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Pre-K Proms Are a National Trend

The strange, frothy ritual from the 80s is back to reclaim more young children who don’t know why they have to wear tiny, itchy dress clothes.
Photo by bj_and_jazmommy via Instagram

Pre-K proms are growing in popularity across the country, reports CBS New York. The events often include a photographer, a DJ, and very small humans dressed up like fancy older humans. Some tiny prom-goers even take a limo and walk a red carpet. There are tiaras, corsages, and itty-bitty bow ties.

The Kansas City Star recently reported that, in Texas, the Belton Early Childhood School hosted a prom for their preschoolers and posted pictures of the kids in fancy dress on the school's Facebook page with the caption, "These students danced, ate and had a blast with their friends, parents and teachers. It was definitely an enchanted evening!"


However, not everyone sees the pre-K prom as a positive trend. Child psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez expressed concern to CBS New York: "One of the biggest consequences is that you are missing out on the innocence of childhood, of just playing around and not having to think about what people think of you," Hafeez said. "About what your hair looks like, or if this dress makes you look fat."

"To those of you who can barely find a matching pair of PJ's for the dreaded preschool theme days, get your shit together! Next year you may need to find tuxes and prom gowns," warned the website Scary Mommy.

This writer attended her own kindergarten prom, in 1987, proving that everything old is new again. Through Facebook, I reconnected with my date from that evening, Jay Nelson Rogers. Rogers, 36, recounted his memories of the experience.

"It took place, I believe, at Seekonk American Legion Post 311," Rogers recalled. "I was nervous and elated that that you said yes. The only song I remember was The Bangles' 'Walk Like an Egyptian,' to which all of the kids did the classic arms-at-90-degree-angles dance."

While the only photo of my prom that exists is of a six-year-old me sulking in an itchy dress, footage and photos of pre-K proms these days are regularly disseminated on social media. The hashtag '#prekprom' is popular on Instagram, with nearly 1000 pictures of tykes from around the country celebrating a rite of passage most people associate with high school age students. Many of these photos show mothers who didn't attended a prom earlier in life escorting their children to the pre-K proms. This trend worries some psychologists.


In an email to Broadly, Dr. Gemma Ainslie of Austin, Texas, who specializes in child development and adolescence, wrote, "Whenever parenting is based in meeting the adult's needs—i.e., 'I never went to prom because my mother was so strict,' prioritizing the parents unfulfilled wishes—the best interest of the child is more at risk for being compromised."

I asked my pre-K prom date Rogers if the event had been a positive or negative experience for him.

"I think you were dancing with someone else," he said via Facebook messenger. "I enjoyed the dance… I don't think it's a case of kids growing up too quickly. Kids enjoy playing adult and long to be adults themselves. Maybe time sweetens things, but I remember it as being a good experience on the whole."

Dr. Ainslie did not see an inherent problem with the notion of proms for such young children, telling Broadly, "Pre-K children are all about pretending and so their involvement with dresses, limos, etc. might well meet their developmental need to pretend."

But, she cautioned, there should be boundaries. "The notion that it is initiated by adults who are trying to re-do or un-do old experiences sets the pre-K prom in a less than optimal context," she said.