Taking children to live theater, music and dance performances can ignite their imaginations, arouse their curiosity and spark their interest in the performing arts. And with the holiday season coming up, there are plenty of shows to take advantage of. Before you go, do a little advance planning to make your experience a success.
1. Set the stage. There’s no set age to begin taking children to live performances. What’s important is to begin with age-appropriate programming that caters to your child’s interest and attention span, and build from there. Start with shows based on familiar stories or characters at local or regional children’s theaters and other family venues. High school productions are a good option too. As your child gets acclimated to attending, take in performances with more detailed plots.
2. Determine details. Call and ask for details regarding the performance. Is it family oriented? Age-appropriate? Are there frightening scenes? Will there be colorful costumes and sets, slapstick comedy and/or special effects? This will keep your child engaged, as will shows that involve audience participation.
3. Seek out special events. Call the box office and ask about special activities associated with the program to enhance the experience. For example, some family concerts offer instrument petting zoos where musicians offer an up-close look at instruments and demonstrate how to play them. Children may even be encouraged to test some of them out. Other venues may offer backstage passes so families can see the sets and lighting, meet the characters and learn interesting tidbits of information. Kids may even be able to get autographs of the performers.
4. Lowdown on logistics. Find out about program length, as well as if there is a break for intermission. Then consider if your child can stay focused that long. Also ask the theatre’s policies about bringing drinks and snacks into the auditorium and leaving during the performance.
5. Select the right seats. Choose seating that will keep your child’s attention directed on stage. Sitting front and center or in the balcony may be best. If you think you may have to slip out during the performance, opt for seats near the aisle for a quick exit. Consider bringing a booster seat so your child gets a good view.
6. Primer on preparations. If the show parallels a book or movie, read or watch it together. If there’s familiar music, listen to it. Explain the plot and discuss the characters. Even though the play will be a bit different, your child will know what to expect.
7. Explain theatre etiquette. Discuss your expectations regarding behavior at the event. Tell kids they will have to walk, rather than run, to and from their seat and use indoor voices. Depending upon the performance, they may need to hold questions until intermission or whisper if they have something important to say.
8. Day-of details. Make sure your child is well-fed and rested before leaving home. Plan to arrive at least fifteen minutes early. Find your seats then take your child to the restroom. Bring along a small bag of quiet items to play with while waiting for the performance to begin.
9. Share impressions. After the show, take your child somewhere for a special treat and share thoughts and impressions about the performance. What was their favorite part or character? Was there a character they didn’t like? What did they think of the sets, costumes and special effects? Can they retell the story to you?
10. Extend the experience. At home have your child draw a picture of their favorite scene or character. If you did not rent the parallel movie or read the book, do so now. Was the storyline presented differently in ‘}this format? If your child enjoys pretend play, have them act out their favorite part.