10 Must-Haves for the Dress-Up Barrel! (Plus 3 Creative Play Ideas)

Written for Melissa & Doug by Guest Blogger Julie Kieras from HappyStrongHome.

10 Must-haves for the Dress Up Barrel

What child doesn’t enjoy pretending to be someone or something else? Dress-up play is role-play at its most authentic, and role-play for children should be just that: PLAY! As a parent, you can help facilitate this play by providing a wide variety of costumes and accessories to help your child develop different “characters.”

Once in character, kids can use their imagination, test out ideas, act out emotions, and problem-solve. They can engage in cooperative play with peers and adults or, if playing alone, can develop independent thinking and verbal expression.

Here are some of the top items every dress-up bin should contain:

  1. Scarves – A scarf is the mainstay of dress-up play! Create hats, ties, skirts, or capes with colorful squares. Or, use as a backdrop, curtain, or blanket. Create an ocean by laying down a blue scarf, or a lawn with a green scarf.
  2. Plastic beads – Like the kind they throw out at parades? Yes! These can become belts, necklaces, jewels, or crowns.
  3. Glasses – Next time you scratch a pair of glasses – don’t throw them out! Pop out the lenses and add the frame to the dress up bin.
  4. Hats – Even ball caps with logos can define characters, or be used as a base for children to build their own headpieces (with those scarves and beads!). Themed hats like cowboy, firefighter, newsboy, and otherwise also add to the fun!
  5. Neckties – Like scarves, ties are perfect for decoration and accessorizing!
  6. Tutus – Great for impromptu ballet dances or for putting under a skirt for an old-fashioned type of look.
  7. Old cell phones / beepers – Used as is, or perhaps for a sci-fi story!
  8. Clipboards – Great for nurses, doctors, teachers, or waiters…
  9. Aprons – Helps kids become a chef, waitress, or carpenter…
  10. Binder clips and clothespins – Build costumes and attach accessories, or help make larger items fit.


Creative Play Ideas

Most kids know exactly what do to with a pile of dress-up costumes and accessories. Still, parents can help facilitate dress up play for larger groups or parties with these games:

Location, Location, Location!  Are they on safari? At a hospital? In a restaurant? Changing the scene gives kids a chance to explore new characters that naturally appear in those locations.

Musical Play – Put on some music (classical or no words is often best), and let children dress up according to how it inspires them. Will they become a fairy? Pirate? Hobbit?

Picture Book Scenes – Having kids act out scenes from a favorite picture book (or longer piece) gives a familiar “world” for children to play in. They’ll enjoy pretending to be their favorite characters!

Dress-up play is an easy, yet important, type of pretend play for children of all ages. Even the smallest prop can send children off for hours of exciting adventures!

Melissa & Doug Dress-Up Costumes

What are your favorite dress-up play ideas or accessories? Share with us in the comments below, or join the conversation on Melissa & Doug’s Facebook page!

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  1. Great ideas! These are so fun and our dress up clothes tub is HUGE and still overflowing and yet…I really need to add some of these!

  2. This is so fun! We have a HUGE dress up tub and yet I find that I need to add some of these to it as well!!

  3. notquitesusiehomemaker says:

    What a cute idea! I really need to make my son a dress up barrel- I’ll definitely be adding everything on the list!

  4. oh, i LOVE the scarves for pirates!! what about shoes? shoes are marvelous too. and apparently, at least with my kids, it doesn’t matter what kind of shoes. just grownup ones.

  5. I never thought about old cell phones being a good addition, but you’re so right!

  6. This brings back memories of playing dress-up when I was little!

  7. I love the clip board, necktie and old cell phone ideas!

  8. Scarves are a great addition. That was one of my daughter’s favorites.

  9. Great ideas Julie! My kids aren’t into dress up any longer but I remember how much fun we had together when they were.

  10. The pirates always gets the most use at our house. And the superheros!

  11. Great delivery. Sound arguments. Keep up the amazing effort.


  1. […] my latest guest post at the Melissa & Doug blog, where I share 10 Must-haves for the Dress-Up Barrel, as well as a few games to make playing dress-up more […]