Dress up games are great for the development of your toddler's self concept and imaginative play. They are a lot of fun, and give many opportunities to practice fine motor skills - such as handling zippers, buttons and velcro closures - as well as general coordination, as with putting on a pair of socks.
Toddlers want to be independent and in charge; especially with what involves their bodies, which includes the clothes that they wear. Playtime is a great time to dress up and practice all the skills they will eventually use to get dressed every day. Let your little one be a king for the afternoon, or an elf princess, a pirate, a horse, a Martian or a ruling-elf-pirate-centaur-from-outer-space! The sky is the limit! This game is a lot of fun and your toddler will enjoy it all the more if you are an active participant.
Join in with your little one's dress up game by helping out with the more difficult fine motor tasks, such as tying a cape or getting into a puffy princess dress. Let your toddler make his/her choices about what play clothes to wear... It doesn't matter if queens don't wear werewolf masks or pirates generally have ships, not tanks. Instead, as with the example of the werewolf queen, comment on what a fierce ruler she must be. Better yet, put on some form of play clothing yourself, perhaps change your voice a little to make it a bit growly and ask Her Majesty if you may be of some assistance!
If possible, have a large mirror around at your child's level to help your little one develop his or her self-concept. Your toddler will be able to observe the dressing up process as well as witness the mastering of new skills!
Collect old, fun clothes that are large but not too large for your toddler to handle. Choose a variety of textures of fabric, and go for bright crazy colours too! Thrift stores and grandparents closets are often great sources of great dress up stuff. You can also consider making a few quick dress up items as a morning craft! (Stay tuned for our upcoming Toddler Craft section!)
Don't have a pile of clothing and accessories collected for your dress up games yet? No problem! There are several household items that can be quickly gathered that will do in a pinch, such as scarves, blankets, tablecloths, towels, big old T-shirts, ties, oven mitts, goggles (swimming or skiing), backpacks, old Halloween costumes, etc. Put a few things together and have fun!
***A friendly word of caution*** We are not responsible for the possible embarrassment to adults who get swept away in the game and then answer the door with a bed sheet cape and socks on their ears.
Try a few of the ideas below to get you and your little one started on some great dress up games. And remember, prepare to have a lot of fun!