5 Tips for Fostering a Lifelong Love of Theater

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I watched a parent who had spent over two-hundreds dollars on tickets utterly drop the ball. Last Christmas, as we left The Nutcracker, a little girl bombarded her mother with questions. Frustrated with the vague answers she was receiving, the little girl said, “I don’t get it.” Sadly, the mom replied, “It’s ballet, you’re not supposed to get it.” I groaned silently at the lost opportunity. With a little preparation you can make theater an amazing family affair.

Peanut in the Big CityBelow are 5 tips for fostering a lifelong love of theater:

1. Read the book. Many classic plays and musicals are based on classic stories. Take advantage of this opportunity. When we saw The Nutcracker we read at least 15 variations of the story. There are often a wide variety of illustration styles and even story lines when dealing with classics. Don’t underestimate the power of your local library!

2. Watch the movie, then don’t. You want your child to understand the storyline and basic plot. Watching a movie version of the performance allows you to pause and discuss without disrupting anyone. I recommend watching the movie once with your child and then maybe letting them enjoy it a few times on their own.

Here is the key: at least a month before the show, put the movie away. You don’t want your child whispering, “Pssst. That didn’t happen in the movie.” every five minutes during the show.

3. Get the soundtrack. If you are seeing the musical, be sure to get the soundtrack beforehand. Have you ever gone to a concert where your favorite band played all the unreleased songs they are working on? The music is good, but you don’t recognize it. You cannot sing the lyrics with them. You are not part of the event.

If your child knows all the hits, they will enjoy themselves more. Our ladies went crazy when they heard Shipoopi at The Music Man. Knowing the songs also allows your child to focus on other aspects during the performance. While they sing along with the tunes in their head they have the opportunity to be awed by the dancing, costumes and live voices!

Peanut Adventure4. Be prepared for questions. If you are catching a show on the fly and don’t have time to prep beforehand, be ready to enthusiastically answer questions your child might ask.

A wise friend of mine, upon retiring after thirty years of service to the Montessori community, told me:

A child is like the moon
reflecting the light in their universe.

This analogy has always stuck with me.  Our children echo our parenting style, our religious beliefs, our creativity, our curiosity and our enthusiasm. If you want your child to love theater, get excited. Answer their questions happily.

5. Make it an adventure.  If you spend the money to buy theater tickets, book the time to make it an all day adventure. Get dressed up. Make plans to enjoy dinner and lively discussion after a matinee.  If you are seeing an evening show, do something quick and crazy, like eating ice cream at 9:45pm with your six year old. Make it a family affair or a special one-on-one date.The opportunities are endless.

Bonus Tip: Try to get tickets for the first row of the Mezzanine. It gives your child a wide view of the performance. It allows them to enjoy the show without it being overwhelming or too loud. You also won’t have to worry about any really tall folks sitting in front of your family!

Have you taken your little one to any shows recently?

I’d love to hear what your family saw and hear your opinion! This week I ordered one of our girls’ Christmas presents. We’ve got tickets to see the musical Mary Poppins after the holidays. I cannot wait. They are going to *love* it.

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  • Reecea Henderson

    We recently took my 9 year old granddaughter and her aunt (my 21 year old daughter) to see Cathy Rigby perform in Peter Pan. What a wonderful experience it was! We had my daughter pick her up from day care and bring her to my office. We left here and went to a nice restaurant for dinner, and then drove about 30 minutes to the theater. We took pictures, we let her order what she wanted on the menu, and we were all dressed up in our Sunday best. She didn’t know the whole story, but enjoyed watching the performance. During the break, we noticed that they were selling ice cream cones and she got to have that too. Afterward we were tired but happy and ready to leave. We noticed that Cathy Rigby herself was sitting right there at a table signing autographs and giving away pixie dust. Well we couldn’t miss that. It took a bit of time, but my granddaughter got to meet her and now we have a photo of the two of them together. It was a splendid night.

  • Jacquie@KCEdventures

    Have a wonderful time! We attend the theatre annually to see something – sometimes it’s a big performance (like Mary Poppins), sometimes local kids theater, and we love the outdoor summer shows in our area. I LOVE your first tip – read the book – it’s so true that kids will enjoy it more if they understand the show. And it does offer the opportunity for great questions about why some parts of the book were included and others may not have been. I also spend some time talking about ‘theatre terms’ with my kids (backstage, pit, curtain call, etc.) We’re considering Beauty & the Beast or Mary Poppins here also – such a difficult decision as I would love to see them both :)

  • Mom and Kiddo

    As a life-long theatre professional, here’s my tip: Go to the theater A LOT! Not just at holidays and for special trips. Making theatre a normal part of a kid’s every day life reinforces the idea that it is an Important part of life (just like we do with reading).

  • http://twitter.com/mytwintopia Olusola

    These are very useful tips. I’ve never been to the theater in North America but I love the old MGM classics/musicals. I hope to one day take my twins to the theatre and thanks to you, we know to watch the movie first then go.

  • Helen @ Curly Birds

    Thank you for the suggestions. I’ve been wondering when to start taking my girls. These are all such good ideas to prepare them. I still remember the first time my mum took me to the theater – it was such a magical experience.

  • Tech-Know Grammy

    As a performing arts teacher and mother to 3 kids who love music & theater I so love your suggestions. I raised 3 music/performing loving kids using these ideas. We’re now starting on the grandkids who already love to sing and dance at the ages of 6 and under.

  • Danielle @52 Brand New

    Love the suggestions! We see the Nutcracker every year. We’ve also gone to many plays specifically for children, but I think now they are now old enough for “grown up” shows like The Music Man and A Christmas Carol.

  • http://www.deletingtheadjectives.com/ Rachel Brandt Fisher

    What age did you start taking your kids to shows that weren’t specifically for kids? My daughter is enamored with ballet and theater. We are taking her to a children’s performance of The Nutcracker but we have quite a few Broadway traveling companies pas through our city.

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