Here my castle, Mommy,” your little one declares as she crawls beneath the kitchen table in your old heels and her blue sparkly dress, which she hasn’t taken off since Halloween. You hear her ordering around her stuffed animals and planning an opulent feast.
Sounds like the princess stage is underway! Despite some criticisms in popular culture about girls — and some boys, too — going through a “princess mania” phase dominated by pink, tiaras and more pink that reinforces gender stereotypes, this phase isn’t all bad — in fact, according to Common Sense Media, some princesses in popular culture, from the real to the imaginary, are positive role models for young children. Not to mention, by engaging in pretend play, your toddler or preschooler is learning to care for others, develop her language skills, and problem solve.
Though your daughter teaching her stuffed cat to wear a tiara might be an everyday, status-quo occurrence in your home, take note there is great developmental stuff at work here. By playing princess, your child is exercising something powerful and important to her — her imagination. As Scholastic.com notes, by pretending to be someone else, kids have the priceless experience of “walking around in someone else’s shoes,” which helps them to develop empathy. Pretend play also boosts kids’ self-esteem, develops their language skills and fosters critical thinking . So don’t interrupt the bizarre games — by donning her feather boa and fake-crying, your prima donna’s brain is virtually exploding with all the connections being made.
Who knew?Bravery and Strength
Whether it’s nightmares, the big kid swings or dogs she’s afraid of, your child wants to conquer these fears. She wants to be brave. And some modern princesses might give her inspiration — Mulan, the Chinese princess in the Disney film “Mulan,” impersonates a man and takes her father’s place in battle. Rapunzel in “Tangled” escapes her tower-prison after 18 years so she can finally see the world and find her real family. Playing princess isn’t all tea parties and balls for your kiddo — it’s practicing having the guts she needs to navigate a sometimes scary world.
It’s not likely that your child is getting her kicks from playing an evil, wicked princess serving her dolls poisonous potions. “Princess” seems to be synonymous with “kindness,” and as your kiddo pretends to show charity to others, she’s exercising a key muscle that she’s learning serves her well in life. Encourage your child’s instincts by showing her a real, live princess who embodies what it means to be kind — Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who married Prince William in 2011. Your princess wannabe will be all ears hearing about Kate’s genuine, pleasant personality, and how she is known to treat everyone equally. Just get ready for lots and lots of questions about how to speak with an British accent!
Playing princess provides children with a model for something they’re already beginning to observe in their world and become interested in — yikes! — love and relationships. Thankfully, there are some solid models out there. Take the real-world princess’s love story, for example. Princess Kate and Prince William did many things in a way we’d all like our kids to. Before marriage, they knew each other for eight years; they broke up, reflected on their feelings, then got back together; and lastly, they got their degrees and established their own identities. What’s more, they seem to genuinely like and love one another — all things mommies pray their wee princesses take note of.