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Not-My-Name Games

Rachel Corley was surprised when her 3-year-old daughter recently issued a decree: "She said, 'I'm sorry, but my name is not Sarah anymore. I'm changing it to Ara,'" recalls the Kennesaw, GA, mom. Over the next few days, "Ara" shared her decision with teachers, classmates, and neighbors, correcting anyone who didn't go along with it.

The preschool years are prime time for pretend play, and that includes made-up names. "Little kids often try to devise ways that they can be stronger and bigger," says Mary Ann LoFrumento, M.D., author of the Simply Parenting book series. This explains the desire to be dubbed after Superman or even a big sib. Children might also want to become a favorite character, like "Dora," an adored pet, like "Bunny," or just someone cool out of their own imagination, like "Ara."

It's okay to play along. "You can respond by simply saying, 'Oh, you want to be [new name] today? When you want to be [old name] again, let me know,'" Dr. LoFrumento suggests.

This worked for Corley, whose daughter decided to reclaim "Sarah" after a month.