Taking Your Child to the Theater

If your child has never been to the theater, I recommend starting with a local children’s theater performed by either adults or children. In fact, theater performed by children can be the best introduction for your young child. You may not enjoy sitting through Alice in Wonderland as interpreted by 8 year olds, but your child will love watching big kids on stage. And the audiences in children’s plays will have a greater understanding if you only last 15 minutes before you need to get up and leave.

If you go to children’s theater performed by professional adults, make sure it’s age appropriate. The box office should know if a show has been designed for middle school students or 4 year olds. As with any parenting choice, use your judgment, but most theaters are good at determining the age range that will enjoy a show. They may know about a potentially “scary” moment that you wouldn’t think about. For example, however tempting it might be to go see A Christmas Carol with your whole family in the wintry days of December, there are ghosts (particularly the ghost of Christmas future) which could terrify a small child and turn him or her off of theater for a very long time.

In general, a play with anything in it that is not recognisably human has the potential to scare your child.   This includes “big head” characters and animals.  Try to find children’s theater where you can always see the actors face, and the less unusual make-up the better.  Most of all, do your research.  The Diary of Anne Frank is a beautiful show and if your five-year-old can sit still that long, there’s no reason she can’t go see it, but you should know in advance what material will be discussed in the play and prepare appropriately.  Kids always absorb much more than you expect!

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