Habitot Children's Museum

FALL-WINTER HOURS
October 1- March 31
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 4:30
9:30 - 4:30
9:30 - 4:30

SPRING-SUMMER HOURS
April 1 - September 30
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun

9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 12:30
9:30 - 4:30
9:30 - 4:30
Private Rentals Only

THIS MONTH'S SPONSOR
State Farm Insurance
Berkeley Agent, Gary Eason
http://garyeason.net/



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Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111
www.habitot.org


Q. What is the importance of dressing up?
One of the wonderful forms of play at Habitot occurs when children dress up in fire fighter costumes, space suits or doctor’s lab coats. Dressing up is so much more than a great photo opportunity – dressing up in costumes powerfully enriches the play of young children and lights up children’s imaginations.

Donning costumes helps children more fully ‘become’ someone else. They can toy with what it means to be “good,” “bad,” “brave” or “inquisitive.” Dressing up gives children permission to explore their own personalities and find out about themselves. It also helps them learn about the points of view of others.

Sometimes children in costume are able to confront fears and work through stressful situations because they are reliving time as someone else. By pretending to be a doctor or a monster, a child gains a sense of power over the unknown. We’ve seen children impacted by medical trauma, who have played in our Medical Center exhibit, initially from a place of fear or anxiety and later from a place of mastery and control over their past experiences.

Standing in the shoes of others - literally - helps young children develop empathy. When your child is in costume and is acting out roles of others’, she’s not only imitating the actions of the people around her, she’s actually coming to understand at a deeper level what it’s like to be others. This is the beginning of empathy. Nurturing baby dolls – for both boys and girls, for example – reinforces good parenting skills for when they are older. For both boys and girls, it is beneficial to allow a wide and unrestricted costuming to let young children imagine the widest a range of human experiences.

By all means, snap that cute photo. But also take the opportunity to watch your children in costume acting out the stories of their lives. Look closely and you can see how your child perceives the world. You can glean clues as to what has happened to them during the day and what they might be thinking about or being impacted by.


Here are some tips on providing rich dress up experiences for your child:

  • Kids get a lot of ideas from play about what they can do, what they like and what they can aspire to, so offering a wide range of costumes and props will help open their minds and options about what their dreams are and who they might become.

  • And as much as possible, provide real materials, rather than store-bought toys. A broken or discarded cell phone is better than a toy telephone, and real but safe kitchen items are better than plastic play sets. Using items from around the house is also cheaper for you and better for the environment.

  • Periodically add new props to expand play and encourage new challenges.

  • Try not to limit your child by limiting their costumes. Often boys will wear dresses or girls might put on a necktie. These are learning experiences that help children explore what it means to be a boy or girl, and that our gender does not change simply because of what we are wearing.

  • Don your own costume and join in the play! You can model more complex ways of using materials, ask kids questions to extend the play, and add additional materials to go deeper into the play.

Next time you see your child in a fireman’s hat running off to save the day, put down your camera and let her save you from the burning building. Not only will it help her imagination soar, it will be more fun for both of you!
 
Resources:

What children learn from playing dress up. Maria C. Colins. 2011.
www.helium.com/items/2061869-what-children-learn-from-playing-dress-up

How Playing Dress-Up Shapes Your Child. Sue Douglass Fliess. 2012
www.education.com/magazine/article/How_Dress_Shapes_Your_Child

The Importance of Dress Up Play. Amanda Rock. 2012.
preschoolers.about.com/od/socialemotionalgrowth/a/dress_up_play.htm

 
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