Kids love to dress up. Whether that means pretty clothes for church or costumes to become a fairy princess or a spider, there’s something about wearing a special or not-everyday outfit that makes kids really happy. Our dress up clothes are one of our most-used play items around here; the only reason it didn’t make my top five is that I had too many good options to choose from! The energy, creativity, enthusiasm, and fun that is fueled by dress up is unparalleled. Dress up is often the catalyst for elaborate and extensive imaginative play schemes, games, stories, musicals/plays, ballets, etc. They just really enjoy it.
We do have quite the collection of dress up clothes. Two chests stuffed to the gills; overflowing, even. But to be completely honest, I don’t think we’ve ever bought a single thing to contribute to our dress up stash. Really! It has all been acquired over time, from various sources, and it is just as good as if we had bought it all ourselves. (Better, even – repurposing, and all that.)
Even if you don’t have a stitch of dress up clothes for your kids, you can put together a really nice collection for Christmas, perhaps even for free! Here’s how:
- Shop your closet. Or basement, or attic, or relatives’ house. You can simply let your child have a special time to try on any of your clothes he likes, and see what he comes up with. Just help him put it back in your closet when he’s done. Or you can collect castaways – like that outlandish jacket you wore in high school – and give him a special box of his own to use whenever he likes. Children tend to love colorful, crazy, snazzy, pretty, wacky, and/or weird stuff, but you never know; one of my kids’ favorite dress up items (for a while) was an old jean jumper of mine that Maya rescued from a bag marked “donate.” I have no idea why they like it, but they do. Don’t write off your old clothes for being boring; you just never know.
- Get thrifty. You really can’t beat a thrift store for good deals and crazy finds – perfect for dress up. You could establish a theme and put together a princess box (or farmer box, or doctor box, or prairie girl box…) or you could just go in looking for things that grab your attention. Another idea is to look for the best priced items that day; often, thrift stores are clearing out old merchandise for half off (or even better). It’s the stuff no grown up wants, so it might just be perfect for dress up! Don’t forget to shop for accessories (hats, shoes, purses, scarves) or even household goods (small blankets and quilts).
- Get the word out. Tell family and friends that you’re on the lookout for great dress up stuff; tell them you’ll take donations, or ask for dress up clothes for gifts. We have the most beautiful princess dresses and prairie girls dresses, all sewn by my mother-in-law, because the girls asked for them. Even the non-crafty can give you their cast-offs or shop for pre-made costumes/dress-up clothes.
- Invest. If your family dresses up for Halloween, consider avoiding cheap costumes in favor of more durable ones that will last. Then they can be thrown into the dress up bin after the holiday is over.
- Get crafty. If you (or someone you know) can sew, you can put together some simple clothes that your kids will adore. Investing a little time and money will net you some priceless results.
- Shop. You can buy some beautiful stuff, and dress up clothes always make great gifts. Try shopping Etsy, Magic Cabin, and Nova Natural.
One last word: playsilks. These are such an open-ended toy – simple squares of silk, dyed in a variety of colors, become magical things to children. Our playsilks have been baby blankets, fairy wings, oceans, grassland, capes, dresses, hoods, slings, food, packs, shoes…they are so loved that they are holey and need repair/replacement, I think. Playsilks should be a part of every dress up bin, in my opinion. We hang ours on the wall (low, for little hands to grab), because not only are they used often, but they are beautiful and nice to display. You can buy them many places on line, like Etsy, A Toy Garden, or Nova Natural, or you can buy silk blanks from Dharma Trading and dye your own with Kool-Aid.