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Positive lessons from the Disney Princess Academy

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What role do Disney Princesses play in your little one’s life, mama? Mama Crystal took away some positive lessons from the Dream Big, Princess Academy

Hundreds of girls and boys graduated from Princesses-and-Princes-in-Training to certified Disney Princesses and Princes with a little help from a Fairy Godmother-in-Training, Princesses Sofia, Cinderella and Rapunzel at the Dream Big, Princess Academy event held at Hotel Fort Canning.

dream big princess academy participants

As mothers we get so many competing messages about how to raise strong confident children. I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the many criticisms of the Disney Princess brand. However, while I acknowledge that there are some valid critiques, it’s easy to sit and pick apart these characters without seeing the magic and wonder they bring to our children. After attending Princess Academy with my two daughters, I’d argue that positive lessons far outweigh the bad.

Princess Sofia of Enchancia was the first Princess to visit Princess Academy. If you have your doubts about the old-school Princesses, tune in to Sofia the First on Disney Jr and meet a dynamic, modern princess—who started life as just another girl in the village until her mom married King Roland. In the very first episode of the show, “Just One of the Princes”, Sofia wants to try out for the Flying Derby team. She’s told that it’s not a “princess thing” in a song that reinforces traditional stereotypes. But with the encouragement of her mother, Queen Miranda, Sofia earns a spot. We see Sofia, Amber and Wei-Ling save their fathers and brothers from the Jade Jaguar in “Princesses to the Rescue!” in season two. With each episode, Sofia forges a very different path from the one we’re used to seeing, and in doing so, she helps those around her grow and change for the better as well.

After Sofia taught the children to curtsey and bow, they were ready to meet the next princess, Cinderella!

The world is obsessed with the Cinderella myth. It has appeared throughout time from China’s Ye Xian (860 CE) to the 17th century Charles Perrault story of Cendrillion (which the Disney film is based on), to modern movies like 2015’s live action Disney remake of the movie. The idea of that someone can go from rags to riches inspires us all to dream big.

dream big princess academy cinderella

Cinderella teaches us that hard work, while important, must also be balanced out by dreaming. Exams, from early assessments in P1 and P2, to the PSLE in P6, are a constant worry for Singapore parents. Expats worry about how our children will adjust to life in Singapore, and the eventual re-adjustment to our home country.

Sometimes, we need to remind our children (and ourselves) to dream. It’s healthy to lose oneself in a daydream, to spend an afternoon drawing and painting, or creating an interpretative dance to their favourite song. Whatever helps them (and us—get an adult colouring book and join the craze!) take a break and recharge.

dream big princess academy rapunzel

Our final guest of the afternoon was Rapunzel. Like Sofia, Rapunzel is not content to wait for someone else to help her fulfil her dreams. When Flynn comes to her tower, she bribes him to take her to see the floating lanterns which she’s always wanted to see. She fearlessly makes friends and finds her own happy ending. All because she left her tower.

Rapunzel teaches us to that we must try new things, even when they’re scary. Is your ballet school doing a recital at the end of the year? Remember Rapunzel and fearlessly dance for the audience. Never tried that food? Rapunzel would give it a try and so should you!

dream big princess academy cookie decorating

During the Cinderella and Rapunzel meet-and-greets, half the children lined up for a photo-op with the princess while the other half did a craft. During the Cinderella segment, children were encouraged to decorate heart-shaped cookies with bags of frosting and bowls of sprinkles. Points to the event-planners for remembering to give each child a special box to carry their creation home in. There were also heart-shaped pieces of paper to decorate, perhaps as a card to give with the cookie. During Rapunzel’s photo-op, children decorated what turned out to be overly complicated lamps that did not quite go together as planned (even with the help of the many assistants circulating).

At the end of the event, each child was made an official Disney Princess or Prince, complete with certificate and a photo with Sofia the first. There wasn’t a frown in sight as the children believed in Disney Magic, and stood a little a taller, knowing they were real Princesses and Princes.

Are there things to criticise the Disney Princess brand for? Sure. There are always ways in which a company can do to strive to be better. To focus on the past is to ignore the present. From Merida and Queen Eleanor’s complex mother/daughter relationship, to Elsa and Anna’s lessons that sisterhood is powerful, not to mention Sophia’s refusal to accept the status quo, Tiana’s work ethic, and Rapunzel’s bravery (among others), our children are learning that being a princess means that you must be an active participant in your own life and taking responsibility for your choices.

Those are lessons everyone can stand to learn and relearn.

dream big princess academy

My two daughters were thrilled with the event. In the future I’d advise the event planners to cut the number of attendees in half and do more, shorter sessions. While the idea of having half the children do a meet-and-greet while the other children do a craft was well-intended, the younger princes and princesses became quite anxious and restless by the second hour. Three hours was perhaps a bit too long. Scheduling this event in the middle of the week also meant that working parents were unable to accompany their children.

For more on this global campaign, including other upcoming events, check out www.dreambigprincess.asia!

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