Trunk of used clothing, hats, accessories, make-up, etc
Form into small groups of approx 4 to 6 people.
Assign one person, possibly an adult, to be a ‘mannequin’ for each small group.
Distribute or provide access to a trunk full of clothes, hats, accessories, etc.
Instruct each group to ‘dress’ their assigned mannequin however they choose.
Allow 10 to 20 minutes for each group to dress their mannequin (preferably in secret.)
When ready, invite each mannequin to perform a ‘catwalk’ for everyone to enjoy.
How To Play Narrative
Unless you already have pre-assigned groupings, separate your group into teams of about four to six people, and allocate one willing staff member, or volunteer participant, to act as the ‘mannequin’ or ‘model’ for each team.
Then, with all the pomp and pageantry you can muster, announce that each team will have approx 20 minutes (you decide) to dress their mannequin in whatever and however they like.
Other than all the clothing, costumes, make-up, etc that they can get their hands on, there are no limits to how they may ‘dress’ their mannequin – the more bizarre the better.
Allow each small group to prepare/dress in private, and then upon returning to the common meeting area, suggest that the embellishments of each ‘model’ are kept secret, perhaps using a blanket, until they are finally exposed.
As the models shrug off their covers, ask them to give a little cat-walk performance reflecting the spirit of their ‘dress.’
Expect howls of laughter.
Practical Leadership Tips
They don’t come much more silly than this activity. So, pick your moment and your group. And by all means, dive right into the enthusiasm of the event and enjoy.
To be fair, this was a favourite evening program from my summer camp days, but I know from experience that adults love to dress up, too.
To ramp up the excitement, be sure to play some appropriate ‘catwalk’ music in the background during the revealing performances.
Health & Wellness Programming
Inviting one person to be the subject of a group’s artistic whims opens many opportunities to explore the development and exercise of certain social and interpersonal skills. For example, while the various small groups may enjoy the challenge of decorating their mannequin, everyone must remember that there’s a real person (with real feelings) involved. Opportunities to read a variety of social cues as expressed by the mannequin are a good starting point, not to mention all of the team-based competencies required to be successful, eg compromise, resolving conflict, cooperating with others, showing compassion and empathy towards the mannequin, etc. Take a look at the Reflection Tips tab for some useful starting points to process your group’s experience.
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Dress Me Ups Theme: Adopt a particular theme by which the dressing should comply, eg occupations, the traditional dress of foreign countries, cocktail party, etc.
Body Paint: If deemed appropriate, the willing models wear only their swim-wear (recommend one-piece suits for women,) and let their group paint their bodies. Non-toxic, water-based paints are a must, and expect just as much fun, but a whole lot more mess.
Limited Resources: Restrict the items that can be used to ‘dress up’ a model, eg only newspaper, bath towels, toilet tissue, etc.
Op Shop Challenge: If possible, provide a small amount of money, say $30, to each small group and permit them to visit a second-hand clothing store (or Op Shop, as I know them) to purchase all of the clothing, accessories, etc, they want.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Most of us enjoy the opportunity to get dressed up on occasions, and if this sounds like you, then you’ll love this next small group exercise…
Imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning and have other people dress you, a bit like when you were very young and you were dressed by your parents. What if you had no say in this process…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, community-building event:
How did it feel to be ‘decorated’ by your group?
How did it feel to be responsible for dressing your candidate?
In what ways was your group successful? Not successful?
What challenges did you encounter during this experience?
What social cues did you pick up on during the exercise?
In what ways did you respond to these various cues?
How did your group demonstrate compassion and/or empathy?
Is there a difference between compassion and empathy?
The inspiration for Dress Me Ups, and many more fun, community-building games, was sourced from the following publication: