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Taking your child to the theatre


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If panto season has passed you by because you’re nervous about taking your young child to the theatre, then here are some top tips to get you all in the mood – after all, who wouldn’t want to see Phil Mitchell in tights?

Pick a story they know

Firstly choose a show that’s based on a story your child knows and loves. A familiar plot will help them get used to the unfamiliar setting and experience of live theatre. Talk about going to see the characters in the story, and re-read the book a few times before your trip.

While pantomimes are based on familiar nursery rhymes and tales, they might not be the best starting point for a more nervous young theatre-goer. Bear in mind the soap stars they won’t know, in-jokes for adults, and boisterous banter. It’ll suit some kids down to the ground but others might need easing into theatre more gently.

Age appropriate

Make sure that any production is appropriate for the age of your child. It might seem obvious but some shows can catch you out so check out the producers’ advice. Plus, if a show is advertised as for age 2+, you don’t have to waste any time being embarrassed about tears, toilet breaks or piercingly loud questions – ‘mummy, why is that man being silly?’

Think as well about whether it’s better for your child to make it a family occasion, surrounded by grandparents and cousins (ideal for pantos), or to take in a matinee for just the two of you, to keep things calm.

Plan ahead

Have you got all the information you need? Tickets – check. Running-time – check. Interval – check. Do you have enough cash for the random spinny-light-up-things they seem to sell at kids’ shows, or a large felt Gruffalo on a stick? Check. The last thing you need is to be stressed out yourself, so be a good boy/girl scout and be prepared.

Go the extra mile

Make the trip extra-special – take a train or tram ride where you’d normally drive, or head into the city early for some sightseeing, if it won’t tire your child out too much before the big show. Or plan to take them out for their tea afterwards as an extra treat.

Toilet stops!

taking your child to the theatreIt’s wise to make the loo your first port of call on arrival at the theatre – a spent penny or a clean nappy right before the show means you can both relax and enjoy the play, hopefully without too many more interruptions (but of course be ready for those too!) And let them choose their sweeties to eat during the show if they get restless.

Prepare them

Explain what will happen so your child’s ready and excited when the lights go down, not scared that something bad is going to happen (maybe think twice if your child is actively afraid of the dark).

You should also expect them to a bit scared at times during the show. It’s all new and the nature of theatre is that there’s a bit of ‘drama’ and emotion flying around. But you can anticipate any potentially scary bits of the show and remind them quietly of the story they know – ‘here comes the dragon, Gruffalo, pirate sword fight’. Plus you can reassure your child by sitting them on your lap or holding hands if they need a bit of comfort.

Capture the moment

Take a photo or two (not during the show of course) as a reminder of your special day – you could even save the ticket stub and programme, putting them all in a scrap book. Talk with your child about what they liked or didn’t like about the experience and the show itself, and what they might like to see next time.

Regular theatre trips needn’t break the bank – keep an eye out for Groupon deals and last-minute offers, or ticket competitions in your local papers. And even the big-budget West End musicals are accessible thanks to Kids Week, when kids go free to top London shows with an adult paying full price.

So, for Room on the Broom, Matilda, Horrible Histories or the Wizard of Oz, overture and beginners please. Before you know it you’ll be counting the days till your next show together. Curtains up!


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About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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