The Princess Party Debate


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The princess birthday party - with its accompanying tiaras and poufy dresses - has become a mainstay of contemporary girlhood. It's a ritual many families embrace, but a growing number of mothers are resisting the impulse to celebrate birthdays this way, concerned that it clashes with the values they are trying to instill in their girls.

Not so enchanted

Julie Doring of Durham, says her 4-year-old daughter Zoe, wanted a princess party, "but I just hate all that princess stuff," Doring says. "I don't want Zoe to start to prefer dressing up and having tea parties to going outside and being physical," she says.

So Doring enlisted Zoe as a helper when they went shopping for party decorations, pointing out non-princess things she might like. "We ended up with butterfly plates and a giant purple unicorn," she laughs.

Amy Pine of Durham had a similar reaction when her 5-year-old requested a princess party. "I don't like that princesses are often waiting for the prince," she says. "I encourage dressing up, but I try to steer her away from the princess thing." They settled on a rainbow sparkle theme.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate my Daughter, believes the princess culture does girls a disservice. She pointed out during a phone interview that it's the limited choices that irk her most.

"The merchandising of Disney princess movies presents consumerism and appearance as hallmarks of what it is to be a girl," she says. "It's so limiting."

Furthermore, Orenstein says, gender segregation is inherent in the princess party. "Preschool parties didn't used to be gender segregated," she says. "Princess parties reinforce the idea that boys and girls shouldn't celebrate together."

Delightful dress-up

Shannon Thornberg, a Durham mother to twin girls Sophie and Jacqueline, finds Orenstein's arguments compelling, but is not completely sold on a princess party's negative impact.

"We did give the girls a princess party for their first birthday party," she says. "It was pink and sparkly and we thought it was cute. But more importantly, the twins coming into our world after seven years of trying, fertility treatments and two miscarriages really did feel like a fairy tale."

As the girls have grown older, Thornburg has worked hard to honor their choices when it comes to imaginary play, and finds the whole debate about princesses a bit perplexing.

"It frustrates me that moms make such a big deal about girl-themed toys while boys are not subject to the same scrutiny," she adds. "If children are making imaginative leaps and bounds playing with princesses, who cares?" she says.

Jennifer Albrecht of New Hope agrees. When her daughter Samantha turned 5, she treated her (and 10 of her friends) to a tea party complete with tiaras, up-dos and an appearance by Belle, the princess from Beauty and the Beast. The party took place in a historic home owned by Cindy Wahler whose company, Grandma's Princess, brings the princess fantasy to life.

"The girls were so excited," Albrecht says. "They got to choose a gown, have their nails and makeup done, and pretend to be princesses. It was a very special day, and my daughter was thrilled.

Stephanie Dickerson, owner of Fairy Tale Dreamer in Raleigh and mother to a 4-year-old daughter, says her company - which sends princesses to birthday parties - also emphasizes and encourages using imagination.

"I think the real attraction for young girls is that they still believe in magic," she says. "They believe that princesses are real."

Dickerson resists the characterization of princesses as inherently passive or superficial. "All the Disney princessesare smart, strong-willed women, and I think they are good role models," she says. "Girls can learn a lot about manners and independence from the princess stories."

Still, Orenstein is not convinced. "It's not that imaginative when girls are all using their imagination the same way," she says. "Playing princess seems innocent because it seems like the way we played when we were kids, but it's a script created by companies that are selling merchandise. And it's leading them someplace that isn't necessarily healthy."

Jill Moffett is a freelance writer, editor and mother in Durham.
 

Princess Party Alternativesalternative-princess-party.jpg

Tired of the princess theme? Here are three suggestions from Triangle moms for alternative ways to celebrate your little girl's birthday.

Also see our party services directory. to find party entertainers, destinations and supplies.

Magical fairyland

Before Belle, there was Tinkerbelle. "The fairy girls are smart, can-do types who use their talents to save people, solve problems," says Julie Doring, mother of a 4-year-old girl.

Costume party

For Lee Moore, mother to an almost-4-year daughter in Durham, the antidote to the princess party is to widen her daughter's options. "Why not have options to be a queen, prince, knight, fairy, unicorn, jester or magician?" she asks. "Why not just have a costume party?"

Butterflies, rainbows or glitter

Indulge your daughter's longing for color and glitz without conforming to the princess template. Choose rainbows, glitter or ballerinas.
 

Find Triangle-area listings for party services, places and supplies in our Party Planning Directories. Check our special party page for more planning ideas and tips.

 

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November 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

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Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
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Cost: $7 at the door. Free for kids 3 and younger

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United Skates of America
2901 Trawick Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
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Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Cost: Free

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Sarah P. Duke Gardens - Kirby Horton Hall
420 Anderson St
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Sponsor: Mallarme Chamber Players
Telephone: 919-560-2788
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: $5 ($3 for kids 6 and younger)

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The School for Creative Studies
5001 Red Mill Road
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Sponsor: The School for Creative Studies PTSA
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Cost: $30/adult, free for children

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309 W. Morgan St.
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
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Cost: $4 per child

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
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Cost: Free

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5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
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Telephone: 919-865-5725
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 11 and older with special needs learn basic outdoor survival skills. Register online. Choose course #116958.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
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Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
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See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Learn about the first Thanksgiving. Play 17th-century games, learn to talk like a pilgrim and create a first Thanksgiving food collage to take home. Ages 7 and older. Registration required.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $28/person

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Take part in a 5K Thanksgiving morning. Proceeds benefit the Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs. Register online. 

Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
, NC  27587


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Competitive or Recreational 5K at Garner's White Deer Park Thanksgiving morning.  1 Mile option also available Register at https://fsseries.com/event/turkey-day-5k/register/

Cost: $20 - $30

Where:
White Deer Park
2400 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: TeddyRox Foundation
Telephone: 919-608-5658
Contact Name: Nancy Cawthon
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Bring the family out for a fall wagon ride along the back roads of the park to enjoy the fall colors and the beauty of Harris Lake County Park.  Staff will interpret the natural and historical...

Cost: $1 per person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

The original television classic comes to life! The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
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This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

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Cost: $35-$65

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Perch Studios
106 S. Greensboro St.
Suite E
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Perch Coworking
Telephone: 919 260 5313
Contact Name: Betsey Elbogen

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

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Cost: $40 child+adult or $20/child $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

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Cost: $13.50/person

Where:
Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill , NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Spring Haven Farm
Telephone: 919.407.1806
Contact Name: Andrew Crihfield
Website »

More information

Take part in a fun and playful aerial yoga and movement class for parents and children age 5 and older. Stretch, move, play and learn aerial yoga poses. Breathing techniques will be taught to...

Cost: $35 child and adult pair, or $15/child and $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 888-587-9530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Gather the family together for this fun-filled, heartwarming spectacular featuring seasonal favorites plus a sing-a-long, falling snow, and a chorus line of dancing Santas. Visit Santa...

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Joshual Lozoff combines amazing illusions with mental feats that explore the possibilities of the human mind. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $20/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown     
Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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