My son is obsessed with football. He loves watching games. He loves discussing scores and plays. He loves throwing a football with his daddy and playing some version of two-person flag football. And he really, really loves the Patriots.
So you can imagine his excitement when Franklin Sports offered to send him a Patriots costume for Halloween. But here’s the thing: He wears it almost every single day. We have yet to iron on a number, because he likes to become all of his favorite players when lost in play. If we skip the number, he can switch between players and try on every role.
For the past few years, my son has always made his own costumes. He has a big imagination and he likes to make something from nothing, and costume creating became part of our Halloween tradition. I was a little sad when he said he wanted to be a Patriot this year because I thought I might miss that part of Halloween, but when the costume arrived, it hit me: This isn’t just about Halloween. This is about the power of pretend play.
Parents often remark that their young kids have “grown out of” dress up play by about first grade. But at 8 and 7, my kids still love to dress up, and so do some of their friends. Perhaps the fact that we put Halloween costumes into the dress up bin on November 1st each year has something to do with it. Perhaps it’s just who they are. They love pretend play and they get so much out of it.
3 Reasons to keep the costumes:
Try on new roles:
Kids use play to learn about the world around them, and part of that comes from pretending to be something you’re not. Just the other day I found my daughter searching my closet for “appropriate librarian shoes”. She recently added “children’s librarian” to her future career list and she’s working on making that dream come true.
When lost in dress up play, children can escape their own worlds and enter new ones. They can work through what it might feel like to be someone else. This develops empathy and compassion. It’s also a lot of fun!
Work through fears:
Got a worrier on your hands? Dress up play is a great way to work through fears and process difficult emotions. Sometimes kids feel powerless – dress up gives them a chance to flip the script and take control of negative emotions.
Tap into the imagination:
Creative problem solving is a catchphrase in education these days, and for good reason. When kids learn to think outside the box or, better yet, pretend there is no box in the first place, they learn to persevere through difficult tasks. They develop grit.
Dress up play is a great way to tap into the imagination and think creatively. Creative thinkers make excellent problem solvers because they aren’t afraid to think beyond the directions on the page. When we give kids the opportunity to work on this through play, they thrive.
I have a confession to make: While I will sign my son up for flag football at some point, I’m not excited about the idea of him playing football in the future. Until we actually cross that bridge, he has plenty of years of dress up play time left to act like a quarterback.
Keep the costumes. Halloween is fun for a night, but dress up play is fun all year long.
Image credit: Franklin Sports
Disclaimer: Franklin Sports provided a Patriots costume for Liam. He loves it. I hope they send him one every year! All thoughts and opinions are my own.