Pamper parties for children: harmless fun or harmful messaging?

When I saw the Jozikids’ Facebook competition to “win a whimsical pamper party” with photos of little girls aged between about five and, at most, ten, lying there with facemasks and cucumber slices on their eyes, I felt incensed. So incensed, in fact, that it prompted me to write what has become my very first blog post.

The competition prize, a pamper party valued at R1300 which included manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and make-up lessons, left me reeling. Was I the only one out there who found this absurd and completely inappropriate? I voiced my opinion on the competition page and it turned out I wasn’t. But I also got some responses I found quite frightening, including how it “is mother and daughter time”, “teaches them to look after themselves”, “makes them feel special”, “is a treat” and, perhaps most disturbing of all, “is nice that our kids start pampering themselves from a young age”.

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great to do all those things (well, all except teaching them to pamper themselves at all of a tender pre-pubescent age), but with so many other age-appropriate alternatives to play “pretend-pretend” or spend time bonding with your daughters, is this really the healthiest, most suitable way to do it? Never mind how these pamper parties smack of creepy child beauty pageants, which have been blamed for adultifying and sexualising little girls – and the host of dangerous effects that go along with that (but that is for another blog all of its own). I could also go on about all the other ways we can teach our children to look after themselves, make them feel special and give them treats, but the real question for me is, are these parties really just whimsical, harmless fun and a nice opportunity to spend some quality time with mom? Or do they trivialise something that has potentially severely negative consequences and instils extremely harmful messages in our children about what they should be basing their self-esteem and value system on?

We see these consequences every day in the abundance of grown women all around us who are riddled with insecurities and mental health issues, like anorexia. The media, and women’s magazine’s in particular, come under fire all the time for perpetuating the negative self-images women have of themselves by promoting unrealistic air-brushed ideals for us to ‘aspire’ to (and obsess about).  Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to protect our children from these same pressures? Aren’t these pamper parties teaching our little girls that they are not naturally beautiful and therefore ‘need work’ – years before teenage spots and decades before wrinkles begin to take their toll on their complexion? Telling them that they are inadequate and not pretty enough if they don’t have perfectly manicured nails and made-up faces? Should we not rather be encouraging them to accept themselves just as they are with the natural beauty of childhood? Rather than having their nails done, shouldn’t they be getting them dirty making mud-pies?

And since when is being pampered a good thing anyway? Personally, I don’t want to teach my child that being spoilt, self-indulgent, superficial and vain are desirable attributes – or to grow up so fast.  Childhood is all too short – so let them be children while they can. After all, they have their whole adult lives to worry about their skin, hair and nails!

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Danya Pedra

Danya Pedra

Danya-Zee Pedra, a former magazine feature writer, current freelance communications consultant, virgin blogger and mother of a not at all terrible two-year-old.

21 Responses

  1. I loved your very open article. It is more honest than most moms who have had pamper parties for their kids would like to hear but its the truth!

  2. I just had a pamper party for my 5 year old little girl and her friends (which included several boys). they had a blast. Afterward they went to go play on the bikes and jumping castle. Clearly not warped for life. My 3 children are not even close to "spoilt, self-indulgent, superficial and vain", in fact people regularly comment on how grounded they are and what tomboys my 2 girls are. I think it is what people read into it (you can find the devil behind every bush), and I think this writer clearly has issues and is reading far too much into it. For that matter, if my girls wear bikinis to the beach, does that make them sex objects at the age of 5? I WISH my girls would be more girly!

    1. I don’t think children after one pamper party will be warped for life as you say but it’s about putting our own issues into our children. Why do you wish your girls were more girly?so they can be more like you?so you can relate to them more? They are their own person and should be whoever they want, and it is wrong to have such parties for small children who don’t know any different. You’ve obviously had parties for your five year old, where do you go from there- I assume this will happen again so yes of course it will influence them:

  3. I do pamper parties for little girls. 364 days a year the play in the mud, climb trees & do all the things kids do. One day a year on their birthday they want to be a little lady & enjoy their birthday with their friends. They want to have make up & nail polish & be like mommy. They don't go to pagents afterwards there are no paedophiles watching them, they are just little girls playing dress up, for an hour before they go and play in the mud again. This is more cost effective as a birthday party than taking your kids to Spur or McDonalds which they forget quite easily. I have pampered over 10 000 little girls & I can vouch that none of them are spoilt, self-indulgent, superficial and vain. They are all normal little girls & the want to do wat normal little girls do…… look pretty!

