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Kids Dress Up: Benefits, Challenges and Book Week Dramas

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Some children are drawn to dress-ups and costumes from a young age. We know that engaging in this type of play has benefits both cognitively and emotionally in terms of your child’s development.

Benefits of dress-up play

  • During dress-up play, children can become what they cannot become yet, or may not ever in real life e.g., a dinosaur

  • Children can make sense of the experiences they observe by putting on clothing that represents others.

  • Dressing up while playing provides solutions to problems that children might be trying to comprehend

  • In dress-up play, children imitate what they see around them and replicate it.

  • Dress-ups allow children to fully experience all emotions, being grumpy, shy and funny

  • Role-playing with others lets them develop their vocabulary and expressive language.

  • This type of play lets them practice thinking skills, decision making and problem-solving

Challenges of Dress-Up play

What are the difficulties of dress-up play? When your child refuses to wear a costume, hat, or mask, it can trigger your inner parent's panic button. We may worry that they won't be able to participate, will be left out, or that we'll look like we can't parent. Additionally, we may fear that they'll draw unwanted attention to themselves.

Why do some kids hate dressing up?

  • For those who thrive on routine, being out of uniform is stressful

  • Dress-up days usually involve a change in timetable…not good for anxious little ones

  • Friends and Teachers look different – This can cause confusion and requires adaption to a new experience

  • There is often a competition, for the best costume, and this is overwhelming.

  • Some dress-ups look scary and confusing.

  • Many children are familiar with their uniforms, and deviation from this is stressful.

  • There are adults who despise fancy dress events (Me!)

  • Some costumes are itchy, and uncomfortable and don’t match Australian weather in August.

Dress-up tips

Tips for costumes

  • Go for a costume made out of regular clothes

  • Try Pyjamas

  • Leave the costume out in the days leading up, let your child get used to it

Simple and safe costume ideas

  • Wimpy Kid - Just jeans with a white t-shirt

  • Where’s Wally – blue trousers or jeans, red and white striped jumper

  • George’s Marvellous Medicine – jeans, red top, empty bottle with spoon

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – jeans, a top and a chocolate bar or golden ticket in a pocket

  • Matilda – blue dress, red ribbon in hair

Dress-up day anxiety

  • Have a printout of the email/note detailing the day

  • Review pictures together from previous years

  • Share and discuss dress-up options with friends

  • For those adverse to dressing up, have a costume that can be worn over their unforms or keep it simple – ‘a hat’ or ‘a mask’

  • Arrange to meet their friends at the gate or offer to drive or walk with a friend to school

  • Don’t let older siblings pass comments

  • I know you want photos but try to keep the fuss to a minimum

  • Have an exit plan – “If no one is dressed up we can go home and change” or keep a uniform in the car

  • Have realistic expectations of dress-up days as a parent. I know you want them to love this moment, but sometimes it just takes time

  • On Book Week Parade Day, let them wear whatever they want. But later that night make sure you read them a story!

This article was written by our Child Psychologist Expert Dr Deirdre Bradner. Dr Deirdre shares more of her expert article as part of our Parenting Portal, our library of staged-based expert videos, demonstrations and guides to prepare you for the early years of parenthood. To learn more about toddlerhood, secure your spot at our free Toddler Masterclass.

Kids dress up play


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