With so many films, television shows and video games geared towards children these days, kids spend too much time watching entertainment created for them rather than using their own imaginations in play. An enticing dress-up area encourages kids to play make believe together -- a type of play that builds skills in cooperative playing and creative thinking. Create a play area filled with vibrant colors, lots of costumes and plenty of props that will have your kids clamoring to play dress-up.
The best dress-up areas overflow with costumes and props, so lots of kid-friendly storage is a must, but just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Search out unusual storage solutions, such as a tree-shaped bookshelf or a castle-shaped dresser easily incorporated into the stories your children invent. Flea markets offer sturdy trunks and hard-sided suitcases for stacking and rearranging, or carried as props. Select smaller storage containers to organize jewelry and accessories, and add hooks for hanging favorite costumes out in the open as an enticement to kids to use the dress-up area. Don’t forget a child-safe mirror so kids can check out their costume creations.
Take the Stage
Dress-up is entertaining on its own, but the real fun comes after the costumes are on and the make-believe play begins. A small stage area encourages children to move beyond the dress-up phase into inventing stories to perform for each other or their parents. While a raised platform may be enough to encourage playacting, curtains that close encourages children to develop more in-depth stories with beginnings, middles and ends, as well as set changes. Install an overhead rod that uses pull-open curtains, or go with fixed drapes that are stationary at the top with tiebacks that keep them open during performances.
Creative Art and Colors
A traditional color scheme of one to three colors works best for most design schemes; a dress-up area is no place to skimp on color. An assortment of bold, bright colors stimulate the imagination and works with all kinds of costumes, rather than a one-color palette, such as pink, which limits the imagination to only playing princesses. Bring in artwork or paint a mural that depicts a wide assortment of stories to stimulate the imagination. If you have an entire room to work with, consider painting different murals on each wall, such as fairy tales on one and a busy city street on another.
Creative storage and a stage takes a play area only so far -- it’s the costumes and props within the area that truly spur the imagination. While a few of your kid’s favorite princess, knight or cowboy costumes are fine, the dress-up corner affords an opportunity to expand children's imagination that’s too good to miss. Include occupation costumes, such as doctor, police officer or chef, which may serve to inspire their future careers. Include active props, such as play money, vintage keys, old cell phones and fake food that delivers things to do or problems to solve by your costumed kids. Soon you’ll be watching your kids perform inventive shows, such as the saga of the fairy doctor and the frog cowboy in “The Case of the Missing Banana.”
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