Can you remember dressing up when you were a child? Did you have a favourite character or a “special” dressing up item? Dress up play allows children to run wild with their imagination and to be anyone and to be anywhere!
Creating a fabulous dressing up box for kids can be done really easily and cheaply and carefully chosen dress up ideas can promote and enrich childhood imaginative play enormously. We don’t need to be buying expensive ready made costumes or slaving over the sewing machine to create the best dressing up box ever!
It’s easy to put together a fantastic dress up play resource that will embrace kids’ creativity. Unlike an expensive ready made costume that a child uses to be a single specific character we prefer “open ended” non gender specific dress up ideas that can be used by a child in a multitude of different ways.
Lots of the best dressing up resources our kids have enjoyed playing with over the years have been things we’ve had in the home already or we’ve easily picked up in thrift stores or charity shops and from family and friends cast offs.
Top 12 Dress Up Ideas to Promote Imaginative Play.
1. A Dress Up Box Or Bag
Kids are far more likely to get the most out of their dress up props if they are stored together in one place and are easily accessible. Kids can then easily mix and match different items together at different times and their imaginations will be able to soar! You don’t need a fancy store bought trunk to keep your dress up items in, any sturdy container will do. A strong cardboard or plastic box will do or even a reusable bag.
When you’re choosing your dress up storage container think about whether the container itself can be used in your kid’s imaginative play. A large cardboard box is easily replaceable if it gets battered about and it makes a great ride in car, a castle or even a pirate ship!
Think about having some small containers too. These are great for keeping small items like for bits of jewellery, gloves and scarves and can again be used as imaginative play props themselves.
2. Have Lengths Of Fabric In Your Dress Up Box
One of the best dressing up items can be pieces of fabric. These are a real mainstay for imaginative dress up play and are so versatile. Pieces of fabric do not have a ready-made function or represent one type of clothing so they can be absolutely anything your child imagines. Your kids might turn them into clothes, capes, shawls and use them for tents, knight’s banners or magic carpets.
You don’t need to go and buy expensive fabric, an old sheet or tablecloth is a great starting point. Keep an eye out in charity shops and thrift stores for fabric in different colours, weights, textures and patterns, you might even be lucky enough to find an old Sari!
3. Rope For The Dress Up Box
There are obvious safety factors to consider with rope and children must be supervised but it is such a wonderful and useful addition for the dress up box that promotes imaginative play.
Children can use the rope in so many different ways. They can use the rope as a tool, maybe pulling things along, tying things up or hanging things from it. One of the other things we love most about rope play is that kids can use it as a marker too. They can lay the rope down on the ground in a circle, square or any shape to represent anything they like…it might be a cliff they are walking along, the walls of their home, a pond, a path through a forest or a hole in the universe!
4. Hats, Gloves, Scarves For Imaginative Role Play
Children don’t need a fancy shop bought costumes to pretend to be someone else. Your kids will love using old hats, gloves and scarves to get into character and go on adventures. They can put on a hat and be going to a wedding, be a farmer, or a grandpa! They can pull on hats, gloves and, scarves and go out into the Arctic to ski or sledge across the frozen landscape. They can take off the woolen hats, scarves and gloves when they reach the hot desert. The imaginative play possibilities are endless!
The joy of these kind of dress up ideas is that they are super easy for kids to get on and off themselves, promoting their independence and they can be swapped and mixed and matched in a multitude of ways.
5. Have Assorted Bags And Baskets in Your Dress Up Box
Kids will love to have a variety of bags and baskets in their dress up box and they will help promote lots of different imaginative play scenarios. Your kids might like pretending to go off to work, they may be a doctor or go shopping at the store. A very large beach bag is great to sit in! Kids can pretend to be rowing a boat, drive a car or flying to the moon!
Bags and baskets are such simple and versatile role play props. Try to provide a variety of bags if you can, in different shapes, sizes and fabrics. Charity shops are great for picking them up cheaply and remember to ask friends and relatives for old casts off too.
6. Why You Need A Torch In Your Dress Up Box
A torch is a great addition to imaginative play and can prompt a lot of exciting adventures that they might have in the dark. Your kids will love looking for treasure in dark caves, searching for secret pathways, and tracking animals through the jungle!
Why not pull the curtains and dim the lights so they can really experience a safe sense of dark? At dusk you could join them in exploring the real dark safely too.
7. Glasses Or Sun Glasses
Like number 4 above, glasses are an easy way for kids to define a character or situation. They might be pretend to be a scientist, or a movie star. They might be wearing magic X-ray glasses, or night vision binoculars. They might be wearing sunglasses on the beach or googles to protect them from ice glare on the ski mountain. There are so many imaginative play opportunities with this simple prop.
Safety tip- look for glasses with plastic lenses or remove the glass.
8. Have A Selection Of Shoes In Your Dressing Up Box
Shoes can be be soft and luxurious for snuggling in from of the fire, they can be shimmery shiny for a fairy or prince, they can be loud and clompy for an angry ogre, they can be for dancing in, running in, or mountain climbing in. Boots can be for daring through crocodile infested swamps or bringing in the cows!
Shoes come in so many different forms and prompt so many imaginative ideas. Try to provide a variety if you can. Grown- ups shoes always a firm favourite.
9. Grown- Up Clothes
Through dressing up play kids explore and make sense of the adult world. “Real” grown up dress up items are great for this kind of play. Look in your wardrobe for things you don’t need anymore. An old jacket, shirt, dress and apron are great starting points. If things are too long simply cut off the bottoms to avoid a trip hazard.
Children absolutely love “BLING” and it doesn’t seem to matter who they pretending to be they like to add a bit of sparkle. Odds and ends of costume jewellry enhances their play as treasure or just for fun.
Kids will adore seeing themselves all dressed up so it’s definitely worth giving them safe access to a full length mirror if you can. Who doesn’t like to see how good they look! take great care though with mirrors as the glass may break.
12. Simple Props From The Home
Have a think about simple things you can spare from the home that can be used as interesting and varied props. It could be a kitchen colander that would make a great helmet or a wooden spoon that could be a sword or magic wand. A shell, a jewellery box, a plastic bottle, a lunchbox.
There’s no right or wrong here, any items that support kids dress up play ideas and encourage them to take an idea further are great.
Do your kids have a favourite dress up item? We totally believe that you don’t need to spend a fortune on pre-made costumes and kids will often get far more out of open-ended resources that allow children to take the lead and that can be used in a multitude of ways. We hope these ideas will get you started putted together your own fabulous dress up ideas that will inspire lots of wonderful imaginative play for you to enjoy with your kids for years to come.
More Fun Ideas To Try