Dress To Impress on the World Book Day
"Dressing up is SO much fun", we hear said, over and over again. Indeed, it can be... if we let children own it. Here's a simple idea for an approach to this long tradition of celebrating the World Book Day, which bypasses the prescribed, ready-made and manufactured costume consumption.
This is actually not an 'idea'. It is more of a reminder of children's natural instincts to play; and possibly a helpful guidance on how to facilitate that.
The key is in paying trust in children's self-led action; and being sensitive and available to their ideas, without coercing. Bring to the play a selection of props and accessories from your environment, which do not make up the full costumes of recognizable book characters (or, if they do, keep them separate and introduce the game rule of not using more than one part, in making up a costume). Bring things like old belts, hats, scarves, tights... toy sticks, jewellery, cutlery, umbrellas... USB stick cases, colanders, swimming aids, interesting bags... you get the idea. Once you start looking for things which could be attached to a body, you'll get more ideas than you can manage. Bring in face paints, poster paints, paint brushes and, of course, wet wipes... fabric strips, hair pins, safety pins, string pieces or anything that can serve as an attachment aid. Of course, bring in some costumes and get children to bring in some, too. Get them to bring in 'attachable' objects they don't mind getting rid of or having painted on! Choose the costumes broadly, yet selectively! Don't go for the obvious manufactures of the well-known heroes and heroines! Choose the adult size shirts and skirts, plain shorts and jackets and, of course, a variety of children's dress-up basket items, sparingly. You may be thinking: "Where would I find all that stuff?" Trust me, in your house! 'How would I transport it?' Trust me, in two large bags!
Aside from presenting your group of children with this selection of materials, you don't have to do much. In fact, it is advisable not to, as they can do all the rest much better than we, grown-ups, can ever imagine.
The idea is to dress up, whichever way they like. Encourage them to use the items in the ways other than what the items are used for, though that will be obvious, too. Remind them that they don't have to dress up, if they don't want to! What you don't want to encourage them to do is dress up as anything specific or prescribed. Let them explore what they have at their disposal, in their own time and way! If you invest genuine trust in the value of the children's own activity design, you will be rewarded with the flights of creativity you cannot plan for. The results will be messy, imperfect, sometimes recognizable, sometimes not... just as you'd expect from children. Don't try to adjust or 'improve' it for them, unless they ask you to!
Face paints and poster paints are a messy business and, more importantly, a more elaborate business. Unlike a hat, they cannot be put on and taken off in seconds. So! Set up a face painting station and an art&craft station! Have a few mirrors, if you can, to avoid the build-up of queues! Explain to the children that, if they want to paint their face, they need to go to the station and either do it themselves or ask a friend to do it for them! Don't fall into the pit of painting a near-perfect tiger face for them! Again, no one has to recognize their invention. The idea is to have an expressive fun, rather than to create to a brief.
Explain to the children that, if they have an idea of painting or decorating an object before using it as a prop or part of a costume, they need to ask you if they can, first! If you approve, they can do it at the designated station; and will have to wait a little for any paints to dry, before using it.
Let them play... for a long time! Some of them will most definitely strike up scenarios, of their own accord. Others might need a suggestion of one. Here are a couple of suggestions for the groups of 3-5:
Adna Sablyich is a Drama facilitator, progressive education advocate and author of Andersen Retold.