Royal kid Princess Charlotte laughed as she and Prince George dipped their bare feet into a cooling creek. Nearby, their younger brother, Prince Louis, ran down a garden path giddily waving a long stick he’d found.

These little moments give a glimpse into the happy — and refreshingly ordinary — childhood Kate Middleton, 37, and Prince William, 36, are providing for their three children. “Kate and William put a lot of emphasis on doing normal things together,” says a friend. “They just want their kids to be kids.”

Prince Louis Prince George Princess Charlotte

While earlier generations of royals were raised by a governess or shipped away to boarding school, Kate and William are hands-on parents trying to bring up happy, well-adjusted kids. At their Kensington Palace home, dinner is eaten around the table, and the parents take turns reading bedtime stories.

“At the weekend, they’ll all sit down and watch cartoons together,” shares the friend. “There are also treat days where George, Charlotte and Louis are allowed candy or a trip to McDonald’s.” William’s late mother, Princess Diana, who famously took her sons on outings to theme parks and fast-food restaurants, would certainly approve!

Kate also makes sweet memories with George, 5, Charlotte, 4, and Louis, 1, when they bake together. “They love decorating cakes,” reveals the friend. “By the end of it, the kitchen is a complete mess and the kids will be covered in icing.” But that’s OK. Kate believes getting a little bit dirty sometimes is an essential part of any happy, healthy childhood.

Princess Charlotte

Kate knows that her children — particularly George, who is third in line for the crown — will have to adhere to many rules later in life, so she wants childhood to be a time of joy and self-discovery.

“To Kate, there is nothing more important than allowing them to express themselves,” says the insider, who adds that the kids already have distinct personalities. “George is a curious child and a deep thinker” while Charlotte is adventurous and “bossy.” Both siblings dote on Louis. Says the pal, “He’s good-natured but into everything!”

As parents, Kate and William strive to be loving but not over-permissive. “There are boundaries,” explains the insider. The children have been taught good manners along with their ABCs. Kate also expects them to pick up their own toys.

Kate Middleton Prince George

“She doesn’t want her children growing up feeling too entitled,” explains the insider, who adds that “if Princess Diana were alive today, she’d be proud of the way William and Kate are raising their family.”

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