Playing dress up

Mary Hartzell, MEd Parent Educator & Author, shares advice for parents who get upset when their children play dress up on how it doesn't have to do anything with gender role
Parenting Tips | When Kids Want To Play Dress Up
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Playing dress up

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You know, it's normal for children to want to dress up. Generally, they start dressing up with whatever they find in the dress up box at home or at school. Also, some of them see programs and they want to dress up like they see costuming in a program, but it's not -- It doesn't have anything to do, specifically, with their gender role. As a matter of fact, they just want to be like somebody else that they saw. Maybe it was a best friend of theirs. So, it isn't anything to be concerned about in that way. I'll tell you one of the things that happened at school one day; is that, one little boy, he loved to dress up in a dress up dress like someone he saw in the movies, a princess style dress. He would wear that and his dad often came to pick him up. His dad would get very frustrated and irritated when he would see him in a dress. This kept going on for a while. What happened was, the little boy realized that he was bugging his dad. He sort of felt powerful that he was able to do this. We decided that it really wasn't good for him to be building this relationship with his dad, nor his dad. We just had all of the children, before they had their last story, everybody who was dressed up, put them all back and put them in the dress up trunk. Pretty soon, his father is picking him up, and there isn't the tension there. It just got eliminated and he didn't feel that need anymore because he didn't feel the anger from his dad. That was a successful thing for him, and I know this boy now. He's grown up and he is a sports fan, and everything else. Just like his father probably wanted him to be.

Mary Hartzell, MEd Parent Educator & Author, shares advice for parents who get upset when their children play dress up on how it doesn't have to do anything with gender role

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Mary Hartzell, MEd

Author & Parent Educator

Mary Hartzell has over 30 years experience working with children, parents and teachers. She is the director of The First Presbyterian Nursery School, a nationally recognized early childhood program in Santa Monica, California. She is co-author of Parenting from the Inside Out and also has created a series of CDs on Parent/Child Relationships. Her parent education classes and her private consulting practice have benefited hundreds of families.

Mary began her career teaching in the public school system and completed her master’s degree in early childhood education and psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles. She taught in the early childhood unit at the UCLA Lab School and supervised student teachers. 

Mary is the mother of three grown children and has four grandchildren. During the years she was raising her own children she taught in the gifted program of the Los Angeles Unified Schools, primarily in South Central L.A. For the past 20 years Mary has been a workshop presenter at national, state and local conferences of the National Association of the Education of Young Children. She has been a lecturer at UCLA extension and is adjunct faculty at Santa Monica Community College in their early childhood department. She also provides workshops, teacher education and consulting with schools throughout the United States.

Mary has served as president of the North Bay Chapter of the Association for the Education of Young Children, Vice President of the Association of the Child Development Specialists. She was the recipient of the first Pediatric Aids Foundation’s “Hero’s Award” for her work with children and parents.

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