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Is Your Toddler Ready for the Theater?

Theater was a huge part of my childhood. My parents were both involved in a community theater group, so I grew up going to their shows and then eventually joining the group myself. My parents also both loved seeing shows on Broadway and I was lucky to tag along on many occasions.

I don’t remember what my first show was but I have vivid memories of seeing Cats, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line and La Cage Aux Folles when I was little. Afterwards, I practiced singing “Memories” and “Kiss Today Goodbye” like I might star in them one day. A few years later I was treated to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and even had seats in the stage for Starlight Express.

I became so enthralled with the theater, it was my Bat Mitzvah theme when I was thirteen. Each table was named after a different show and the seating cards were Broadway show tickets.

I can’t wait to share my love for the theater (musicals in particular) with my daughter. She’ll be 3 years old in December. But I think it’s important not to take her when she is too little and won’t appreciate it.

One test I have heard is to make sure your child can sit through a full movie at home first. Mazzy has not passed this test. She is much better at sitting through a half hour cartoon and then she likes to switch it up and watch something else. Or she gets up to play.

If your child can sit through a movie, then a good idea is to expose your kid to the show you want to take them to before you go. For instance, if you are thinking about taking your child to see Peter Pan, currently on Broadway, then I recommend getting the movie and having your child watch that first.

Children love concepts and characters that are familiar and you’ll have a way better shot at getting them to sit still and pay attention if the show is about something or someone that is already a personal favorite for them.

I’d also recommend sitting as close to the aisle as possible. If your child is someone who will want to get up and move often or take frequent bathroom breaks, you don’t want to be constantly disturbing the other theater-goers around you.

But beware, when I took Mazzy to Sesame Street Live, she misinterpreted the aisle as her personal path to Abby Cadabby and it was everything we could do to keep her from running up on the stage.

Lastly, pack lots of snacks that won’t make too much noise. Nothing works better than food for distraction when your kid starts to get antsy.

As for me, I am going to wait a bit with Mazzy. If she remembers the theater as a place where she felt contained in a seat and bored by watching the same thing for two hours, she might never enjoy going to shows as much I do.

A big thanks to Citi for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts. 

And don’t miss a post! Follow Ilana on Twitter and Facebook!

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