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Simon Perry
December 15, 2015 08:10 AM

Most children have Santa Claus at their Christmas party, but a London school had a different kind of guest on Tuesday when Princess Kate joined them.

Kate, 33, was taking part in the festive fun at a school that helps children with mental health needs in north London.

She was at the end-of-year celebrations at the Anna Freud Centre Family School.

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Kate, in a red pleated Alexander McQueen skirt dress, joined groups of families in activities and games designed to help the children reflect on their positive progress in their studies, relationships and communication skills.

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It was a return trip for Kate, who visited the school in September as she spent much of her autumn of royal duties highlighting and learning about young people with mental health issues.

And the royal showed off her rocker side when she joined in on a drumming session to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Kate sat between two expert youngsters as she kept along to the beat.

“She felt a bit out-drummed by them, but she hadn’t been rehearsing like they had,” Peter Fonagy, the chief executive of the Center, tells PEOPLE. “She got into it and said she felt it was therapeutic.”

The drumming is a “wonderful way of working together for the children,” Fonagy continues. “These are kids who are not good at fitting into their own school. Trying to teach them to work together, to be part of a community, is probably one of the most important things that we can do. If you don’t want to be alongside everyone or be someone missing a beat, it’s excellent way of creating a community spirit and awareness of other people.”

The royal’s stylish ensemble kept her from taking it up a notch. Capone Duggan-Samuels, 12, who sat to her left, said, “Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy for her to hold the drum properly because she was in a dress. She was holding it by her side. But she was making the right sounds.”

Fonagy adds that the royal clearly felt at home: “The last visit had a deep impression on her and she remembered the kids as someone she knew and recognized. She makes a very special contact with kids. They all think she’s fantastic, she’s their princess. And they all wanted to give her a hug.”

Kate praised the children for their achievements at the school, telling them as she left, “Thank you everyone. It’s been so fantastic to see you all again doing amazing things. Keep it up and have a really happy Christmas.”

When she was there in the fall, Kate was praised for her being knowledgeable on the subject and being committed to raising awareness for it.

“Tuesday’s visit reflects [her] continued interest in child mental health issues and the importance of early intervention, as well as working with the whole family to provide children with in-school mental health services,” a statement from her office at Kensington Palace says.

“[She] is keen to draw attention to the ways in which this charity is working to lead a step change in children’s and young people’s mental health care.”

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