We recently placed new dress up clothes in the classroom, mostly simple pieces of fabric with Velcro that can be used as an open ended material. The students have turned this new fabric into ballerina tutus, , super hero capes, hates, and more.
One morning they were gathered in the dress up area and very excited. One of the teachers asked them what they were doing and the children said that they were all superheroes! We loved this response, so we asked what kind of superheroes they were. The children responded that they were nice superheroes who “fight bad guys.” The conversation continued and eventually one of the teachers asked if we could see what kind of superpowers they have. This question sparked the children into an excited frenzy and their creativity went wild!
Each child wanted to show off their superpowers to the class, so we all sat down and let each child demonstrate their superpowers. The children who were waiting to show off their superpowers sat patiently and were very attentive.
One child stood up in front of the entire class and described who they were, what their powers are, and what their costume was. Then, each child showed us their super moves! We took photos and then printed the pictures out and displayed them in our art studio so the children could review them later in the day.
The children were absolutely elated to see how the photos turned out and when they saw the pictures again in the art room, they proceeded to describe their superpowers again (this is awesome for retelling and memory retention)! We are currently working on a project for the children to tell their story in accordance with their superhero picture! This storytelling project is focused on recalling information, creativity, and encouraging the children’s interests! The children have recently begun writing the name of their superhero, drawing pictures to represent their super powers, and expressing their creativity in multiple ways!
Dramatic play and dressing up is an important part of childhood development and a key function of the Reggio Emilia approach. During type of theatrical play, the children are representing their understanding of their experiences and perceptions, rather than just imitating what they see others do. Dr. Ann Barbour, an Early Childhood Education Professor, puts it best when she says, “They use objects an actions and storylines to symbolize the things that concern them. In the process, they’re building thinking skills and developing social, emotional and language skills. Dramatic play is a very important context for learning.”
Most children between ages 3-7 automatically love dressing up. Dressing up as moms, dad, superheroes, firemen, pirates and more promotes abstract thinking, problem solving, builds social and emotional skills, builds language skills, and can help children concentrate and control their behavior. There are several benefits to dress up play and several opportunities for parents to be involved as well. While you may feel silly, this is how your child perceives the world as they understand it, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to understand how your child understands the world and how it works.
Most children mirror their dramatic play after real-world experiences that they’ve had (whether it’s something they’ve read about, watched on tv, or experienced in person). The best way for parents to encourage this type of theatrical play is to ensure children have various experiences in the community (like going to a bakery, doctors office, getting a haircut, being a cashier).
Lastly, this activity fosters physical development (they have to move in order to act like a nurse, doctor, or superhero!), decision making, cognitive skills, and empathy. While the children didn’t actually have ballerina tutu’s, capes, or superpowers, their ability to use their creativity to pretend that they have these skills or materials is a huge developmental step for their age group.