Shepard Boy and Little Red pose with their arms stretched

How to Prepare Your Kids for Their First Show

The feeling of seeing a story unfold live on stage is unlike anything else, and it’s absolutely something to share with your children. When they’re ready, that is.

The wolf and Little Red kneel by a garden as the wolf holds up a vegetable

Steven J. Burge and Brittany Mendoza-Peña. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

While there’s no set age for when kids can be introduced to the stage — each child is different after all — there are signs to look for that indicate that they may be ready. Can they sit mostly still through a feature-length movie at home? Can they watch something without talking through the whole thing? Do they want to go to the theatre? Ask these questions first, and then decide where to go to from there.

When They Are Ready To Go

Once the answer to all these questions is yes, then it’s time to pick your show. Start with something kid friendly, and short if possible. Right now DCPA Education is presenting LITTLE RED, a musical adaptation of the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s geared toward those in PreK up to third grade, with morning and afternoon shows only. See it now until December 18, with options for sensory sensitive times.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical is also coming to the theatre soon. Most kids know the story, so seeing it live can add to the excitement. This show only plays December 16 though 18 at the Buell Theatre.

Good Manners

Santa Mrs Claus and Elves

The company of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

Before heading to the theatre, go over the basic rules of how to behave, which may be different depending on the show you are about to see. Don’t block the people behind you, so stay seated unless you’re encouraged to move. Don’t interrupt the story by singing along or talking out loud, unless the cast asks you to. And save your questions for intermission or after the show. For kids who tend to be wiggly, advise them to sit on their hands unless your show is interactive, and you’re invited to touch.

That said, it’s okay if kids talk a little especially if the show is geared toward children. In that case, it’s expected there will be a bit more noise from the audience than normal.

A girl watches as an actor dressed as a wolf kneels and howls

Steven J. Burge and Brittany Mendoza-Peña. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Make It Special

While the theatre alone proves exceptional, it doesn’t hurt to play that up by letting your kid feel special  too. Have them pick out their outfit or buy something pretty and new to wear. Some might like wearing a piece of your jewelry, a scarf, or any accessory they usually don’t have access too. A meal before or after the show is another way to celebrate, and a good time to talk about what to expect or what they experienced.

Tips For Bringing Kids to the Theatre

  • When ordering tickets, see if the theatre offers an age recommendation. If you’re on the fence, call and talk with a ticket agent who can provide you with additional details to help you make a decision that’s right for your child.
  • Height matters. Before going to the theatre make sure your child is either tall enough to see the stage from their seat or check with the theatre to see if they provide booster seats. Many do, and those extra inches allow little ones to take it all in without getting up.
  • Rudolph Family and Santa

    The company of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

    Let little kids bring a beloved stuffy or small doll, just as long as it doesn’t make any noise. The lovey can help a restless child calm down, gives them something to fidget with, and some kids just enjoy letting their make-believe friends experience a new thing together.

  • Feed the beasts. No one wants to be around hungry kids. Make sure they are fed before the show. Many theatres offer concessions before the show or during an intermission, but due to shorter-run times for many child-friendly shows, there may not be an intermission – so plan accordingly.
  • Make sure to visit the bathroom before the show. Even if they say they don’t need to go. Explain that once the curtain is up, they can’t leave and come back.
  • Don’t forget about bribes. Even a small piece of candy can be good incentive to keep kids focused and quiet during the show. It doesn’t have to be huge. A simple, “If you can be quiet for the whole first half, you can have a lollipop after” often works.
Shepard Boy and Little Red pose with their arms stretched

Sean Scrutchins and Brittany Mendoza-Peña. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

After the Show

Be ready to talk with your kids on the way home. They will be bursting with enthusiasm and curiosity. Many productions provide study guides, family resources and children’s activities that further enrich the experience. Look online or ask when arriving. These are the finishing touches that will take their experience from great to memorable!

Once the performance is done, talk to your kids about what they saw, what they liked, and what they wish was different. Praise them for good behavior and make a point to show your gratitude that they came to the theatre and shared the experience with you. Then, make plans for your next foray.