Children learn more through pretend play than they do through formal instruction. Playing dress up offers children the chance to learn about different kinds of people and animals. Putting on somebody else's clothes allows the child to become that person for a little while. Structured dress up games give parents an opportunity to turn playtime into a teachable moment.
Role Reversal: Allow children to dress up like mommy and daddy. Pull out some of Daddy's dress shirts and ties and Mommy's shorter dresses or long shirts that can be worn as dresses. They can also try on high heels and work boots. When dressing up like mommy, allow the child to wear jewelry and perhaps even put on some makeup.
Once the kids are dressed as mommy and daddy, play a role reversal game. Let them be in charge for a little while while you act like the child. Ask them for help getting a drink. Cause a little trouble and see if the children put you in time out or tell you to stop. Make a mess and remind the kids that parents are the ones who clean up. Give them the opportunity to see what it is like to be the parent.
Princess Lesson: Help your little girl dress up like a princess. If she doesn't have a princess dress, let her wear a dance leotard and a pretty skirt with a pair of your dress shoes. Add a crown. If she doesn't have a toy crown already, make one out of silver or gold pipe cleaners.
Teach your little princess how to have royal manners. Learn to set the table for a tea party, practice sipping tea, and talk about proper chewing. Walk with books on your heads to practice good posture. Finish your princess game by watching a princess movie like The Princess Diaries or Cinderella.
Animal Fun: Help children make animal costumes. Cut paper plates in half, cut out eye holes and allow children to color. Glue construction paper to the plates for ears, eyes, and noses. Attach strings to both sides of the masks that can be tied behind the child's head. For an extra touch, have the children dress in clothes to match the color of their animals. For example, for a frog mask, put on a green shirt and for a zebra, black pants and a white shirt work well.
Kids can then pretend to be the animals. Encourage them to move around the way that the animals do---on all fours, by flapping wings, or hopping around. Kids can take turns swapping animals. After play time, read some books about the different animals the children pretended to be.