It’s finally fall, and along with the smell of pumpkin spice in the air comes the plethora of Halloween costumes and promotions in stores, online, and even in your social media feed. This year, take advantage of all the Halloween sales and promotions and build a dress-up trunk. It doesn’t need to be anything fancier than an old rubbermaid bin or a cardboard box decorated by you and your kids, and will both entertain and help educate.
Playing dress-up has numerous benefits for children of all ages. Studies have shown that children who engage in dress-up and make believe play have higher levels of empathy, and become better problem solvers later on in life. Dressing up as different characters and literally trying on different roles gives children opportunities to build both socialization and communication skills, while helping to build speech and language skills. Playing dress-up is also one of the easiest ways to have fun while reinforcing the lessons taught in your child speech therapy sessions. Here are some tips:
Add Non-Costume Items
This tip is especially useful when you are just starting to build your dress-up trunk. Items like an old dress shirt, sheets, baby blankets, worn shoes, and out-of-style hats can all be reused as dress-up items, such as royal robes, retro hats, or capes.
Mix and Match The Costumes
When adding items to the dress-up trunk, look for costume items that can be easily interchanged. This helps make your dollars stretch while also encouraging creative play. Encourage your child to mix and match costume items to come up with a unique character.
Buy Costumes That Speak To Your Child’s Interests
To ensure that your money isn’t wasted, and to encourage your child to engage in creative dress-up play, look for costume items that fit with your child’s interests. For example, if your child enjoys vehicles like firetrucks, look for items that could be used in a firefighter’s costume. Also keep an eye out for costumes related to, but slightly different from, your child’s interests to help broaden his or her imagination. Using the same example, you could also add items for a police officer or ambulance driver and expand the play to include rescue workers.
Buy Local, Check Kijiji, and Search Online Retailers
When you are shopping for items, start by checking out local retailers. If you are located within Kingston, stores such as The Rocking Horse and Value Village are excellent resources for costume items. The Rocking Horse in particular has many items that can be easily interchanged with others, and sells them year round. For older children, Minotaur has costumes that may speak to their maturing interests. Online retailers and Kijiji can also be great resources.
Shop In November
The perfect costume won’t be available come November 1st. But the generic archer, or police officer, or astronaut will likely still be around, and on sale. This is the perfect time to pick up random, mix and match items for your dress-up trunk. It won’t matter if they’re a size big, either, because the goal is to purchase items that can be used long-term.
Remember That Dressing Up Isn’t Just For Halloween
Keep your dress-up trunk as part of your regular toy rotation and encourage dress-up play year round. If your kids are stuck for ideas, you can use the various seasons or holidays as starting points, but there’s no reason to limit creative costume play to one season alone. In fact, it might be fun to take the “play” out of the basement and into the backyard during the warmer months, and pretend to be explorers in the South Pole when it’s colder.
[pb_box icon_enable=”0″ icon=”app.png” background_color=”f5f5f5″ border_top_width=”0″ border_right_width=”0″ border_bottom_width=”0″ border_left_width=”0″ padding_top=”40″ padding_right=”40″ padding_bottom=”40″ padding_left=”40″][pb_box_header][/pb_box_header][pb_box_text]Now that your dress-up trunk is complete, and you and you child are having a blast playing with it, how do you incorporate your child’s speech therapy goals? If your child is currently seeing a speech language pathologist, ask him or her about ways to incorporate speech therapy goals into your child’s creative play. Here are a few examples:[/pb_box_text][/pb_box]
Dressed as a firefighter your child could help rescue characters named starting with his or her target speech sound.
Ask your child questions about the character he or she has created, such as “who are you?”, “where do you live?”, “why do you have a cape?”, and “how do you help people?” If your child is having difficulty answering the question, provide him or her with the answer and ask again. Remember you’re playing, not testing.
If your child is older, you can act out a brief, one-act play with characters, a setting, and a short plot.
Have your child request the items he or she wants by name, or once the items have been selected, identify them with your child.
[pb_box icon_enable=”0″ icon=”app.png” background_color=”f5f5f5″ border_top_width=”0″ border_right_width=”0″ border_bottom_width=”0″ border_left_width=”0″ padding_top=”40″ padding_right=”40″ padding_bottom=”40″ padding_left=”40″][pb_box_header][/pb_box_header][pb_box_text]Playing dress-up is a wonderful way for children to learn and further develop key speech and language skills while still having a lot of fun. Imaginative play is incredibly important to a child’s development. The tips above will help your child (and hopefully you too!) take creative play to the next step.[/pb_box_text][/pb_box]