Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Princess Engineering

My three year old daughter has been increasingly interested in princesses. Aside from the obvious gender hoopla, I find the way she approaches the material fascinating. I'm still trying to figure it all out but a story from the past weekend is worth sharing immediately.

Anna has recently found the Tiara Club Princess series of books. The books are pretty readable and offer a lot of complicated social situations for learning about grace and other "princess" behavior. Each book features a different first-year princess who, along with her friends, has to negotiate a "mean" classmate. I don't think the characters are developed very much but the plots offer plenty of opportunity for discussion. And my daughter just loves to sit and listen and listen and listen to me read. So I do. 

You might have guessed this about me already but I don't often get dressed up and go out for a night on the town. I prefer to hike at sunset or stick my toes in a mountain river. So on Saturday when I prepared to attend my 20 year high school reunion at a fancy restaurant, I transformed into a rarely-seen creature. I wore nice clothes, shiny shoes, a thin veneer of make-up, and smoothed my hair with a flatiron. I looked completely unlike myself.

While I was primping, my children had been in weeding the garden with my sister and brother-in-law. I stepped outside to tell them I was leaving and my son kissed me goodbye, without really missing a step. On the other hand, my daughter stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, "Mama! You look like a Tiara Club princess!"

Tiara Club Princess Mama
Adorable, yes? I smiled, thanked her for the compliment, and turned to go. But before I could leave I heard her offering something more. I stopped and turned back to her to listen and she proceeded to analyze my costume. She said, "I see your shirt is black and your shoes are black. And your pants are black and white zig-zag stripes." She looked at my face, critically observing me. I listened, smiling. Then I left for my night out. 

The next day I followed up with her. "Are you interested in learning how I turned into a princess?" I asked. "Yes!" she replied. I explained that part of what made me look like a princess was the fabric. I invited her to touch the pants and the shirt. I told her that her auntie was really good at understanding this type of thing and that we both could teach her. The lesson in fabric was enough to satiate her interest for the time being and she ran off to play.

Anna's analysis of my transformation stuck with me. I've been constantly wondering how she would inform my work with Preschool Engineering. She definitely brings something new to the conversation. Her attention isn't like her brother's. She doesn't study mechanics. She doesn't analyze physics. But she does see patterns and shapes and textures with a critical eye. It is often set in the context of princess life but it doesn't make her Preschool STEAM learning any less valid. It is just a matter of me recognizing and valuing her point of view.

Mountain Mama
Tell me a story. I would love to hear about how your Preschool Engineering Princess makes sense of the world!!


  1. Oops! Didn't meant to publish yet! Thank you & please keep posting about your daughter. I have no idea how to balance this princess stuff with engineering/STEAM/etc and just had a baby girl this year!

    1. Oh I have more drafts regarding this! Stay tuned for more Princess Engineering. Thanks for your comment. Your words are very encouraging.