10 Dress-Up Costumes to Keep Kids Busy for Hours at a Time

published Jul 12, 2021
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Credit: From Left to Right: Meri Meri, Melissa & Doug, and Burke Decor

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As adults, we only really get one day a year to dress up and play “make believe” without feeling totally out of place, right? The occasion is called Halloween, and it’s still months away … sigh. On the other hand, our kids don’t have to wait till October 31 to  become an astronaut, ballerina, caped crusader, or doctor — and what’s even cooler? They don’t have to feel pressure to choose, either; they can throw on one outfit today and whip another one on tomorrow. The possibilities are truly endless.  

For my 4-year-son and 19-month-old daughter, dress up = life, and I’m happy to indulge their toddler couture curiosities, because who wouldn’t want to try another career or role on for size if given the opportunity and a chest full of costumes? So, in an effort to keep our tinies dreaming and our phones stocked with videos of all their pretend play pursuits, I’m sharing some of the best dress-up duds out there for toddlers and big kids alike.

From butterfly wings and chef whites to creative capes and fireman chief coats, these picks are worthy additions to any birthday lists or buys just because. 

Rose Butterfly Costume 

Have wings, will soar. That’s all we can hope for our little antennae-clad adventurers and their baby dolls or teddies (yep, they’ve got a pair of wings for toys, too!)! We love this set, because the neutral knitted design is durable and not over-the-top. And when they’re not in use, the wings can be hung up on a coat rack or command hook for double-duty bedroom decor! 

Superhero Color-In Cape 

Who else thinks that this is a much-better rendition of Doug Funny’s Quailman DIY? This lightweight, jersey-blend cape lets children color in their own hero ensemble. And if you’ve got a kid who goes rogue far more frequently than they stay in the lines (in more ways than one!), that’s okay — that’s what the practice color-in sheet is for! 

Melissa & Doug Chef Outfit

When they’re helping out in the grownup kitchen, a proper chef’s apron might be more appropriate, but when you’re a guest at their restaurants, they call the shots when it comes to style! This adorable machine-washable chef’s jacket and hat is perfect for mini Master Chefs. It comes with an oven mitt, three wooden utensils, plastic measuring spoons, plus a reusable name tag. This version can be personalized too, for an extra-special custom touch.

Meri Meri Lion Costume 

This beautiful canvas lion costume is just the thing you’ll want to pounce on for pretend play time! Featuring gold fringing, embroidered paws, stitched eyes and a nose, gold whiskers, a fabulous swishy tail, plus a gold glitter elastic hook and loop fastener, the wardrobing might just rival that of The Lion King on Broadway. 

Veterinarian Set With Accessories 

Have a budding Doc McStuffins in the family? Us too! These colorful animal print scrubs have become one of my daughter’s favorite things in the world. And for parents who have pets at home, this dress-up set is a great way to nurture tenderness, love, and care from your own baby animals from a very young age. 

Hot tip? We’ve actually been letting our girl play with and wear the mask, because she’ll be two years old in a few months and we want her to be up for the mask-wearing task (as long as it may last!).  

Market Apron & Market Chair Cover 

And then there are days when your tots might just want to throw something simple on over their jeans and tees. Little Adventures has a super-fresh franchise of costumes that pairs with mix and match chair covers, like this darling little grocer and check-out stand scenario. Protect your dining room chairs and let their imaginations run wild at the same time! 

Plan Toys Hairdresser Set

Wooden toys will always be a win in my book, so I’ve had this mini hairdresser set bookmarked for weeks! The stylist accessories are colorful and perfect for little hands, and they bear a striking resemblance to the pro tools your kids have probably taken note of when they’re getting their own cuts at the salon.  

Parent hack: Have a toddler who hasn’t gotten a haircut yet? Let big brother or sister practice ‘snipping’ some of their locks — and if you have to bribe babe with a lollipop, it certainly won’t be the first time! Just don’t let them near the real scissors.

Super Smalls Night Out Gem Makeup 

Not every costume needs head-to-toe accoutrements, either. If your munchkins want to dress up like a glamorous star, a fun reusable set like this one from Super Smalls might be just the thing to make them sparkle. The set itself comes with Mermaid, Fairy Princess, and Unicorn face gems, but all of the colorful decals can be remixed to look like Sea Monsters, Sparkly Dinosaurs, etc. Creative accessorizing can start at any age! 

Fire Chief Dress Up Set 

Speaking from experience, this classic costume is 🔥🔥🔥 — and not just because the bullhorn sound effects aren’t mind-numbing … though, that helps! Both of my kids have taken turns wearing it since Christmas, when they received it, and any time a fire truck races down our street, the sirens just fuel their fire! 

Hot tip? If you have littles who have just learned to walk, keep a close watch, because the jacket is long and the top-heavy helmet tends to topple pretty easily.

Silk Rainbow Cape 

Kids can make magic with anything they put their hands on — they’re way more flexible than we are! That’s why something as simple as a hand-dyed Playsilk can totally transform their open-ended play.

And why stop at just one? The silks come in over 15 different colorways, so buying in bulk goes a long way to encourage hours of limitless play.