Costume Storage

Tickle trunk or costume closet? How do you manage your costume collection?

Ever since Mr. Dressup, I have wanted my own tickle trunk. The red flower covered trunk was a magical thing, full of fun, launching on adventure after adventure.

So naturally, when I had children of my own I began collecting costumes.  Not just store bought but collected clothes. Pirates, cowboys, and dragons along with random hats, capes and belts were slowly added to our ever-growing pile. So what to do with it?

When it comes to dress ups, there are a few standard options each with their own benefits and limits. Let’s discuss some options.

Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk, at the CBC Museum in Toronto. Photo by JeremyW.

Tickle Trunks

The simplest go to is the trunk. Whether you use old suitcases that slide under a bed, a storage basket, or a box – any container can hold your costumes.  While cleanup can be as fast as jamming everything in until you can close the lid, the downside is the difficulty of searching through the piles.

Coat Racks and Hooks

If your collection is small, or if there are some daily favourites a coat rack or clothing tree can be a great option. They don’t take much space, are cost-effective, can be used almost anywhere.  Having the options visible can encourage children to dive into creative play, and when the play is done clean up is pretty easy. Of course, unless you line your rooms with hooks or create a cloakroom of coat trees, they have their limits as to how many costumes they can hold.

Dress Up Centres

If you need more space a dress-up centre can be a great solution. These purpose-built systems have a combination of hanging storage and open shelving for smaller items, as well as a mirror, to see how awesome you look!

The space-saving Rotating Dress Up Storage has 2 oval mirrors and 5 storage compartments, making it great for accessories and finishing touches but not full-length costumes.

The Toddler Dress Up Island and the slightly larger Dress Up Centre feature a hanging rail or hook area for long costumes, as well as shelves for accessories and space for shoes or boots. These systems are a great option for medium-sized collections and have the same benefit of being able to see the play clothes.

Costume Closets

The largest of the options is a full Dress Up Cupboard.  Similar to a wardrobe these are great options for larger collections and spaces where seeing the costumes would be a distraction like in shared spaces. Larger than the dress-up centres, these can be a beautiful furniture addition to a room, while containing all the costumes it can hold. With a shatterproof mirror on the inside of the doors and hooks inside this closet, it has an additional low shelf to hold your variety of costume pieces.

Ryan Roth Bartel is a father of 2 boys (elementary and pre-kindergarten).

The Benefits of Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is an important part of learning to empathize. As a child steps into another person’s shoes they are fitting into a different role.  As we all know, how they take on that role can be very entertaining. Acting as a parent, they can scold their children, organize chores and cook energetically.

In doing so they are recognizing the important job parents have.

As a construction worker they hammer in nails, saw wood and jackhammer concrete, all physical jobs appropriate to the role.

In pretending to be different people or jumping into imaginary situations, children are able to explore their knowledge and understanding of roles in a safe way. The benefits of this fun play are numerous and include:


To take on another role, children need to think from a different perspective. In doing this they begin to understand what it means to empathize.

Social skills

To play in a group and develop a dramatic play scenario, children need to work together. Asking questions, communicating and sharing are all part of the dramatic play experience.

Problem solving

Setting a problem such as how to organize a doctor’s office or deciding who should be the patient are typical problems children may encounter while engaging in dramatic play. Working out the problem and then finding a solution are essential skills which dramatic play helps to develop.

Conflict Resolution

As children play in a dramatic scenario, they can use their developing conflict resolution skills. Children can often feel more confident practicing these skills in an imaginary role than as themselves. Compromises can sometimes be reached more readily as children are already thinking outside their own experiences.

Dramatic Play is a wonderful opportunity to develop many essential skills. As educators all we have to do is provide the tools, sit back and enjoy watching learning happen naturally and maybe join in the play occasionally!

Healthy Living

With the New Year fast approaching our focus tends to shift from the indulgent to discipline. It seems hard to imagine right now as baking and feasting is in full effect in the holiday season. The new year, resolutions and a promise to eat and exercise better hits many of us. Our emotional wellness can also become a focus as some of us struggle with the long nights and shorter days. Taking advantage of this in the classroom seems appropriate as children may see their parents making an effort to live healthier.


Learning about types of foods, food groups and healthy eating provides children with the knowledge and understanding to begin making healthy choices.

The Deluxe Market Set includes one shopping basket and one bushel basket and 30 different types of freshly designed play food. Perfect for sorting and imaginative play, these foods are soft, rounded and easy for little ones to grasp.

All 4 groups are represented in this set of Food Groups. The 20 solid wood play food pieces are easy to sort and store in 4 handy wooden storage crates.

The pictures of vegetables in this Vegetables Puzzle are so lifelike they will encourage children to eat their fruits and vegetables every day!

This set of Growing Up Green Healthy Eating Fruit Puzzles can stimulate conversation about favourite fruits and features real photographs of essential food products. The warm climates pictured in the images are also a welcome sight during our winter months!


January weather can force us indoors so some options for fun gym time are great to have on hand.

With an easy turning steering wheel, Go Wheelie encourages active and imaginative play while reinforcing gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It makes a fun clicking noise as children drive to their destination and is a popular choice in any centre.

Stations are easy to set up with these Action Exercise Cards. Tilt the cards from side to side to see the exercise moves play out like a video screen. Use these fun cards to teach and reinforce popular exercise moves such as burpees, crunches, sit-ups,  and push-ups.


