Once upon a time, there lived a child named Baby, and they never ever played pretend. Sounds like not much fun, right? Whether it’s catching fish in bathwater or dressing up as a favorite character, playing pretend is a great way for toddlers to add a little excitement to their lives – while at the same time exercising their fast-developing brains.
A significant amount of young children’s pretend-play is self-directed, and that’s as it should be – self-directed pretend play gives kids the chance to process the world around them, work through their emotions in productive ways, and flex their cognitive muscles. But there’s still a place for you to play along with Baby, and one great way for parents and caregivers to get involved in pretend play without getting in the way of toddlers’ creativity is through dress-up play.
- Give them a challenge: Does Baby love firefighters? Ask them to dress like one for you – it’s even better if none of the pieces in your dress-up bin are fire- or rescue-related! Baby will have a challenge to work out, and when you see the final product, you’ll get a unique perspective on how they see the world.
- Play a guessing game: Have Baby dress up as something of their choice, and then see if you can guess what they are! Maybe it’ll seem obvious to you, and maybe it won’t, but either way, you can make your guesses as silly as you want. Maybe they isn’t dressed up as an elephant-skydiving-police-officer this time, but once they're heard you guess as much, they may get inspired for next time.
- Have Baby play stylist: You’re one of the people Baby knows best in the world, so they're probably got a good idea of how you dress… right? Give them a chance to pick out your outfit. They'll be tickled pink at the trust you’re putting in them. And for extra points, dare to wear Baby’s creation outside!
Playing pretend is great for Baby for many reasons, and playing pretend with you is a great way to help build their confidence right alongside their imagination. And along with all of its other benefits, dressing up gives Baby plenty of practice with dressing and undressing – one of the most practical motor skills around!