Monday, July 22, 2013

Make Dress-Up Play MORE FUN with DIY Costumes!

Sponsored Post Disclosure: My family received compensation from Sprout and The Chica Show for this post. 
All opinions expressed are my own. The opinions expressed in this post do not represent Sprout or The Chica Show. 

It's time to dress-up and play! "Play" as you know is an important way for children to practice skills, try new things, and gain knowledge - all in the name of fun. The scenarios, costumes, and props they use are all catalysts for trying out new ideas and practicing real-life skills with family and friends.

Imaginative play is such an important part of childhood and children's brain development.
An article on NPR discussed how old-fashioned free play with child-led activities like dress-up, and imaginative fantasy playing with toys and props of the child's own making builds serious skills like self regulation and cognitive function. Most parents and caregivers who read this blog already know this. I'm not sharing a big secret with you, I'm stating what is obvious -- Kids NEED and WANT time to play. They thrive when given the opportunity to use their imaginations!

We love to Create, PLAY, and Explore around here. One of the ways we do that is by playing dress-up and making our own costumes.  My kids can frequently be found taping paper masks they've made to random pairs of sunglasses. 

A great way to encourage free play and fantasy thinking, is to provide your children with some dress-up clothes and realistic props. There's no need to run out to the store to buy costumes. 
You can create your own dress-up props with simple objects from around the house!

Here are a few simple and classic ideas to get you started:

Doctor or Vet's Office: 
One of the favorites in our house! If they're playing "doctor" why not get a few ace bandages out of the medicine closet, throw in some popsicle sticks, a roll of masking tape (or scotch tape),  and a flashlight? You'll have a great doctor's kit for them to play with. Add a clipboard and some file folders for "medical charts" and a white button down shirt to wear as a lab coat. We even have a real stethoscope, old X-Rays (from mom and dad), and working otoscope in our doctor kit! Toilet Paper is great for making "casts" and wrapping up patients who are badly injured like the dragon pictured below!

BTW, Milk cartons or laundry baskets are great "crates" and "cages" for stuffed animals for a vet's office or animal shelter.

Detective: Create your own costume for your favorite "Little Spy" with some plaid fabric as a cloak. Just drape it around the shoulders (as we did) for a cape or cut a big circle with a smaller circle in the middle as a poncho. Add a baseball cap and a magnifying glass for your secret agent to get to work. You may also want to give them a flashlight, sunglasses, and notepad. We made a fake mustache with some scrap felt and my daughter stuck it on her face with a loop of masking tape!

You can make your own magnifying glass with the handle of wooden craft foam brush glued to a canning jar ring - spray paint it black. So cute! We used E600 glue. We made our own "Rainbow Spy" hat by sewing some felt to a simple white baseball cap we picked up at Walmart.

Supplies for Magnifying Glass:
Canning Jar Lid, Sponge Craft Brush (handle), Glue (I used E600), and Black Spray Paint.

Step 1: Remove sponge head from craft brush and glue canning jar ring to wooden handle. Allow to dry.

Step 2: Spray paint the whole thing black in a well ventilated area - we did this outdoors, in our driveway, on a newspaper.

Dinosaur (or Dragon): It's so easy to create a costume with a simple hoodie-style sweatshirt. You can sew on ears, felt teeth, or felt "spikes" to the back of the shirt. (Hint: Iron or fold the jacket in half to create a center line to follow for spikes)  If you don't sew (or want to re-use the hoodie), just attach everything with safety pins so it can easily be removed when you're done playing! We made this dinosaur hoodie removable by stitching our felt spikes to a long ribbon, then we pinned the ribbon to the jacket - easy to take off later when it's time to wear the coat to school!

Supplies for Dinosaur Hoodie:
1 hooded sweatshirt, felt, scissors, needle and thread, glue (I like Aleene's Turbo Tacky Glue)  Optional: Iron (makes it easier to find the center line of the hoodie),  ribbon and safety pins if you want the spikes to be removable like mine!


Step 1: Cut felt into diamond shapes. For a 3T sweatshirt 12-15 2"x4" diamonds will work. Ours was a women's small sweatshirt - we used 22 felt diamonds.

Step 2: Fold the sweatshirt in half and iron it down the middle to create a visible crease - this is your center line to follow when you stitch or pin the spikes on your hoodie.

Step 3: Unfold and lay down the hoodie with the back facing up. Center the diamonds down the middle crease without overlapping.

Step 4: Sew middle of each diamond to shirt. Fold diamonds in half to make a triangle. Glue halves together. The other option for this step is to stitch and glue your felt diamonds to the ribbon then pin the ribbon to your hoodie when the glue is dry.

Cat, Dog (Wolf), or Bunny:  Same thing as the Dinosaur, just sew (or safety pin) some felt ears to a hoodie. We stuffed the leg from an old pair of tights and pinned it onto the bottom of the jacket to make a tail.

Face paint is a fun touch too for dress up time too! You can learn about our favorite brand of face paint and see a demonstration of me using it here.

Restaurant: Set up a restaurant with your kids, give them some pots and pans, a tray, a notepad to write down orders, some fabric or a real table cloth. Stuffed animals make great customers. An apron or dishtowel is all your server or chef needs to get started!

(love this menu from one of their restaurant games in 2010)

Our "restaurant" play is usually part of a hotel game as well. My girls love to turn our upstairs into a hotel. They close our bedroom doors and add numbers with post-it notes. We dress up as various "characters" to come out of the rooms and order room service. Some of our people staying at the hotel are quite over the top!

Play IS important. Play is WORK for children. 

Kids need time to enjoy their childhoods with more time spent engaging in sustained fantasy play where a child creates scenarios with props or toys like playing house, or hospital. This has been a major part of my parenting philosophy and the reason why I haven't signed my kids up for a lot of after-school activities. I want my girls to come home and play with each other. It is good for their brains, they learn how to negotiate, compromise, and imagine as well as how to get along with each other. It's one of the major reasons why they are such good friends.

Free play is endangered by schools that cut recess time and even preschools that are moving away from play based "curriculum" to structured and focused activities to "prep" students for upper grades. So get out there and play! 

My girls spent many preschool mornings enjoying Chica and friends at Sprout when they were little.

Sprout was kind enough to send us this box full of goodies
for us to make some fun DIY costumes for play -- Thank you Sprout! 

Pink and Green Mama, MaryLea

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