10 Essentials for Stocking Your Kids’ Dress-Up Box

Fun props and accessories can help engage kids in playful storytelling and role play.

Parker Barry

We often hear how important it is to read to our kids to help them develop strong literacy skills. Play is also important! It’s how kids learn, and pretend play — where kids reenact or make up stories through play — is an excellent literacy-builder. It’s basically writing, in an age-appropriate way. Kids are “writing” their stories, developing the plot, characters, conflict and resolution as they play. Stock a dress-up box or trunk with these essentials to encourage creative storytelling play.

The Essentials

  • 1. Scarves. Scarves or play silks are the most versatile, and therefore most essential item for storytelling play. They can be worn as a head covering, a scarf, a skirt, a dress. They can become water or grass in the setting or used as a bag to carry items. The options are limitless — just like kids’ imaginations!
  • 2. Costumes. Try to avoid limiting costumes to predefined characters, which may restrict the characters and story lines kids invent. My mom saved all my old dance recital costumes, and those were a great addition to our dress-up trunk. Oversized T-shirts or fancy holiday clothes are fun to add, too.


Toss hats, purses and bags, glasses, jewelry or other accessories into the dress-up box for kids to incorporate into their characters’ ensembles.

  • 3. Hats
  • 4. Bags and purses
  • 5. Glasses


The right prop can inspire a story and make excellent gifts for kids to include in their creative play. It’s helpful to be aware of gender stereotypes when supplying props, so you can avoid limiting kids.

  • 6. Swords and shields
  • 7. Wings and capes


Even better than specific props, “trash” can be a real treasure in imaginative play. Like with scarves, kids can use their imaginations to turn boxes and bags into costumes or props.

  • 8. Boxes and paper bags
  • 9. Paper-towel and toilet-paper rolls
  • 10. Old socks or scraps of fabric


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