The 8 Best Toddler Dress-Up Clothes for Make-Believe Play
When you have young children, it doesn’t have to be Halloween for the costumes to come out. In fact, playing dress-up is a great way for toddlers and children to express their creativity and engage in pretend play, and even provides important developmental benefits too! If you find that your little one’s dress-up trunk is lacking, though, we’ve got you covered. From princesses to superheroes and everything in between, we’ve found the best toddler dress-up clothes to fulfill even the wildest of imaginations.
According to a study published in Pediatrics, “play and learning are inextricably linked”—and that includes playing dress up. In fact, there are numerous developmental, cognitive, emotional and social benefits linked specifically to pretend play.
One such benefit to playing dress-up as a child is the development of improved communication skills. “Dress up, make believe and imaginary play encourage the use of more sophisticated language to communicate with playmates,” the authors write, while also highlighting how pretend play encourages self-regulation (or the ability to manage your own behaviors, reactions and emotions) in children. And if that wasn’t enough, research highlighted in Scientific American shows that playing pretend and dress up also help children develop important social skills, such as problem solving and empathy.
All in all, playing dress up isn’t just fun and games (though that’s important too!). Now that you’re set on stocking up your child’s dress-up trunk, here are our favorite toddler dress-up clothes to choose from.
The little princess in your life will adore the princess dress-up clothes from Little Adventures. The Sleepy Beauty Princess costume will make your child feel like royalty, thanks to the pink velvet bodice and beautiful embroidered jewels. (Throw in the Little Adventures white gloves and a silver tiara for the finishing touches.) But if Sleeping Beauty isn’t your little one’s princess of choice, don’t worry: Little Adventures has equally great Cinderella, Rapunzel and “Yellow Beauty” options to choose from. Whatever princess you select, your toddler will appreciate the easy-on, easy-off design with no zippers, buttons or scratchy fabrics. Plus, this princess dress-up outfit is glitter-free (praise!), machine-washable (double-praise!) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. What more could parents or little ones want?
Size range: Small (1-3 years) to 3XL (11-13 years) | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Machine wash cold, hang to dry
- Costumes have no itchy underskirt or unfinished seams, offering maximum comfort
- Brand offers a wide size range
- Accessories are sold separately
Whether your toddler loves Batman, Robin, Superman or The Flash, these superhero dress-up clothes from Rubie’s Child have you covered. The 21-piece dress-up set has everything your toddler needs to transform into the superhero of their choosing (including shirts, capes, masks, gloves and accessories). Not to mention, the pull-on designs and elastic straps make it easy for children to dress themselves easily and quickly—no phone booth required—leaving more time for these tiny superheroes to save the day!
Size range: Ages 4+ | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Spot-clean as needed
- Includes its own trunk for easy storage
- Multiple accessories and outfit options make this a great bang for your buck
- Not machine-washable
- One size option
Ahoy mini-mateys! This pirate dress-up set from Melissa & Doug comes with an embroidered vest, felt hat, eye-patch and a soft sword (to ensure no injuries), successfully turning any toddler into a buccaneer and any playroom into the high seas. (We also love this toy parrot to take your toddler’s pirate get-up to the next level.) Plus, these are play clothes designed to last (thanks to their durable, machine-washable fabrics), making them a quality addition to any dress-up trunk.
Size range: Ages 3 to 6 | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Machine-washable vest, wipe clean accessories
- Vest closes with velcro for easy on and off
- Includes three accessories for a complete pirate get-up
- Only one size option
For the kid that prefers flipping fins, Great Pretenders has you covered with their lilac mermaid dress. It’s not only fashionable (thanks to a metallic tail skirt and crystal organza fins), but also functional, with a ruched and stretchy top for easy-on and off, added comfort and size flexibility. Complete the ensemble with the included ocean flower headband for the perfect under-the-sea fantasy.
Size range: S (ages 2-4) to L (ages 6-8) | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Machine wash cold, gentle cycle, drip dry
- Mermaid skirt keeps your kiddo’s feet free for easy movement
- Limited size options
Did anybody call a doctor? Your little one will be ready to take care of their imaginary patients once they sport this doctor dress-up outfit (which features a white lab coat and green scrubs pants) from Great Pretenders. This costume also comes with six accessories—including a mask, white hat, toy stethoscope (which lights up and makes sounds!), toy syringe and toy thermometer—to help your little doctor provide the best “treatment” possible. This dress-up outfit also comes with a reusable garment bag, which makes storage and clean-up a breeze when the doctor is off-duty.
Size range: Ages 3 to 4 | Fabric: 100 percent polyester | Cleaning: Machine wash cold, gentle cycle, no bleach, hang to dry
- Six included accessories means no extra purchases
- Doctor’s coat velcros on and off, making dressing easier for toddlers
- Size range is limited
Fake fires don’t stand a chance when your child is dressed up in this firefighter outfit from Melissa & Doug. This firefighter dress-up set comes with a fire chief hat and jacket (complete with reflective accents and a customizable name tag) for your little one to look the part. Helping them play the part is the included fire extinguisher and bullhorn (with sound effects to boot!). And when a long day of fighting fires and pretend play is done, this costume set is machine-washable. Now that’s a dress-up win-win!
Size range: Ages 3 to 6 | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Machine-washable jacket, wipe clean accessories
- Jacket is oversized to fit a wide-range of ages, and opens and closes with velcros (not buttons or hooks)
- Includes five accessories
- Only one size option
- Bullhorn only makes sound effects, isn’t functional
For the little Einsteins in your life, look no further than this scientist dress-up outfit from Bigjigs Toys. The official white lab coat will make your child look like an expert scientist (even if they haven’t started kindergarten yet). And once dressed, they can conduct infinite numbers of imaginary experiments with the included wooden toy test tubes, beaker and tweezers. (And those ready for real experiments can check out this science lab activity set from Learning Resources.) But as every good scientist knows, safety comes first—even in a pretend lab—so be sure to have your little one always sport the included goggles and gloves!
Size range: Ages 3 to 5 | Fabric: Cotton/polyester | Cleaning: Machine-washable
- Lab coat is part cotton, making it extra soft
- Toy test tubes and beakers are wooden, making them more eco-friendly and durable
- Only one size option
The astronaut dress-up outfit from Aeromax is so realistic, even NASA might be fooled. The spacesuit—which comes in white, orange and pink—features official NASA patches, and the cap is embroidered with the NASA logo, making your little one feel and look mission-ready. The Aeromax astronaut suit can also be customized with your kiddo’s name, adding a personal touch to the already-cool spacesuit. And for the space-obsessed little one, add on the astronaut boots, backpack or space helmet for an out-of-this-world ensemble.
Size range: Sizes 2/3 (25-33 pounds) to 12/14 (80-110 pounds) | Fabric: Polyester | Cleaning: Machine-washable
- Size range is expansive, fitting a wide range of children
- Available in multiple colors and can be customized
- Accessories are extra
To help you find the best toddler dress-up clothes on the market today, we did extensive research to identify the best-selling, highest-quality and all-around top-notch options out there, combing through user reviews, leveraging our familiarity with leading toy brands and relying on our own experiences as parents of little ones. We looked at factors such as fabric (seeking out soft, non-itchy materials), design (with a focus on how simple it was for toddlers and young children to put on and off themselves), easiness to clean, included accessories and cost to find high-quality toddler dress-up clothes that won’t only stand the test of time, but also appeal to your imaginative child.
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Pediatrics, The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children, September 2018
Scientific American, The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development, November 2013