Building Empathy Through Dress-up And Role-play
Children don’t just want to watch or play with super heroes, they want to be their super heroes, they want to feel what it’s like to have the powers to do many things. They gain confidence through role-play.
My boys often pull out various random dress-up items, combining unusual pieces to become unique characters imagined by themselves, or maybe a widely known character from a storybook. When they play dress-up without my interruption they can play for hours on end…..
During their play children discover empathy and grow an understanding of the role- what their make-believe lives may be like, how heavy it is to wear a fireman’s hat, how important it feels to be a king on his throne.
As a designer, role playing is particularly useful for prototyping interactions between people, for example in a service context. Physically acting out what happens where users interact with products or services. Taking the role of the user and acting out their interactions with a design can prompt more intuitive responses and innovative solutions when refining the design.
Children learn what it feels like to explore various aspects of their own personalities. They are experimenting with emotions, tones, how they move their bodies. With such a strong imagination they have trouble differentiating make believe heroes from reality. The heroes may be their role models, they relate to them and are drawn to trying out how it feels to be their hero. They think they will be just like them once in costume.
When children dress-up without adult interference they are at their most creative. I often observe my kids choosing outfits that appeal in the moment and acting out spontaneous scenes created in their own minds. Imaginary play happens when they create pretend and make-believe scenarios.
Once children begin to explore the magical world of imitation and make-believe they are drawn to it. trying out how it feels, exploring a new place- where they can be anyone, anything and have new abilities and powers.
Role-play takes the act of just dressing up deeper into the creative mind. Children enjoy being creative, it helps them to make sense of the world.