Lynette Louise


Dress-Up for the Holidays

This holiday season we are gathering in smaller groups. Keeping our fun limited to the people we are generally in close contact with already. So, I’d like to offer a fun suggestion for renewing the joy and bringing something special to this year’s festive time.

Admittedly, the tip is written with families who have small children at home in mind. Or with someone struggling with fine motor skills, or social skills, or the skill of playing. Hmmmmm…. now that I think of it, this tip is written with most families in mind.

So, how can we bring the holiday spirit and fun festive mood into our homes now that we’ve been largely confined to them and are unable to make many shifts or changes to the people we’re surrounded with?

Play dress up!

There are many benefits to playing dress-up. Everything from gender identification to sensory maturation to fine motor skills with buttons and zippers. Also, facilitating an understanding of reality versus fantasy at the intersection of imagination and experience.

Children often grapple with confusion over the difference between truth and fiction. Playing dress-up can create both the experience and the conversation needed to separate possible from impossible. Additionally , the ability to truly empathize with others comes literally from the ability to imagine being them. Dress-up is the child’s way of cultivating this ability.

Interacting and turn taking are also required when playing dress-up with others. Not to mention the maturity gained by understanding the different emotions and behaviors a role like queen versus peasant create. Learning through only watching is limited in that (at every age) when being an audience we retain our judgmental inclinations. Whereas when being the character we engage in justification. True sophistication requires understanding from another’s point of view. Playing dress-up is where this starts.

But, wait. How do we engage our children and other family members in a festive and educational game of dress up?
As with most things – from eating to sleeping – when we do it, they do it.

A problematic socially supported approach to encouraging behavior has developed in our busy lives as parents, caregivers, and teachers. We tell rather than do. This separates us from the bonding experience with children and puts us in two different camps of thought and experience. It encourages resistance to learning and implies a lack of value to the child.

Simply by introducing the activity as an activity we enjoy changes the story. Sit down and play. The child will enjoy the connection as will you. The child will also generalize this to play on their own and with their peers. Many people fear having to play all the time and so avoid doing it in the first place. Telling a child to use their imagination is never as good as using yours and including them in the creative process. Think of it this way: They don’t know till you show. Once hooked on inclusive imaginative play the child becomes a socially inclusive player.

Oh, dear. You don’t have a trunk full of dress-up clothes? Don’t let that stop you!

For the most part children gravitate to dressing in adult clothes, superhero clothes, and character clothes (monsters, princesses, animals). This is largely due to the world we present to them via movies and stories.  Go through your closet for clothes they can wear. This can help you cleanse unused items from your wardrobe and adds credibility to the idea that adult clothing is cool.

If the child enjoys the process, thrift stores can be a true delight for your pocket book and your bonded shopping experience. Don’t be shy about playing dress-up after the festive season ends! When it is safe to do so, visit thrift stores for your games. The cheaper the item, the lower the stress over it getting ruined. It is a play outfit so staying clean should not be a major concern.

Generally speaking, children learn best through experience. Playing dress-up can create lived experience and parents can guide what is learned from that experience before the bullies do. So, play!

Perhaps start a new tradition during this holiday season. Include stories in your dress-up that are holiday themed and keep the magic that matters to you and your family alive in new ways.

And most of all, have fun!


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