I remember being at work one and mentioning to a coworker that she should take her kids to see a production at our local children's theatre. She gasped in horror, like I had suggested she take them to see burlesque or attend a live tattoo session.
"You know Johnny's only nine years old, right?" she asked.
I looked at her, surprised by her answer. At what age would you find children's theatre appropriate, exactly?
I think that people who are uninitiated to theatre are intimidated by it. They hear the Millionaire talk to His Wife about "thuh theee-ate-tuh" and you assume that you're just not classy enough to be there. Or that you'd be bored. Or that your kids will hate you for it.
But honestly? It's not like that. ESPECIALLY in children's theatre.
My husband and I have an especially soft spot in our hearts for children's theatre, because it's one of our favorite things to do. Both of our boys have been audience members since they were two years old, and they love every single performance. It has become a staple in our house at least one weekend a month.
Children's theatre is geared toward young minds, invoking their sense of imagination and wonder, and often employing audience participation. That means that your kid doesn't need to be perfectly silent for the length of the show. Even as a performer, I can promise you that we LOVE hearing the kids react during the show! And shows are carefully considered before being produced - they are family-friendly and typically run just over an hour to avoid squirmy little ones. Taking your kid means learning to relax and let them find a way to enjoy themselves.
(This is easier said than done for a Type A parent like myself, but it's worth it in the end.)
And most shows produced by a children's theatre are based on another medium for children - be it a fable, a popular book, a song, or even a TV show. When we visit shows, we try and take it full circle; we'll read the book that night at bedtime, or we'll download the song for the car trip. It helps kids make that connection between the written word and the stage. IT'S A LIFE SKILL, IS WHAT I'M SAYING HERE.
We're incredibly fortunate that our local children's theatre has been able to keep their ticket prices incredibly reasonable, even through the recession. It's cheaper for us to go see a live show than a movie. And while we've had the boys randomly mention movies after the fact, the dialogue and conversations that a live stage show have spawned have been monumental.
(And yes, the boys work behind the set as well. Their daddy is a masterful carpenter and a certain redhead is KIND of good on stage. The life skills they've gained in working backstage - both technical and social skills - are something that we feel will serve them well.)
So if you're looking for something to do this weekend, but you don't necessarily want to shell out the moolah for the next rodent sequel in 3D (let's not even DISCUSS the funds required to snack while there!), google your hometown + children's theatre and see what's happening there. At the very least, you'll do something new. Best case scenario? You'll make family memory.
Has your family visited a children's theatre performance?