Just imagine… (if you could spend the whole day dressing up)

posted in: Nick Sharratt, Pippa Goodhart | 9

Picture Book Month‘s theme of the day today is Imagination and I couldn’t have the more perfect book to share with you!

Just Imagine by by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart is one of my top 5 picture books of 2012. Ever since we first heard rumours about a follow up book to another family favourite by the same team, You Choose, we were waiting like kids for Christmas.

A book full of story starters, eye-openers and first steps on adventure, each double page spread in Just Imagine invites its readers to think what it would be like to be someone or something else. Imagine being magical, being a pet, living underground, or being just a few centimetre tall. What would it be like to live in the sea, or the sky? Where would you choose to time travel to?

Just Imagine asks its readers to take the most inviting flights of fancy, with just a few open ended questions and then a panoply of bold, bright and often funny illustrations to pick and choose from, to be inspired by. Imagine instead of a sweetie shop, an ideas shop – one you could enter and instantly feel excited by the possibilities – that’s exactly what Just Imagine is like.

A wonderful book for starting conversations, suggesting stories, and for developing a sense of empathy by encouraging readers to think what it is like to step into the shoes of others, this is a book I would love to see in every home and every primary school.

The arrival of Just Imagine was the perfect excuse to tidy up and revamp our dressing-up supplies; what easier way is there to imagine yourself into another character or place than by dressing up?

M the Person from a Magical Land and J the Lady Going Shopping

Our top 10 items for inclusion in or near a dressing up box are:-

  • Outsized coats eg lab coat, fake fur coat, dressing gown – in fact I think kids love anything which is outsized, so don’t restrict yourself to kids’ clothing when looking for stuff for your dressing up box
  • Pieces of fabric, especially with different textures, light enough and long enough to wrap around oneself to create all manner of outfits. Silk scarves are great, and so are saris.
  • Bags of all sorts, from rucksacks to suitcases to handbags. Kids love packing them with “goodies” and taking them on adventures. Can also be turned into doctor’s kits or emergency worker’s kits.
  • Bag contents eg old mobiles, old keys, purses, gloves, sunglasses, MONEY, magnifying glass, calculator, mini notepads. These little details are much loved by my two.
  • Wigs. A wig seems to create an instant transformation like nothing else. Fake beards are good too!
  • Jewellery. Great for wearing, even better for being hidden treasure.
  • A floor length mirror. We took a mirrored door off an old and skip-destined wardrobe and attached that to the wall of the girls’ bedroom.
  • Things to help everything stick together and stay up: we use a mixture of butterfly clips, elasticated belts, ribbons and brooches. Your kids might also be happy with safety pins.
  • Shoes
  • Books, books, books. Sometimes we all need a bit of inspiration, and where better than from a book. Obviously Just Imagine would be the perfect book to include in a dressing up box, but the book I most recently added to the girls’ dressing up stock was People by Blexbolex, but I’ve included more recommendations below.
  • J the Rich Lady and M the Tibetan Goddess

    Whilst I love to sew, I’m no good at making costumes (unlike the amazing Ikat Bag). But, I do do a nice line in cloaks and capes. I got a whole load of curtain samples very cheap from John Lewis once, and they make the most brilliant regal cloaks or even super hero capes with just the addition of a brooch, or a simply sewn on hook and eye.

    M the Fire Fairy and J the Fairest of Them All (wearing a cloak made from a curtain)
    M the Alien Ghost

    Dressing up storage is always a problem for us. I’ve seen lots of lovely ideas, but always end up using the “stuff back in a drawer” solution… Still, if we had more space, and more time for tidying up, then I might go for this DIY dressing up storage cupboard from Learn with Play at home, or this DIY foldable rack from Smile and Wave.

    M the Fortune Teller and J the Indian Princess (what could M be saying to J in this picture??)

    For one last word (or few) on dressing up I’d like to quote Cathy at NurtureStore: “Bear in mind your own approach to this kind of play. Dressing up is one area of play where I often see adults treating girls and boys differently. Do you offer children different costumes depending on whether they’re a boy or girl? Maybe you can have all the resources available and let the children decide who they’re going to be?

    Me dressed by the kids to look like “Granny” (Love you, Mum!)

    Whilst dressing up you might enjoy listening to:

  • Dressing Up by The Wiggles
  • Dressing Up by Charlie Gracie (you can listen to the whole song for free on YouTube here)
  • We Dress Ourselves by Princess Katie and Racer Steve
  • Dressing Up by Lois & Bram Sharon

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading this book include:

  • Enjoying The Colossal Book of Costumes: Dressing up Around the World by Joelle Jolivet or Pretty Costumes Colouring Book by Nellie Ryan.
  • Browsing through an art gallery and choosing the pictures you’d like to step into, imagining what life might be like inside that picture.
  • Visiting a miniature world / model village so you can get a sense for what it might be like if you were a giant. I’d love to take the girls to Madurodam.
  • Reading books about children’s lives around the world, and imagining what their lives are like, how they are the same and different from our own. Some great books for this include the Dorling Kindersley Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World and the Frances Lincoln series A Child’s Day, one of which is included in the my giveaway which is still open (worldwide) here.

  • Wishing you a day full of imagination!

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book I’ve reviewed today from the publisher. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.

    9 Responses

    1. Loll Kirby

      What a brilliant post! We’re huge fans of ‘You Choose’ too and our copy of ‘Just Imagine’ should be arriving any day now. If it’s possible, I’m even more excited about it now that I’ve seen this review. Also, we’re expanding our dressing up box at the moment and this has given us some great ideas. Thanks!
      Loll Kirby recently posted..Oxfam storytelling sessions

    2. rhythm

      This looks like a fabulous book! As does the other one you mentioned — You Choose. I don’t care too much for dressing up, but I know that kids love to! I’ve added both these books to my wish list! Thanks for sharing them!
      rhythm recently posted..I’m Confused!

    3. choxbox

      We LOVED You Choose, and I have been eyeing Just Imagine for a while – I think I should get it now without further ado.

      And have you been to Bekonscot Model Village?! One of our top favourite places and a must-visit during a UK trip.

    4. Pippa Goodhart

      Thank you so much for saying such nice things about You Choose and Just Imagine! And I’m absolutely with you on the wonders of a good dressing-up box. I was a child who struggled with reading and writing, and certainly never imagined one day writing books. BUT I did love let’s pretend games, helped by a good dressing-up box and like-minded friends, and I’m sure that’s where I learned to make-up stories. I played them rather than wrote them at that stage.

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