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Little Miss Highness

Anya Gazes, 3, of Chicago loves princesses. Loves them. It's hard to get her out of her regalia (dress, crown, slippers), but on a recent dinner out, that was a good thing. "Anya behaved beautifully. She had really good manners and sat up straight because she did not want her crown to fall off," says her mom, Carla.

Lots of girls go through a princess stage. By the time they're in pre-school, kids realize the world is divided into two genders. As they try to make sense of what gender roles mean, they're likely to think of them in a rigid way, says Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Ph.D., a professor of child development at Columbia University in New York City. So girls often latch on to the most stereotypically feminine thing they can find: princesses.

This phase will pass in a year or so, but if you're concerned that your daughter is interested only in the damsel-in-distress thing, try expanding her games. A princess needs a castle: Can she build one? A princess needs to protect her subjects: Can she pretend to climb a tree to save a kitten?

And remember: If she's a princess, then that means you're the queen.