Do Kids ‘Outgrow’ Dress-up?

These big boys (or young men) came into my tent at Buskerfest like they’d been flying around their living room in dishtowel capes just yesterday!

Do kids outgrow dress-up?  I believe not.  At least not the ones who truly explored the joys of costumed imaginative play as a child.  As your child ages, inevitable layers of self-consciousness and social anxiety may impede their joyous self-expression in public and outside of the ‘safety’ of their homes.  But at heart, most of those kids still love to dress-up and will seize the opportunity if they are feeling confident and safe.

Our big boy’s 2011 Halloween costume – he always designs them himself and likes them to be scary!

Our elder son is almost eleven.  He is and was the quintessential dress-up kid (this business took flight in large part because his passions in this area at least matched mine) .  The (ample) dress-up collection in his room would be strewn from one end of the house to the other when his friends came over – an endless parade of magical, fierce and amazing characters would clomp, hop or sashay down the stairs to present themselves to the unsuspecting adults in residence.  Halloween continues to be his favourite ‘holiday’ of the year (“except for Christmas”, he says) and he refuses to accept anything but the most extraordinary costume – pursuing its excellence with 100% commitment/obsession each year.

However, in the last year or two – some of his unfettered confidence about dressing up in public (outside of Halloween and other sanctioned opportunities) has waned.  The first sign was when he began to object to me displaying promotional photos of him in costume.  This was easily remedied, when I appealed to his entrepreneurial spirit by offering to pay a per-use fee when I display his image. When ‘assisting’ me in my sales booth, he used to eagerly model costumes, but then started to resist (concerned about people thinking he was a ‘little kid’).  However, this too passed quickly when we shifted the equation to acknowledge him as a valuable assistant (which he is) and added $1 hour to his wage in recognition of time spent wearing costumes while working.  Every child is different and not every child is faced with dress-up as a family career like at our house – but it has been fascinating to watch my boys’ relationships to dress-up evolve.

Have you noticed a child fall out of engaging with dress-up for a period of time or for good?  We’d love to hear your story.