  4. I have a 12 year old daughter who has been to a pamper party. Did none of you dress up in your mum's clothes and wear her high heels when you were little girls? If a mum goes to the spa, has facials and manicures etc, could a pamper party not just be another 'dress up – pretend to be mum' event, rather than an immoral event? I don't go to spas and I've had one manicure and pedicure in my life – surely it's up to me to teach my child what I want her to learn from it? I do however wear makeup, do my nails and 'take care of myself' – but I also have a successful career and there's a lot more to me than the face I put on in the mornings. It's up to you to teach your child the values you want them to have. But hiding them from other points of view and ways of life is not going to make them better human beings – learning how to accept differences and make your own decisions might.
    I do think 'age appropriate' changes with each generation – I was still playing with dolls at 12, but my daughter certainly isn't! The tweens are a difficult age anyway – some of the kids my daughter knows are wearing far more makeup than I would allow, wearing clothes that I think are ridiculous on kids that age – but it's my job to make sure I pass that on to my daughter – but it's not up to me to tell anyone else how to parent their kids. If you told me what kind of party I should be having for my daughter – you'd have a new subject for your next blog – swearing parents.

    1. If a million people are enthusiastic about something; it is not necessarily true. Hang in there Anne, your daughter is blessed with a wise mother.

    2. Thank you – although I do believe you may be a little biased :). At the end of the day there is no manual to make us all perfect parents – we teach our kids what we think is right, and that is different for everybody! It's how we teach them to handle the differences that's important!

  5. I do agree largely but remember that paedophiles prey on boys too. and non-prettified girls. Maybe there is a lesson in here about teaching both sexes of kids to value themselves? But I would definitely not teach my children that looks are important but good grooming is: so where do you draw the line?

    1. You make an excellent point Samantha. I also agree it is a fine line when it comes to teaching our children about taking care of themselves but I believe it all comes down to what is age-appropriate – I don;t think a daily routine of personal hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth, brushing hair etc) is the same as "grooming".

  6. An excellent piece! Couldn't agree more with Danya. When I see some of these little 10-12yr old girls 'strutting their stuff' in Sandton City in particular, I feel ill – they have no idea how silly they really look and are completely ignorant of the differnce between an admiring glance (which are few and mostly from their peer group)and a lascivious ogle – dangerous stuff.

    1. That's the really scary part! Even though 18 or 19 isn't old, it is when it's an 18 yr old guy ogling a little 12 yr old girl. What really astounded me was that these little girls we saw, were wearing padded, push-up bras!!! Seriously? I'd have a fit if one of my little nieces turned up looking like this!

  7. Hi Danya! yes I agree, girls and boys of that age should be out in the woods, climbing trees, riding their bikes and making forts! Not being mini adults. have you seen the Disney type, american tweeny love story films they have these days? really young kids eg 5 yo girls watch them and they (the films, not the kids) are so sugary sweet revolting with lame messages about fancying boys and being popular at school. yuc!

  8. My sentiments exactly. Responsible parenting for children to have a carefree upbringing.

  9. I saw that pamper party competition and the picture of little girls with cucumber on their eyes and thought the same thing. What are we saying to our girls? We are raising them to think that having their nails done and a face mask put on is what being a woman is all about. It reduces being a woman to a cliche at an age where children don't know any better.
    Of course you should bond with your children, but can't you take them to the park and throw a ball? Take them out for a milkshake. Go see a show. Choose something age appropriate. And that's another blog. We have forgotten the meaning of age appropriate and think children should just do everything adults do.
    I love having a pedicure and a facial – I have nothing against that as a grown up, but why on earth would a child need that? My daughter went to a pamper party and her friends (age 11) all put the make-up on to make scary halloween faces… I couldn't help laughing when I fetched her – the pamper party organiser looked most put out – but I wanted to say – this is the only reason why young girls should be putting on make up at this age!

  10. I couldn't agree more I think the emphasis put on children to do things like this worry about their weight what they wear these hugely extravagant birthday parties etc is disgusting kids need to be kids we as a society are expecting them to grow up to quickly and then when they do and we get the host of problems facing them as they get older such as drugs alcohol teen pregnancy etc we are suddenly very surprised and say oh but it can't possibly be my fault when I was a kid I had a grubby face from playing in the garden I rode my bike and played with dolls till I was fourteen yet I was a good student as were many of the people who grew up with me we are losing our morals and values and to me I believe placing so much importance on things like this has certainly helped the increase in child abuse a

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