Dress Up & Pretend Play
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Dress-Up Clothes and Other Essentials for Pretend Play

Even in the age of technology, nothing beats the world of make believe. Studies prove it: the benefits of pretend play are endless—from expanding creativity and imagination to helping to develop language and life skills. (Just try to find an app that does all that.) Here, we have four inspired ideas to get your kids' creative juices flowing.

Puppetry in Motion

Finger puppets are the perfect way to set the stage for imaginary play, even for babies. You can encourage early interaction and influence creative development by singing songs, telling stories, or even making silly animal noises. As kids get older, graduate to a hand puppet and let them take over the action. They'll sharpen communication and language skills as their imaginary friends engage in conversation. For kids struggling with a difficult or scary situation, like a dentist visit or first day of school jitters, having the puppet play out the scenario can help prepare them and build confidence.

Costume Drama

Wearing a fireman's uniform, fairy princess wings, or a Superman cape can be both fun and empowering. Seeing themselves in costume allows children to get a basic view of what it's like to be just about anyone, leading to greater empathy, confidence, and curiosity. Tip: Mix in real life props to help recreate specific scenarios (a rolling pin for the chef or a broom for the wicked witch) and don't be afraid to get in costume, too. Create opportunities for problem solving, but be sure to take a supporting role and let them direct the play.

Let's Get Cooking

The joy and benefits of pretend food and play kitchens go far beyond just learning to cook. Imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness come into play when kids are challenged to create new recipes or plan a menu. You might be surprised and delighted to hear the ideas they come up with. You'll also find that kids learn important social skills by figuring out how to share, take turns, and play together. Plus, as they learn to identify fruits, vegetables, and other new foods, it could encourage them to try something new at dinner (artichokes, anyone?).

Little Helpers

Everyday chores might seem mundane in the adult world, but they're actually fascinating for toddlers and little kids who are eager to do everything mommy and daddy do. Embrace that enthusiasm with pint-sized versions of household items like tool sets, pretend money, or mini vacuum cleaners. Consider assigning "chores" like sweeping the floor, fixing a bookshelf, or paying bills to teach valuable life skills and give them a sense of responsibility. It also puts them in habit of being helpful for the future (read: teenagers).