How Dress-Up Play Encourages Learning

Kids of all ages love dressing up, and storing materials and costumes in a box is a common trick to keep the little ones entertained on a rainy day. But there’s more to dressing up games than you might think! Dress-up and roleplay games help teach children about the world, allowing them to use their imagination to create a new story and figure out how things work in society. Putting on a sheriff’s badge lets a child imagine what being a police officer is like, while donning a princess costume lets her explore the world of stories and myths. Here are a few ways that dress-up play helps encourage learning in children of all ages.


1. It improves motor skills.

As your child becomes a character, they may use physical skills he wouldn’t otherwise put into practice. Through role-playing and wearing costumes, a child might twirl like a ballerina or leap through the air on a high-speed chase. Becoming a different character allows the child to use new skills both regarding big muscle movements and finer motor skills. Toddlers can practice using buttons, zippers, and strings as they get in and out of their costumes.

2. It expands vocabulary.

Children are constantly bombarded with new words every day through stories they read, television program they watch, and in real life. Playing dress-up lets them put these new words into practice, even if they’re not quite sure what the words mean just yet!

3. It teaches social skills like sharing.

Although wee ones can certainly have the time of their lives dressing up in Power Rangers fancy dress alone, when they team up with others this type of play can be a great, no-pressure way to build social skills. They learn to act out scenarios that are similar to real-world situations, whether it’s having the Power Rangers sit down for a tea party together or buy plastic food at the shop. They can act out taking turns, responding to social situations, and learn the rules of interaction in a safe space.

4. It encourages problem-solving.

At the same time, taking part in these dress-up games helps children practice making decisions and come up with solutions to any problems that arise. You can almost see the wheels turning as they try to remember what they’ve viewed in real life, and determine what actions to apply to the given situation. They can put together costumes by determining which accessories should go with each outfit – learning that a doctor needs a doctor’s kit and a construction worker needs a toolkit, for example.

So who knew that putting on those floral drapes did anything more than lead to a fun family photo op? These lessons may seem simple, but they make a world of difference in preparing children for real life. The next time your children reach for the dress-up box, you can stand firm in the knowledge that they’re exploring the world around them through imaginative play.