Dress-up messy play is usually considered imaginative or pretend play, but it can make quite a mess with dress-up props strewn about and made-up faces. Labels do no matter. Whatever it is, the play is coming from within, as kids explore and create.
Kids will dress-up in practically anything, not just old clothes. A tickle trunk can have costumes, shoes, towels, and bright or sparkly bits of fabric. Paper bags and cardboard tubes can be decorated too. Wings and crowns are often needed, so some materials to make these is useful, as are super-hero capes and cloaks.
As kids dress-up in different clothes and costumes they are also trying-on different people. Kids see other people from the outside and do not have much information about what is happening on the inside. They have to imagine what it’s like to be the store clerk, the brave hero, the mom, the dad, the baby, the pet, the boss, the rescuer, and even the bad guys. Dressing-up as these characters is part of the play package.
Although kids often do this even without any props at all, dressing-up serve to explain to us the new reality. Costumes and other props invite children into an experience. Cosplay is immensely popular with adults in the same way. We can take off who we are and put on someone else and create a different version of the world.
About the age of two, kids will start engaging in pretend play. It could be just pretending to take a sip of something from an empty play cup but the play will become much more involved. Like other play activities, it’s a vital part of early learning and development. New pathways and connections are formed in the brain and children practice thinking skills like problem-solving, organizing, making choices, comparing, and more. On an emotional level, kids can explore feelings and ways to interact with others. This helps for empathy and understanding. Physically, dress-up play is active and bodies get plenty of exercise.
Both boys and girls enjoy dress-up play and will wear clothes associated with the other gender. They will also both try out make-up and like to decorate their faces, by themselves or with help. How else can they explore the different parts of the world around them? Will dress-up messy play be a play-of-the-day?