8 Tips For Taking Kids To See Plays

I’m planning a getaway weekend in New York in the coming months. I’ll be visiting one of my dearest friends and we’ll be doing stuff without our kids so that’s a real treat. But just as a big a treat is the opportunity to pick a play to see on Broadway. Or, better yet, Off Broadway! I love, love, love the theatre. I majored in theatre, I performed for years, and going to the theatre is top among my list of things to do. I love a big, splashy musical so I’m awfully tempted to see Book of Mormon but I also adore small, intimate plays by contemporary writers so I’ll be checking out the reviews Off Broadway shows as well.

As fun as a New York theatre trip is, I love seeing children’s plays with my 5-year-old just as much. There’s a special magic about being in a theatre with a child and I find it more interesting to watch my son than the action on the stage. We had a mommy-son date to see a play a few months ago and he’s still talking about the show. Needless to say I’m delighted because I want my kids to love theatre the way I do. I plan to bring them to plays early and often to give them plenty of good theatre experiences.

I’ve found there are a lot of common misconceptions about theatre in general and about taking kids to see plays in particular. Contrary to some concerns, kids are great audience members! You just need to plan ahead a little to make sure the experience is good for the kids, the rest of the audience, and the cast and crew. Here are my tips for bringing kids to see plays, from my perspective as a mom and a former children’s theatre actor!

  • 8 Tips For Taking Kids To Plays 1 of 9
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    As a former actor and a current mom, these are my tips for taking kids to plays!

  • Choose Wisely 2 of 9
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    Think about your child before you choose a play. Not every play is right for every kid. A 10-year-old might love a full-scale production of Annie but chances are a 5-year-old needs something shorter than a full-length musical. Don't drag a kid who needs words to The Nutcracker and don't force a fairy tale-loving child to sit through a stage adaptation of Captain Underpants. Look for productions geared for children when possible. They tend to be the right length for child-sized attention spans and content will be appropriate.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • Ignorance IS Bliss 3 of 9
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    That all being said, you don't need to know a darn thing about theatre  to enjoy the show and neither do kids. Plays are like movies, but alive and in your physical space. They're stories acted out. You don't need to understand the underpinnings of the production or the script to like it. You just need to go watch. I took my son to see a performance of a Japanese folktale done in anime style. He doesn't know anything about folklore, anime, or Japan but he loved every minute of the lively story and bright characters.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • Mind Your Manners 4 of 9
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    It's important to tell kids what to expect in a theatre: low light, real people on the stage, other people trying to see and hear, no remote control to go back and rewind if they miss something. Give them the heads up that they should try to be quiet and polite to the actors and their fellow audience members.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • But Not Too Strict 5 of 9
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    I spent a year doing plays for elementary school kids and not a week went by that I didn't have little kids yelling warnings or suggestions out to me and my castmates while we were on stage. Anyone who's performed for kids knows that those little outbursts mean you're doing your job well; the kids have bought the magic and feel like part of the action. Sure, it's embarrassing to be the parent of the kid who's yelling "Look out!" to the protagonist before he walks into the robber's den but the protagonist has heard it all before and won't mind.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • Special Needs 6 of 9
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    There is no reason on earth that kids with special needs can't enjoy live performances. Like I said, the actors get it and don't mind a disturbance caused by a child. If you're worried, tell an usher or house manager before the performance and ask them what they think is the best place for you to sit to meet your child's needs. Many theatres offer special sensory-friendly performances, sign interpretation, or descriptive services for visually impaired kids. Call and see what accommodations are available.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • If It’s Too Much… 7 of 9
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    If you have a child who really can't make it through the whole play and needs to be taken out, talk to the folks at the box office. They might be able to work out an opportunity for you to come back and try again.

    Photo credit: iStock

  • Everyone’s A Critic 8 of 9
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    Talk about the play together after you see it! I love, love, love, hearing what my son likes about plays, movies and music. He notices things I miss and he enjoys things in a wonderful, fresh-eyed way. While I tend to get overly technical in my analysis, he'll say something like "I liked the boy's voice when he talked!" and bring me back to basics. 

    Photo credit: iStock

  • If It’s A Bomb 9 of 9
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    If the first attempt at seeing a play with your kids doesn't get rave reviews, fine. Like I said before, talk to them about it. Find out what they didn't like. Use that to inform your next attempt. Not all plays are good plays. Heaven knows I've seen some stinkers (an all-female Taming of the Shrew set in WWII Paris comes to mind) but I don't hold the bad ones against the whole art form. Don't let one bad experience sour theatre for your kids. Give it some time and try again.

    Photo credit: iStock

Read more from Rebekah at Stay At Home Pundit The Broad SideFollow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter too!

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