And although it may appear to you as just play, when your child dons that cape, crown, costume or pirate’s eye-patch, his brain is developing in more ways than you can imagine. As early childhood educators know, play is the work of the child, and children benefit cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally through dress-up play.

  1. Brain Development

Dramatic play requires kids to remember what they’ve seen or heard. They recall the details of a fairy tale they’ve heard before acting it out.

  1. Vocabulary Development

It gives them a chance to expand their vocabularies with words and phrases that they might have heard in stories, but wouldn’t ordinarily use.

  1. Problem-Solving

Who’s going to be the doctor? Who’s going to be the patient? Children must make decisions when they engage in dress-up play. They practice problem-solving problems when deciding on what costumes elements and props each character needs to act out a scenario.

  1. Empathy

When a child is engaged in role-play, it helps her see the world through another’s eyes which increases empathy whether pretending to be a parent nurturing a baby, a doctor taking care of an injured patient, or a firefighter putting out a fire. Dramatic play helps children understand the role that helpers play in in our lives.

  1. Emotional Development

Children process their fears through play, which helps them make sense of the world, and overcome their feelings of helplessness.

By allowing children to act out their fears through dress-up and role playing, we are helping their emotional development.

  1. Motor Skills

Children develop fine motor skills by putting on dress-up clothes, whether buttoning a shirt, zipping up pants, or tying on a pirate’s bandana

They use their large motor skills when engaged in role-play, whether they are jumping like a superhero, running like a baseball player, or twirling like a ballerina.

  1. Gender Exploration

When children choose costumes and characters to be, they are able to explore different gender identities and the behaviours of those characters.

  1. Imitation

Children are naturally imitative creatures. They learn about the world by imitating the lives of the adults and others around them. Through dress-up and dramatic role-play, children explore the lives of other people by imitating their actions, feelings and words.

  1. Socialization

Dress-up play encourages cooperation and taking turns. Children learn how to negotiate as they agree on stories and rules. They develop interest in others and learn how to give-and-take.

  1. Imagination

Children’s imaginations are limitless, and have not yet been hardened and constrained by the “realities” of the world. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, believed that imaginative play in early childhood is the key to creative thinking during the adult years.

When children engage in dress-up play, their imaginations are given free reign. There is no limit to who, where, or what they can be.

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