Playing Dress Up Begins at Age 5 and Never Ends
"Playing dress up begins at age 5 and never ends." Kate Spade
As an early childhood teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience, a mom of two young children, and as just a girl who never stopped playing dress up, this quote rings true.
In the classroom and at home I know that underneath the hat feathers and superhero costumes, dress up play is serious business, teaching our kids skills they will use for years to come. When kids use their imaginations they also are working a host of other important academic and emotional muscles. When a girl dons "scrubs" ( pajamas) and checks her doll using a "stethoscope" (hair ribbon) her mind is going a mile a minute, practicing what she experienced herself dozens of times. When a boy is imagining himself as a race car driver, he's actually learning- not to drive of course-but the actions of sitting in a car, buckling a seat belt and putting the key in the ignition.
And chances are, your child isn't silent when playing dress-up. If a restaurant is the setting of the moment, they are talking about drinks and food and cooking and the order at table two they need to take. If she is on the moon, looking for Martians with a colander/ space helmet on her head, she's got to figure out where to land her rocket and what color rock the alien is hiding behind.
Even if a child is quiet while engaged in dress-up play, you can bet their imagination is going at full tilt.
Literally walking in other people's shoes may give kids valuable experience in, um, walking in other people's shoes. Studies have linked role play to empathy; kids who engaged in it were more skilled in judging how other people felt than those that didn't.
I have a friend who grew up not really wanting to dress up. A self proclaimed "tomboy" who loved tee shirts and sneakers much more than tulle skirts and bows. Her daughter decks out in so much "froufrou" it looks like she's headlining a cabaret. This really is a normal development ( ball gowns, crinoline, and tutus) as little girls start working out for themselves what it means to be female. At first they base that understanding on outward characteristics, and sometimes they go to extremes.
Some girls do pass through these common experiences without a lasting penchant for glitter. My own sequin, feather wearing preschooler insists her clothes be "comfy" and has a favorite tee shirt with a pizza on it. Her "Dorothy" glitter shoes are not her go-to shoes, but instead she picks a retro inspired sneaker when she has a dress down pass at school.
When I played dress-up as a child I always wanted to be like my mom. The dress I'm showing here is similar to one I would see her wear when she would get dressed up to go out with my dad. I would play "house" and one of the things I did as my role of "homemaker" was to make soufflés.
I always loved seeing my mom make them for her dinner parties and still think they are a nice, dramatic dessert to offer your family or company.
As I'm writing this and mentioning the soufflés I'm reminded of a favorite scene from the classic film "Sabrina."
This scene is so inspiring: Sabrina is in Paris having a cooking class, but she forgets to turn on the oven for her soufflé.
Baron: I have been watching you. Your mind has not been on cooking. It has been elsewhere. You're in love. And I venture to go a step further. You're unhappily in love.
Sabrina: Does it show?
Baron: Very clearly. A woman happily in love burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love she forgets to turn on the oven.
Later she writes a letter to her father. She tells him: I have learnt many things, Father. Not just how to make vichyssoise or calf's head with sauce vinaigrette, but a more important recipe. I have learnt how to live, how to be in the world and of the world...and not just stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life, or from love either.
Sabrina is the chauffeur's daughter and she has been in love with the son of a rich family since before she can remember. He has never paid attention to her, until she goes to Paris to study and comes back a sophisticated grown woman. When she comes back, her father tells her:
Father: Nothing's changed. He's still David Larrabee. And you're still the chauffeur's daughter. And you're still reaching for the moon.
Sabrina: No, Father. The moon's reaching for me.
My takeaway ? Anything is possible. Follow your heart. Only you know what is right for you. Whether it is your career choice or the one you love or any aspect of how you want your life to be.
And how about trying to make some really easy and fabulous soufflés?
I hope you found this post worthwhile.
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