by Diane Kelly
When my girls were little, playing dress-ups was one of their favorite past times. They would make anything a costume and create playtime adventures for hours. A sheer curtain became a wedding veil. An apron became the outfit for a waitress in a restaurant. Dark glasses made one a movie star. They loved the gateway of imaginative play with only a prop or two. Never did they know what they were missing by not having a television or the latest toys.
I remember several Halloweens when I made them each a special costume. My oldest always wanted to be a princess or bride. That was easy with a pattern from the local fabric store. I was the one all mothers hated on Halloween. You know the type: mother makes the four-year-old a bride's dress with veil and lace, elbow length gloves, bouquet, and flowers in the hair. You might have thought she was ready to walk the aisle! We did get a lot of use out of the fancy dresses through the years, but really it was a bit over the top!
My youngest had particularly creative ideas about what she wanted to be, and still does. One year she wanted to be a Christmas tree. That was challenging for a three-year-old body, but I finally designed a dress adorned with cloth ornaments and a wire insert in the hem, fake packages tied to her shoes, and a foam star for her head. On another occasion she wanted to be a mockingbird. It must have been the song, "Hush little baby, don't say a word. Daddy's gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird won't sing, Daddy's gonna buy you a diamond ring." that inspired her request. I made a little blue suit resembling footed pajamas and a matching hat shaped like a bird's head with a beak. I remember her having to explain her identity, but proud of her uncommon character.
There is something wonderful about a child who loves to pretend. It is what a child does when he uses his imagination. If you want your child to have a healthy and colorful imagination, make time for real play, and make sure your child's access to television, video games, and movies is limited. Then fill his world with stories and open ended play experiences. Whenever a child doesn't have to use his mind to imagine, he is less engaged and less able to construct imaginative play. We control the environment of our children, and when we design their world for growing and imagining, they have plenty of time to play.
Looking back, I wonder if my own creative strokes were inspiring for my girls. I hope so. The sheer pleasure of pretending to be someone is great fun for children. Whether you buy a costume for Halloween or make something out of what you find at home, let them play and play and play. Let the costumes wear out with use. Create a box, a big box, full of hats and scarves and pretend wear. Encourage your children to imagine, pretend, and become someone they are not. Let them try to become those heroes and brides and warriors that they hear about in stories. Let their imaginations soar, and encourage them to create new adventures with whatever they can find, everyday.
Diane Kelly, a new student to PCI, writes from her home in Augusta, Georgia. Her two daughters (now young adults) have inspired many a story of growing up, encouraging parents to treasure childhood as a precious pearl.
Copyright © 2010 Diane Kelly, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.