The other day out of curiosity I asked my three-year-old daughter, “Can you tell mommy the name of a Disney princess you know?” She crinkled her forehead for a moment, paused as if she were thinking hard and said, “I don’t know.”
How with the hype of Frozen, especially, over most recent years has my daughter escaped not knowing the name of even one Disney princess?
You might be thinking I’m an over-the-top mom who wants to shelter my daughter from all bad things or I’m the overzealous mom who’s trying to raise up a strong, independent, feminist-type girl who’s against fairy tales and ball gowns. But neither description is me.
Even though it’s unusual that Disney princesses aren’t a part of her daily play, the more I thought about it I wasn’t surprised. I’ve never introduced her to Disney princesses or many other toys, characters, or products for that matter.
I don’t buy her clothes with characters on the front or other labels that promote toys or products. She does have a few princess dresses for dress-up, but we just call them “princess dresses.” She doesn’t associate them with the specific princesses. And she’s never seen one of the popular Disney princess movies.
Even though this decision isn’t completely subconscious, it’s not that I forbade her either. I know that with time she will be exposed to Disney and movies and princesses through her friends and increased awareness, and that’s okay. My goal isn’t to shelter her or forbid her. I’ve just chosen to focus on other toys available to her, and here’s why:
1. I want to expose her to other high quality books, movies, and toys.
There’s no doubt that Disney and other big companies know how to sell to children. Their products are a child’s dream come true. However, there are other books, movies, and toys that may not have the same glitz and glamor as Disney but that may be higher in quality to teach and entertain.
I don’t have to introduce my daughter to all of the products available to her because culture and media will do that for me. But if I don’t introduce her to the classic books, board games, making a princess gown out of bed sheets, and building a city out of wooden blocks, who will? Commercials aren’t selling these experiences.
2. I want to guard against commercialism.
In our rawest state, we are all greedy people craving more and more. My daughter is no different. At three-years-old when you take her in a shoe store she wants to try on every pair of shoes she sees . . . and buy them. I don’t blame her, honestly.
But we all know that commercialism can lead to greed, and greed does not honor God or other people. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines commercialism as “the attitude or actions of people who are influenced too strongly by the desire to earn money or buy goods rather than by other values.” Disney knows what it’s doing. Its goal is to make their products so appealing that you want all of it. Having the princess dress isn’t enough. You also want the matching doll, pajamas, pencils, sleeping bag, backpack; the list goes on.
Again, it’s not that we never jump on the newest toy bandwagon, but it’s just being conscious of what values are influencing us.
3. I want to be mindful of the themes of the Disney movies.
I think it would be hard to argue that there are not undertones in some, if not many, Disney movies that are not healthy for girls or honoring to God. Some parents may think that the entertainment it brings their daughter outweighs the messages she may or may not be getting. The attitude is “it’s not that bad.”
In many ways I agree. Again, I don’t plan to forbid my daughter from ever watching a Disney movie. However, right now, at three-years-old, there’s really no reason for her to watch them. Again, I would have to be the one to introduce her to them, and I just don’t see the benefit of rushing into it.
So what will I do when my daughter comes home and says, “I want to see [the newest Disney movie]” or “I want this Disney princess doll for Christmas” or “I want to dress-up as Disney princess [fill-in-the-blank]”?
I’ll let her see the movie. I’ll buy her the doll. And I’ll let her dress-up.
In the meantime I hope to show her a world where play is less about entertainment given to us and more about entertainment we create.
What is your opinion about Disney and other highly commercialized toys?