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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.