Fact Checked

What Are Kids' Pageants?

Amber Eberle
Amber Eberle

Kids' pageants are competitions in which children who are younger than 18 years old or another designated age compete in several categories to win prizes as well as titles. Competition categories typically include talent, interview and formal wear. Kids' pageants are primarily for girls, but some pageants also have entrants who are boys.

Pageants for kids originated in the United States in the 1960s and have since become a very profitable industry. Each pageant has its own rules and regulations, but most pageants require an entry fee. Others expenses related to a pageant might include travel and lodging, clothing, hair, makeup and the cost of hiring pageant coaches. These costs sometimes add up to make it very expensive for children compete in kids' pageants.

The last portion of a kids' pageant usually is the interview, during which the judges ask each contestant one or more questions.
The last portion of a kids' pageant usually is the interview, during which the judges ask each contestant one or more questions.

A pageant might be classified as a natural pageant or a glitz pageant. In a glitz pageant, it is very common for contestants to wear a lot of makeup, hair extensions, spray-on tans and artificial teeth to disguise missing teeth or a less-than-perfect smile. In a natural pageant, the contestant wears minimal makeup, and fake hair, fake teeth and spay-on tanning are not allowed.

Most kids' pageants are divided into age groups. In a typical pageant, the age groups are 0-5 years old, 6-11, 12-16 and 17 and older. Some pageants might have different age groups.

Hair extensions are common in a glitz pageant.
Hair extensions are common in a glitz pageant.

The pageant typically consists of several categories of competition. The talent portion of a pageant features the contestants showcasing a talent, such as dancing or singing, on stage for a certain amount of time. Pageants also have portions during which the contestants model clothing such as formal wear. Some pageants have a swimwear competition, but this is more common in pageants for older contestants. The last portion of a kids' pageant usually is the interview, during which the judges ask each contestant one or more questions.

At the conclusion of a kids' pageant, prizes and titles typically are awarded. The prizes might include, toys, college scholarships and cash. Winning a title usually comes with a sash, trophy, crown or other memento.

Participation in a kids' pageant can result in body image issues later in life.
Participation in a kids' pageant can result in body image issues later in life.

There can be multiple prizes and titles awarded at a pageant. A winner might be selected from each age group and an overall winner picked from all of the contestants. Judges usually consider all portions of the pageant when choosing a winner. Winning a local pageant might allow a contestant to enter a kids' pageant at the regional level, and winning a regional pageant might allow a contestant to move on to a national pageant.

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Discussion Comments


@shell4life - I would love to be a pageant judge. Of course, I would hate to make anyone sad, but I have sat through so many pageants that I feel were poorly judged, and I have often wished I could be in control and give the rightful contestant the award.

I remember one pageant that made me very angry. The judges gave first place to the prettiest little girl, even though she did a terrible job singing and answering questions.

Another little girl was cute but not quite as pretty. However, she was as smart as they come, and she could sing like an angel.

How does one go about becoming a pageant judge? Do you have to know someone behind the scenes?


Being a judge in a kids' pageant is such a hard thing to do! They are all so cute and sweet, and I hated to be the reason for any of their hearts being broken.

I volunteered to judge a pageant for ages six through eleven last year. The contestants were all so hopeful while they were on stage. They smiled the whole time with confidence.

I hate to think about what losing may have done to some of them. I just hope I am not responsible for anyone's future low self-esteem. I will probably never serve as a pageant judge again, because I can't stand to make little girls cry.


The only type of pageant I let my daughter participate in is the kind that awards a scholarship to the winner. These are generally based more on intelligence and skill than good looks.

The kind that are based on appearance tend to offer cash prizes. To me, these are shallow competitions. I don't want to teach my daughter to use her looks to get money, because this could be twisted into a dangerous thing.

My daughter won a sizable scholarship for her insightful answers to the judges' questions in one pageant. I let her enter one each year, so maybe by the time she is ready for college, we will have enough scholarship money to pay for her entire tuition.


@mutsy – I agree with you. Pageants encourage girls to be like everyone else. The result is a bunch of tan, white-toothed clones on the runway.

What pageants should do is promote individuality. Let someone win who doesn't look like Hollywood's idea of a beautiful girl.

Especially at that age, girls shouldn't be taught that tan is beautiful. A tan means that your skin has suffered damage from ultraviolet rays. Encouraging tans can lead to skin cancer.

Overall, most kids' pageants lead to an unhealthy obsession with physical beauty. We need some sort of competition that teaches our children that beauty is widely varied and comes in so many forms.


@julies - Both of my daughters were involved with pageants, but they were quite a bit older. The pageants were positive experiences for both of them.

I have seen the younger pageants you were talking about, and even though I think kids pageants can be positive, also wonder how young is too young?

One thing that bothered me when my girls were involved with pageants is the amount of money that some families spent that really didn't have the money.

These are not usually cheap things to be involved in. Of course you have your entry fees, but that is just the beginning of your expenses. By the time you add on their clothes, shoes, accessories, and hair expenses the price keeps going up.

Then you have to add on your travel expenses and time away from work if you are gone for a long weekend. If this is something that you can pull off without getting strapped for money I have no problem with it.

I just saw so many families who were desperately hoping something would pay off for their kids because they had already gone in to debt just to get where they were.


My 21 year old daughter and myself were watching a kids pageant where the girls were only around 2 years old. Some of them were barely even old enough to walk! I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Some of these girls were so tired and cranky and just being a normal 2 year old, but they were being pushed to act like they were much older than they were.

It made me wonder who really wanted this because how could a 2 year old know what was going on? Why would parents want to put their kids through something like that?

The competition among the parents is what seemed to be the driving force behind it. The parents might say that their daughters really loved it, but I really have to wonder when they are that young.


@Mutsy - You know a lot of people feel that way, but maybe some of these kids get scholarships for college that help the families pay for their education.

They also learn that they are not going to win every competition and can develop some character as a result. I think that pageants can teach kids a lot of lessons about life because image is very important and if you present yourself well you will certainly get more attention than if you take no effort in your appearance.

I think that the experience is character-building because many of these kids mature much faster than regular kids. While some people might not think that this is a good idea, these competitions do provide some value to kids in the long run.


I was watching a television program the other day about kid’s pageants. There was a little five year girl that had to get a spray tan and these covers on her teeth called “Flippers”. It seemed like a lot for the little girl to go through and I sort of felt bad for her.

Her natural teeth were beautiful. I didn’t understand why they had to add the flippers and the spray tan. I think it sends little girls the wrong message about their image and it is sad. In fact the fake tan did not work because the little girl had her eyes closed and there was a ring around the bottom of her eyes that was not tanned.

I think that the mother’s of the kids want the win more than the children do. Learning about competition is good, but I think that pageants are a little hard on kids because they are judged by the way that they look, not by the talent that they have.

In sports for example, kids are judged by their talent which is in direct proportion to the effort that they put forth, but in a pageant it is more about how pretty the packaging is. I have a daughter and I would never want her to think that her value is only based on her looks.

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    • The last portion of a kids' pageant usually is the interview, during which the judges ask each contestant one or more questions.
      By: apops
      The last portion of a kids' pageant usually is the interview, during which the judges ask each contestant one or more questions.
    • Hair extensions are common in a glitz pageant.
      By: tolstnev
      Hair extensions are common in a glitz pageant.
    • Participation in a kids' pageant can result in body image issues later in life.
      By: konami11
      Participation in a kids' pageant can result in body image issues later in life.