Many, if not all, of the princesses that we knew and loved from our grandmother's storybooks make the modern woman cringe. They are meek, fretful characters who think landing a man in white tights is achieving their life goal. However, there is no denying that girls are predisposed to the idea of princesses. Not all girls will reach for the tiara in a room full of toys but many will.
This leaves us asking the question, is there any room for princesses in modern society? And should we discourage our girls from idolising these characters?
The answer is not in shaming or embarrassing any child for what they enjoy. The answer is in simply explaining the whole story to them.
With 21st century characters like Princess Elsa from Frozen, and books like Don't Kiss the Frog, young girls can see that strong, smart women are allowed to like wearing pretty dresses too.
At Mentone Girls' Grammar School's Early Learning Centre (ELC) you are very likely to run into many of these new-age characters. The majority of students still love princesses and they are free to play with them, just as they are free to build with blocks and play with trains. Their aim is not to discourage princesses but to expose students to a vast array of other activities as well.
Students also explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the ELC to understand how and why the world works, and everything is related back to what interests them – be it princesses, trains or robots.
For example, on an excursion to Mentone Beach, a student announced, 'See that rock? That's where Ariel lives.'
The students began exploring Ariel's home and noted the variety of natural objects on the beach. They began placing them in a bucket of water which sparked conversations about what sank and what floated. They continued with the theme of buoyancy back at school and, visited the Head of Science to conduct experiments. Princesses may have been where the theme started but science is where it ended thanks to the teachers bridging the concepts for them.
ELC Team Leader, Mrs Fiona Shepherd, said, "Our curious, questioning students are challenged by the teachers to discover information by asking deeper questions, to develop the ability to think creatively and problem solve.
"What excites me about our ELC is that we not only provide structured learning in literacy and numeracy, but also in music and movement, science, technology, engineering, visual arts and physical education. We stimulate our students with frequent excursions, exploring the environment beyond the classroom. This includes trips to the beach, parks and the local community. Most importantly, the girls love visiting the older girls in the Junior and Senior School, and benefiting from the positive role modelling of watching them focus and learn.
"From the very first Kindergarten PYP unit, How We Express Ourselves, we teach our students the vocabulary they need to speak respectfully to others, to negotiate and to express their ideas. Friendships are formed and fostered in our ELC and the girls develop a deeper understanding of tolerance, empathy and communication.
"Upon entering school, our students are ahead of the pack because of the foundation laid in the ELC. Our teaching and curriculum prepares girls to succeed in the next stage of their learning journey, and to be leading women of the world.
"At our ELC, we are very fortunate to benefit from an all-girls environment. There is a vast amount of research which tells us that girls and boys learn differently. This means that we can plan to their learning strengths and provide the most conducive learning environment for girls."
So there is no need to bin the tiara and tutus just yet. There's nothing wrong with loving princesses, but introduce other games, characters and toys to your daughter's playtime to give her the 'whole picture' of what being a girl can mean to her.