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What Judges Look for in Toddler Pageants

by Christina Schnell, studioD

Sure, you know your toddler is super-adorable and could walk a pageant stage like the red carpet at the Oscars, but you're not the only one judging. Face it -- judging toddlers on almost anything is like trying to professionally critique finger painting. And, although different judges may appreciate similar characteristics in a contestant, no official, standard set of judging criteria exists for all toddler pageants.

Stage Presence

Judges want to see that your toddler is excited to be there. Poise and elegance can't hurt, but judges also realize that a toddler who is friendly, enthusiastic and eager to strut her stuff -- even if that means waving and smiling confidently while she walks the stage. What toddler pageant judges don't want to see, however, is a terrified, overwhelmed toddler who hides behind you or has a meltdown mid-stage.

Facial Beauty

Since it's hard to judge toddlers on interview skills or talent, facial beauty, as defined by individual judges, is a major component of the competition. Natural pageants may prohibit or discourage toddlers from wearing makeup or hair extensions, and judge facial beauty accordingly. Glitzier pageant judges, however, may welcome, or even require, professional photos of your toddler decked out in her glitz gown and corresponding cosmetic accessories, like her flipper.


Judges love personality, and who brings more sass, enthusiasm and charisma to the stage than your pint-sized star? Since most toddlers haven't developed a formal talent yet, the judges are looking at how they present themselves in each of the pageant categories. For some pageants, this may include modeling a few different outfits to upbeat music, while others may allow your toddler to perform a short dance or belt out her favorite song to prove that she has more sparkle and character than the competition.

Wardrobe Presention

At some toddler pageants, judges award points for costume or outfit creativity. As long as your toddler's shapeless Bam-Bam Flintstone outfit includes all the matching accessory details and looks relatively well-made, a judge might score it the same as a more glitzy sequined winter ball gown that's less original. Other toddler pageant judges, however, prefer to see tots in color-coordinated ensembles that sparkle and shimmer from head to toe, regardless of how cute or original the outfits actually are. Get the clothing guidelines before signing the big day so your tot is dressed appropriately.

About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

Photo Credits

  • James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images