I’ve often discussed the importance of pretend play in this blog. Pretend play builds creativity and imagination, as well as schematic thinking and concept comprehension. These processes enrich your child’s development and help foster the reader and writer developing within him.

Dress-Up BoxOne great way to encourage pretend play is to have a veritable treasure chest: a dress-up box. Toddlers and preschoolers love to play “dress up.” They love putting on Mommy’s shoes or Daddy’s necktie and playing out the associated roles.

Some kids will even try on the dog’s leash, and pretend to nap in the dog’s bed. All these activities can be encouraged– although you can expect your child to walk away coated in dog hair!

A dress-up box is a great thing to have around. On rainy days or during overly-rambunctious play dates, pull out your dress up box for some pretend play fun! My own dress-up box is an extra large Rubbermaid tub with snap-shut handles. I favor the clear plastic bins for all my kids’ stuff, so we always know what’s in every container.

For your purposes, you can use any old box you happen to have on hand, or buy a container that fits your needs.  Fill it with extra Halloween costumes, costume jewelry, shoes, hats, and handbags. For a more sophisticated dress up experience, consider purchasing a few role play sets, such as those made by Melissa and Doug.

Role play sets contain clothing and accessories for popular roles such as pirate, doctor, firefighter, ballerina, or veterinarian. The Melissa and Doug sets range in price from twenty-five to forty dollars, and are made of high-quality, durable materials that can be used again and again.

While your child is playing dress-up, get involved to expand the value of his/her play experience. Jimmy’s mom did a great job of this when he was pretending to be a fireman the other day. Jimmy, a four-year-old boy, had put on an ordinary hat, and started to make “whoo-hoo” siren noises. Jimmy’s Mom, Karen, loved the idea, and just took off with it!

Here’s what it looked like:[/fusion_text][one_sixth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][/one_sixth][two_third last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””]

Jimmy: Wooooowoooo!

Karen: Oh my gosh, Jimmy, are you a fireman?
Jimmy (grinning): Yeah!

Karen: Well, where’s your hose? You gotta have a hose to put out the fire, you know!
Jimmy glances around the room quickly and grabs a toy snake.

Jimmy: Here it is!

Karen (holding up phone): Ok, I’m going to call you now…dinga linga ling.

Jimmy: Hello?

Karen: Hi, fire department? Can you come right away? My house is on fire!

Jimmy: I’m on my way! Woooooo-wooo!

[/two_third][one_sixth last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][/one_sixth]
Karen continued to play-act, directing Jimmy to the “house on fire”-the couch- cheering him on as he battled the flames, and thanking him profusely for his help. Through her involvement, Karen was giving Jimmy more than just a good time and the opportunity to feel like a hero. She was also helping Jimmy to change a simple play routine (fire hat and siren noises), into a more complex sequence of events, developing a mastery of a related sequence of events and the concepts embedded in it.

The next time Jimmy engages in pretend play, he is likely to have the tools to build his own sequence structure, based on the model his mom had thoughtfully given him.