress up as what—these are all perfect opportunities for children to practice deliberation and autonomy.
When children take on different identities, they try to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. A little kid will dress up as a police officer and try to catch criminals which allows him or her to gain a basic understanding of right and wrong. The kid doctor realises the value of a life and his or her role in saving it. Playing dress up is a good way for a child to increase sensitivity and understanding towards another person.
There are no limits to where children’s minds can take them. Parents or teachers who want their children to develop their skills further and learn about the world would do well to encourage—or even participate in—the simple activity of dress up play.
Specially written for TheRookieParentSociety.com by PixieMom_RJ