Even before I was in grade school, my father used to scour thrift stores and garage sales for clothes that we could use to play dress up. He found things like a feather boa, a fancy feathered hat, a fez, a fireman’s hat, a Chinese embroidered silk purse, a Japanese kimono, rhinestone necklaces, many-layered petticoats, chandelier screwback earrings, slips with lace trim, beautiful old men’s ties, an embroidered fringed shawl, and many flowered scarves. He’d deposit them in the enormous carboard dress up box in the den for me and my friends. We heard him rustling aroung and we’d rush in wide-eyed from the yard to see what wonders he had brought. We’d pull things out and drape them around ourselves standing in front of the mirror, all the while making up a story to go with the costumes we were constructing.
“So we’re these magical fairies who live in the purple forest at the edge of Camelot” said one. “And here comes the King and his Knights” continued another, and we were off on a new epic story that took the whole afternoon to make up and play. Sometimes we were mermaids, other times fairies, gypsies, princesses, and a myriad of other mythical and fairytale characters. Whole summers were spent this way. We loved it.
Making a dress up box for your grandkids is simple to do. Find a big, sturdy cardboard box at least the size of a laundry hamper or larger and put it in the play room. Ask your local Home Depot to save you an appliance box. Mount an inexpensive full length mirror on the wall next to it so the kids can see how their costumes look as they make them. Voila!
Now you’re ready to fill it up. When you’re out and about on your normal errands, drop by your local Goodwill and other thrift stores and pick up some colorful pieces of clothing and accessories. You may also find great pieces in the back of your own closet, at garage sales, Christmas clearance sales, and craft supply stores (silk flowers and ribbons). If you feel so moved, there are crochet patterns for crowns that can be made in gold yarn and starched, and wonderful patterns for historical costume pieces. Once friends and family know that you’re on the lookout, they may surprise you with some amazing treasures that the kids will love to play with.
Silk scarves become fairy wings. Lacy slips become medieval princess gowns when hiked up and tied at the waist with a belt or ribbon. Rhinestone necklaces become fairy or princess crowns. Evening dresses can also be hiked up and tied at the waist. You can make any adjustments they can’t do by themselves, and add yourself to their stories as the castle seamstress or princess’s grandparent who invites them to a feast (aka dinner).
The clothes need to be at least a little bigger than the kids so they can be worn by any one of them, as well as being draped and belted to create different looks. If they need some priming to get their own stories flowing, take them to the library for story books that they can read by themselves or you can read to them. Kids are great at making up stories once they get the hang of it.
Be sure to choose age-appropriate clothes and accessories. Stay away from small pieces that can be swallowed by young kids and sharp pins or long cords.
What stories do your grandkids like to tell when playing dress up?