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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – Most people have heard of the Miss America pageant or the Miss USA pageant.  But, with the launch of TLC`s 'Toddler`s & Tiaras', which follows the lives of `child` beauty pageant contestants and their families, the pageant world`s spotlight shines on those much younger.

There are basically three types of pageants; glitz, semi glitz and natural .  In semi Glitz pageants the girls wear little to no makeup and the wardrobe is less 'flashy.'  Natural pageants are just that, natural.  The girls don`t wear any makeup and usually use their Sunday best dress for the competition.  Glitz pageants are what you see on toddlers and tiaras, sequins, spray tans, false hair pieces, and even fake teeth called 'flippers.'  The flipper is used to cover up any missing teeth on these little girls.  They`re made at a dentist office or a specialty company and can be expensive.

The Glitz pageants are what cause all the controversy.  Many people think these pageants exploit young girls and find some of the clothes and competitions inappropriate for this age group.  Others believe it`s an acceptable form of entertainment and a way to showcase your child.

Dr. Kasey Davis, a Pediatric Psychologist from St. Louis Children`s Hospital, says they don`t have a lot of information specifically on pageants but says it could cause problems with body image in the future or cause excessive stress.  She says to watch for signs of stress, like a change in sleeping or eating habits or complaints of physical pain.  These could be signs the pageant competition is too much for your child.

I spoke with Pageant Directors, Pageant moms and the contestants themselves, who all believe the benefits far outweigh any potential problems.  They believe the girls can gain self confidence, develop leadership and interview skills and even win big prizes including a full ride college scholarship.

So, like any activity that involves young children do your homework to find the right competition, don`t go overboard and only compete if it`s fun for your child.

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