Encouraging children to identify and then control their emotions is an essential job of any educator.

This new set of Expressions Babies is so soft and appealing. The removable sleep sacks are easy for little fingers to manipulate and the facial expressions are easily recognizable.

This set consists of 24 wooden tiles with 12 different emotions. My Mood Memo encourages children to match emotions using memory skills.

For older children, the game of Tell Tale is a fun way to develop the art of storytelling. Players are guided through their own unique tale with cards illustrated with a variety of characters, settings, objects and emotions. With 4 ways to play, the creative storytelling options are endless.

Roadway System Review

I love to look through toy catalogues and create wish lists but I know I have neither the storage space nor the funds for all the items I find interesting.  Honestly, being budget conscious, many items get added to my ‘make this’ list instead of my ‘buy this’ list.  The Roadway System was one of those items I planned to make instead of buy – I even went to the lumber store to price out the supplies.  However, once I factored in the time it would take to cut, sand and paint all the pieces, I decided it would have to go on the ‘buy – someday when you have more money’ list.  So, when I was offered the opportunity to receive a product in exchange for writing a blog post about it I knew I had to include the Roadway System on the list of items I’d like to try.

My current group of five boys range in age from 22 months to 4 ½ years old.  They tend to get very excited and sometimes reckless so toy durability and safety are equally as important as play value. When I first unpacked the Roadway System I was very impressed by the quality and the size of the pieces – I would never have been able to make ones as nice as these. Often when I buy construction type toys I buy multiple sets in order to ensure there are enough pieces for all the children to use so I was a little concerned that ’42’ roadway pieces may not be enough but to date the boys have never run out of pieces for any project.

The pieces are easy to put together and take apart.  Even the youngest boy in the group needed no assistance;

There was a little frustration at first because several of the pieces (as seen in the photo above) have one connection point with tabs and two connection points with spaces resulting in many more spaces than tabs.  The boys have since decided that when they leave these spaces lined up with a straight edge or another piece with spaces it creates ‘potholes’ in the road – bringing real life experience into play.

I really like that the pieces are thin enough that the children can walk across the roads without tripping and yet strong enough that they will not bend or break.  Standing on toys is usually discouraged but for these it is OK;

They boys did also complain that they couldn’t make a circle road – they kept choosing some pieces that curved one direction and at least one that curved the ‘wrong’ way and wouldn’t work unless it was upside down. I wouldn’t show them how to do it but I did encourage them to take a closer look at the eight curves and sort them into groups.  Eventually they figured it out and made TWO circles.

I found it quite amusing that the boys use the crosswalk sections of roadway as ‘jail’. Any cars caught speeding are escorted there by the police car and must stay on the ‘bars’ until they are permitted to drive again. We’ve been working on getting all the cars to drive on the right side of the road so there are fewer collisions between vehicles driving in opposite directions.  This may however just be my point of view – I think sometimes the collisions are actually their intended outcome.

We’ve been spending the majority of our playtime outdoors but since I first introduced this roadway system it has been their favourite indoor toy.  For weeks now, with the exception of a few trips to the housekeeping area to make food for the hungry drivers, they have played exclusively with the roadway when they are in the playroom.  They have become expert roadway designers;

I love the little ‘parking lots’ they add.  Note all those ‘extra’ pieces still in the bin and no one is complaining that they ran out of pieces.  With most of the other construction toys the boys become quite competitive – trying to build structures that are bigger/better than what the other boys are building.  With the roadway there are some racing competitions but the construction is always cooperative.  Making this MY favourite building set too.

Cheryl is an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).

Fun with Family Counters

These All About Me Family Counters are one of the favourite things to play with at the moment.

I am not sure if it is the colour, the quality or the sheer amount of people that make them so appealing, but something works!

Daisy enjoyed organizing them into parties. Here is a circle of friends.

She made patterns and asked Rose, “What comes next?”.

These counters are designed for making your family, patterning, sorting and counting but in our house, everything is used for dramatic play.

With a little balancing, the baby can sit on mama or papa’s hip.

Yet another of the girl’s parties. Rose likes to grab a few people, have conversations and move them about the house.

Yes, they do end up everywhere.

They will be venturing outside to play in the garden soon. We will keep you posted as to what they get up to.

Number Ducks Fun

With there not being a chance of getting a pool outside for months, we have been enjoying water play inside, in other ways.

These include learning to dry non-breakable dishes, playing in the bath and sensory water tub play using:

Water has such a wonderful, calming effect on Rose in particular. She is 2 1/2 and often struggles with temper and sensory overload. Water provides a break for her. She can focus on the feeling of water running through her fingers, play with the effects water has on objects and enjoy listening to the sounds made by moving water. The conversations that come from water play are great!

Here she is organizing her ‘ducks in a row’ and talking to them. Counting the dots on the duck’s back helps her remember number order and associate oral numbers with physical counts. The number figure on the bottom is more useful for Daisy who is currently working on number formation.

Ideas for Setting up Water Play

  • Investigate which objects float and sink?
  • Match shapes with Shape Shell Turtles
  • Sort objects in water by colour, shape, size, weight etc.
  • Investigate which container holds more
  • Go fishing
  • Give a doll a bath
  • Explore ocean life

Whatever you are doing at the water centre have fun and enjoy the conversations!