How Does Learning Happen in Dress-up Play?

“Problem solving and critical thinking, communication and collaboration, creativity and imagination, initiative and citizenship are all capacities vital for success throughout school and beyond.” ~ How Does Learning Happen? P. 15  


Photo by Jenna Sparks Bradbury 

Playing ‘dress-up’ can lead to the mastery of self-help skills in young children. But when a child puts on a costume to become someone else, the play becomes more complex – this is known as associative play. Dramatic play—or associative play— is so rich in social, emotional and cognitive development that it’s not to be overlooked in any child care setting. To illustrate this, I’ve linked dramatic play to the 4 goals for children outlined in the How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years document.

  1. “Every child has a sense of belonging when he or she is connected to others and contributes to their world.”

Through pretend play, children can foster a sense of connectedness with each other; each contributing to a group concept. When they pretend to take on a different role such as that of a family member, for example, they gain a deeper understanding of the person they are portraying and develop empathy. This kind of social interaction not only fosters cooperation, but also helps children to form relationships and gain a sense of belonging.

  1. “Every child is developing a sense of self, health and well-being.”

Dress-up play allows young children to try out different characters and even gender roles. In pretending to be someone else, they develop a greater understanding of themselves too. Children begin to take turns, assign roles to each other, develop relationships and even learn to control impulses; also known as self-regulation.

Developing the physical dexterity needed to zip up a jacket or fasten a button enhances a child’s self-help skills, leaving them with a sense of pride, accomplishment and competence.

  1. “Every child is an active and engaged learner who explores the world with body, mind, and senses.”

Children engaged in dramatic play are focused and involved in problem solving, and creative and innovative thinking. They imitate what they know; pretend play not only requires the ability to recall what they’ve seen but also the ability to recreate those situations on their own. With time, the dramatic play becomes more complex, requiring increased imagination, decision-making, and critical thinking skills. Observations of such play provides educators with a window into how those children perceive the world.

  1. “Every child is a capable communicator who expresses himself or herself in many ways.”

Children take turns conversing during pretend play. They develop vocabulary skills by trying out new words that they’ve heard in daily life. Children collaborate on how things should be done or which costumes should be worn. Their language development is not limited to speech, they also use body language and experiment with the power of persuasion.

Adding dress-up props to your daycare facilitates dramatic play; an important component in preparing the children in your care for success.

CCPRN has been fortunate enough to have Lydia sew some dress-up props for sale to our caregivers. For more information, ‘like” her on Facebook under: Misses Dressup.

Pretend play doesn’t have to be limited to the playroom. Consider bringing those dress-up clothes outside where the possibilities are endless…

Signature - Jo


Child Care Providers Resource Network *CCPRN* offers training, information, resources and support to those providing child care in a home setting.

Posted on June 30, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Mike & Laurie Boucaud

    Thank you Jo – Awesome!

    Laurie — This message is virus free, protected by Primus – Canada’s largest alternative telecommunications provider. On Tue 30/06/15 2:48 PM , “Child Care Providers Resource Network (CCPRN) Blog” sent: a:hover {color: red;}a {text-decoration: none;color: #0088cc;}a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; }a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; }/* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; }}*/ CCPRN posted: “”Problem solving and critical thinking, communication and collaboration, creativity and imagination, initiative and citizenship are all capacities vital for success throughout school and beyond.” ~ How Does Learning Happen? P. 15 Playing ‘dress-up’ c”

  2. VERY well written , informative and in a way that we can ,as independant caregivers,,relate to in our everyday programming .Thanks JO.

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