Embracing imaginative play


While dressing up as a superhero, a princess or a fireman might be fun, there are also many developmental benefits to role playing and imaginative play.

Role playing is how children begin to make sense of the world. Children are very good at observing and imitating, either learning from family and friends or through stories and movies. One of the first acts of role playing is pretending to be ‘mum’ and putting on an apron to cook dinner or rocking their doll like a newborn baby. They copy their fathers, their teachers, the doctor, their favourite superhero and even the family dog, acting in a way they see the people and objects around them.

Dressing up is an extension of this role playing and children can become completely absorbed in their new persona as a policeman, a pirate or even king of the castle. And the more props the better!

pretend play 2

One local teacher explains that the reason most pre-schools, kindys and preps have a dress-up corner is because it encourages play-based learning and helps kids develop academic and emotional skills. “It helps to define behaviours, develop respect for authority, encourage the development of vocabulary and conversational skills and stimulates imagination and creativity,” she says. “It also encourages critical thinking as kids plan, develop, negotiate and problem solve in a supportive environment where imagination is their only limitation.”

A dress-up box is actually a wonderful way to encourage socialisation among children as they interact and negotiate the rules of their play, as well as learning to empathise and understand how others feel. They can play a doctor taking care of a patient, be a superhero rescuing a princess from the bad guys or be a fireman putting out a fire. There are so many different scenarios and children are very good at creating their own stories.

Kids also improve their fine motor skills through playing dress-ups by doing up buttons on their clothes, zipping up zips, tying up aprons and dressing their dolls and teddies. Gross motor skills are also developed through physical actions during play like dancing, running, flying like a superhero, crawling like a dog, spinning like a cloud or jumping like a kangaroo.

Stocking Up you Dress Up Box

So what do kids need in their dress-up box?

  • Store-bought costumes
  • Dress-ups from charity shops and garage sales
  • Bits and pieces from home like shawls, high heels, old bags, aprons, hats, gloves, tiaras, costume jewellery and fabric for capes.
  • Glasses with the lenses removed
  • Masks and wigs.
  • Props such as old mobile phones, computer keyboards, clipboards, microphones, little treasure chests
  • Old sheets for indoor cubbies

Puppets are also wonderful for role playing as again kids need to use their imagination, empathise with others, create a story and act it out. Whether using store-bought puppets or handmade ones, parents and kids can either retell one of their favourite fairytale stories or create their own adventurous tale as together they explore the world of make believe.

Embrace your inner child and enjoy a bit of pretend play with your little ones.