How to Create a Child's Dress Up Box

Claire Bush

Kids love imaginative play, and one of the best ways to encourage creativity and self expression is through dress-up. Allowing kids to be their favorite action hero, cartoon character, or even an imaginary friend with the help of a few costume props helps to keep kids away from TV and video games, too. Here's how to create a child's dress up box that you can pull out on the next time kids say, "I'm bored!"


  • Use a wardrobe-size moving box (available at storage rental facilities or U-Haul), or purchase a cardboard underbed-size box from the dollar store. You can also try using a plastic blanket storage chest (Rubbermaid and the like) available at department stores for about $10. The clear boxes are good because you can see the contents.
  • Go through your family's closets and set aside old evening dresses, tuxedos, prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, dyed-to-match shoes, and even bathrobes in silky fabrics and pretty colors. These are great for dress-up as kings and queens. Go to the dollar store and add plastic tiaras, gloves, high heeled plastic slippers, and feather boas. Add eye patches and plastic swords for pirate dress-up costumes.
  • If your town has one, make a visit to the Army/Navy surplus store and forage for cool vintage uniforms for your box. (Check online or in the phone book under "surplus stores.") Little boys love these stores, and they're also a great source for knapsacks, GI-Joe style combat boots, helmets, and more.
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  • Take the kids to the thrift store and set a dollar limit. Tell them to look for lab coats, chef coats, hats and artist smocks. They also may find old fur stoles, capes and evening bags. Seek out colorful scarves that can be twisted into turbans, and multi-colored knee socks and oversized shoes for clown outfits, too.
  • Add a clear plastic bag filled with dimestore makeup such as rouge, lipstick and wax crayons for drawing on eyebrows and beauty marks.
  • When your box is assembled, store it under your bed or in a closet. Go through your box periodically to spot clean and launder items.
  • Of course, you won't add sharp objects such as knives or real weapons to the box. Be sure to supervise dress-up play for children under eight.

Child's Dress Up Box

About The Author: An Arizona freelance writer for the past decade, Claire is a regular contributor to the Arizona Republic's business, career builder and community sections and is also the author of a statewide restaurant guide, "Dining in Arizona - 101 Great Places to Eat" Claire has co-authored several cookbooks and is now a working chef and menu designer in Sun City, AZ.

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August 13, 20080 found this helpful

I would love to have that box pirate ship in my back yard for my grandson who loves pirates of the caribean. I'll have to try to make him one of those.


We get all sorts of items from yard sales, etc that are pirate related and he loves pulling those things out and becoming a pirate. we make up a bury treasure map and hide items outside that he searches for. Makes for lots of fun time play. Thanks for the ideas and post. Wonderful and so true.

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August 14, 20080 found this helpful

A couple of years ago, when all the halloween coustumes went on sale for 90% off, I bought a huge bagfull of costumes, partial costumes, props and wigs for about $20 (less than one cost before Halloween!) and put them all in a large clear plastic tote for a dress up box and gave it to my then boyfriend's 7 year old daughter for Christmas. She was thrilled and got hours and hours of play time out of them.


I originally got the idea because she was highly upset that she had outgrown all of her expensive "princess" outfits (bought long before thrifty me came along! lol).

Can't wait til my little granddaughter is big enough to do the same for her!

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By glinda (Guest Post)
August 14, 20080 found this helpful

We had a dress up box when my kids were young. They are all about grown now, and long since left the world of make believe. But, what fun they had with it! We also put in vintage outfits, with wigs, hats, and gloves for the girls, and old prom dresses, Then hats, vest, and ties for the boys, and then we made fake mustaches out of "stretched out" cotton balls. You can also do outfits like clown, a profession, like a dog catcher, or policeman. But, my kids loved the old vintage outfits the best, and would parade around with them on, it made for great pictures! My nieces and nephew also enjoyed the dress up box.


I believe children need to get a good dose of creative flair to their daily "learning". And have fun doing it. We got most of our stuff for our dress up box from thrift stores, (machine washed the wigs). and from yardsales. So, alot of fun for little money, and it really gave my heart joy to see them having so much fun, and growing with their creative flair. An excellent idea for children. We also put on little "skits" with the kids around the holidays with their dress up time, they sure had a good time, and so did we....

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