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A Hygiene Tale: If You�re Going to Be a Prince or Princess, You Should Act Like One

​This information is included in our Guide to Imaginative Play. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

Kids love to play dress-up and fantasize. But as much as they love to do that, they equally hate to clean up and keep things clean � whether it�s their bodies or their bedrooms.

Both of these scenarios provide parents � especially those with young children who fancy themselves as princes and princesses � with opportunities to illustrate positive hygiene behaviors through storytelling and imaginative play.

For example, say that you�ve got a 5-year-old girl who is obsessed with Cinderella. You can watch the movie with her and point out how pretty Cinderella looks once she transforms into a princess. And what makes her pretty? Well, she�s got a lovely dress, her hair is perfect and, above all, she�s clean. At that point, you can ask the question: �Have you ever seen a dirty princess?� Later on, if your daughter is refusing to take a bath or brush her teeth, you can revisit the Cinderella story by pointing out that princesses are always clean and that if she wants to be a princess, she should try to look like one. The same can be applied for little boys looking up to princes and superheroes.

This little trick can also be effective in getting a young girl or boy to keep his or her room clean. After all, the bedroom of a superhero or princess would hardly be littered with toys, books and dirty clothes. And if your child expects you to clean up for her �because she�s a princess,� point out that you are the queen (or king) and that leaves the room-cleaning responsibilities to them. They might even suggest that their invisible servants might do it for them. If so, accept his or her premise and tell them that they�d better get it done by the time you check back or they�ll lose her TV viewing (or some other important privilege) for the evening. That way, your child understands what you expect of them and that they will receive a consequence for the negative behavior of not cleaning their room.

​You might be surprised. Your child might clean his or her room and then credit their make-believe servants, thereby saving face and letting your child think they has the upper hand. This also gives you an opportunity to remind your son or daughter that a true prince or princess always leads by example.

At the end of the day, imaginative play is not only fun for young girls and boys but also presents a variety of �teachable moments� where parents can help their kids develop good hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.