Imagination + History = Dress up!

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

As homeschool parents, we want our children to be excited about their studies and for their lessons to stick beyond the classroom.

However, some children have a difficult time imagining history beyond the pages of a textbook. They can’t easily picture life on the Western Front, or fighting as a gladiator in a Roman Coliseum!

A practical way you can help your children visualize and experience the period they’re learning about is by allowing them to use their imagination through dress up and reenactment.


Why Use Dress Up as a Way to Study History

It’s no wonder thousands of people still reenact events in history like the Battle of Gettysburg. People want to imagine the facts first-hand! This is why getting into character and dressing up can be a powerful tool in helping children understand history.

Emotionally connecting to historical events through dress up can help children appreciate its significance, plus it improves the use of imagination and makes learning feel like play!

Dressing up can also allow children to express the knowledge they’ve learned physically. Much like in science where it’s customary to follow up a new principle with a physical experiment, historical facts are often better absorbed and appreciated when expressed tangibly.


How to Implement Dress Up into your History Curriculum:

Here are a few suggestions of ways to work dress up into your school schedule


Visiting Living History Museums in Costume

There are countless ways you can include dress up into your lesson planning. One of our favorites is touring living history museums in costume. Whether you’re visiting on a field trip or as a vacation destination, your kids will have so much fun dressing the part they won’t even realize they’re getting a history lesson!

A few museums we’ve visited as a family are Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Valley Forge. Our (now not-so-little) kids loved feeling as if they stepped back in history. Their colonial dress-up attire made them blend in with the aesthetic, which gave them a sense of belonging to the location. This further helped to ingrain essential details of the period in their heads.

Here’s a photo of us at Colonial Williamsburg in 2006!

The Paks at Colonial Williamsburg

We suggest studying the location several weeks before the trip. This way children have a thorough knowledge of the era before the visit. Moreover, it gives them enough time to create an authentic outfit!

All in all, visiting living history museums in costume is a great way to include dress up into your curriculum. It’s also a fun and educational way to treat your children for their diligence throughout the study. If you’re interested in taking a trip to a historical location with your family, here’s a list of the top 10 living history museums in America.


Reciting Monologues in Historical Attire

Another unique way you can include dress up into your curriculum is by encouraging your child to recite monologues while dressed as a famous historical figure. This is a popular approach we’ve seen when studying notable speeches such as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream, or Winston Churchill’s We Shall Fight on the Beaches. By doing this, children can better connect themselves to the author’s thoughts and the prevailing condition surrounding the speech.

Check out this example video of a child reciting a monologue originally given by Ulysses Grant.


As you can see, the performer is in historically accurate 1800s dress-up clothes. Additionally, they have taken the time to memorize the text and incorporate props and gestures. Similar to this example, children can tape themselves as they recite the monologue, or they can present the speech in a skit or play.

A Day in the Life

Your children can experience dress up in the comfort of their own home by acting out a day in the life of a historical character. The assignment would be to bring the character to life through their everyday routines.

For example, if they’re learning about Victorian childhood, they would need to study the fashion of that era. Children would also need to research their mannerisms, diet, domestic tasks, and other forms of entertainment such as music, literature, and games.

One way you can implement this is by helping them prepare a common dish of that period. This is a great way to help children think from a different perspective, plus it satisfies everyone’s taste buds!

If you’re looking for historically inspired meals, check out our Time Travelers U.S. History Studies where you can find featured recipes from their respective period.

Dress-Up Games and Playtime

Dressing up as a way to study history doesn’t always have to be associated with an assignment. It can come in the form of a game as well. Take for instance a game within our Time Travelers American Revolution Series where we explain the history of the Minutemen. During this game, kids are challenged to get dressed in under a minute’s notice just as the historical soldiers did.

In the same way, you can incorporate unit studies into playtime. Just provide them with a historical costume and let their imagination do the rest! For example, if they’re studying about Plymouth Pilgrims, encourage them to get into costume and use a large cardboard box to “sail” away in the Mayflower.

There are endless ways you can make historical dress up as a form of entertainment in your home. Simply keeping clothes and props related to what they’re studying about around the house can encourage children to bring history into their everyday lives subconsciously.

Crafting Affordable Dress-Up Costumes

Including dress up into your history lessons may seem like a great idea, but when it comes to putting together authentic outfits, it can get expensive!

Before heading to the store, try searching the house for scrap fabric and old clothes you can repurpose to look like the real thing. You can also visit your local thrift store to see what’s available. You never know what hidden gems you may find!

Ready, Set, Dress Up!

Dressing up as a way to study history is the perfect solution for helping children remember what they’ve learned. It can help tactile learners better retain facts, and have fun while doing it –– something a textbook by itself can’t always accomplish.

We’ve provided just a few recommendations on how you can implement dress up into your history lessons. However, there is a multitude of other fun opportunities out there. If you have a successful way of implementing dress up into your school curriculum, please feel free to leave your comment below. And don’t forget to share this post!

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  • I did a Mary ingles Trail reenactment as a teenager and it definitely helped the story stick with me.

    Christina on

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