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Children and theatre trips – take them young or wait til older?

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I have a very fidgety pre-schooler.  One who even at the age of three rarely sits and watches a whole 30 minute Tractor Ted dvd without getting up to wander round, pick up toys and play.  He will watch repeats of shorter programmes, and is partial to watching a western or rocking to AC/DC dvds with his dad, but try and show him a normal children’s animated film, and we won’t even get through the opening credits before he’s moaning for it to be turned off.  So the thought of taking him to the theatre, let alone the cinema at this age fills me with horror.

However after asking around my parent friends, it appears that we’re in a minority.  So all those shows and theatre breaks offered by companies like Hotel Direct that I gaze at longingly, are maybe not as far off as maybe I think.

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Going to the theatre’s a bigger kettle of fish.  It’s more special and different to any other experience, so I would hope N would get excited and be enthralled by what he would see.  I remember going to see my first ballet at around 5 years old with my ballet school, and never looked back with numerous dance and theatre trips through both child and adulthood. So I would like to pass on my love of the theatre to N.

When do I think he’ll be ready?

1.       Ability to sit still and watch for a while without talking (loudly). I think we might have a tick for the talking quietly as he manages to whisper when he comes into bed with me once his dad’s gone to work.  The sitting still might work if I ply him with lots of snacks and a treat drink.

2.       Longer attention span.  Maybe not a feature film length, but if he can sit for almost an hour, then he’s probably ready for a children’s show.  Obviously they have intervals at the theatre so that provides a break for him to be able to get up and move about.  I don’t think we’re far off as he can sit longer, but it really depends on the mood.

3.       When he has a favourite book or character and there’s an equivalent show aimed at children.  I think we potentially missed our chance this year with The Snowman as he really loves that book and film.  A similar type of show based on a book he loves should definitely keep his attention, and then we could build up and prepare him for the trip to see it on stage.

Maybe N is already ready, and it’s me that’s not yet ready to take him.  I think I should keep a better watch out for local shows throughout the year, and make sure we book so we’ve got something to look forward to.  If we could make the trip a family outing, even better as then he’d probably behave himself when he’s with his 5 year old cousin.

The first step would be the cinema; choosing a film series that he would enjoy at home beforehand, then it should be a successful visit.  Children’s club sessions are often available at cinemas for bargain prices, so I should  take N and see how he goes.  I just hope he won’t take after his father and fall asleep as soon as the lights go down.

There’s a rep theatre in a nearby town which often has productions aimed at children.  There’re also a few outdoor theatre performances which would be a great day time treat.  The more I think about it, the more likely I think N would probably be fine and enjoy himself without the distraction of his toys at home.

My aim would be that by school age, we’d be taking trips to Oxford or Stratford for theatre trips, and a couple of years later, heading up to London.  A theatre trip to London needs a bit more time, effort and stamina, so I’d definitely want to make a weekend of it.

What age were your children when they first went to the theatre?  Do you have any funny stories to share from the trip?

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  1. I wouldn’t dare take my son to the theatre, I know he wouldn’t be able to sit still and he would make a lot of noise. I’ll keep taking him to the park for the time being!x

    1. Places where they can run around are definitely high up on my list over the theatre at the moment. Guess we’ll see next Christmas if there might be any other change.

  2. usually the panto is a good introduction , I guess age wise it depends on the child, some will engage at an early age others will get bored very quickly.

  3. Kaitlynn went to her first pantomine and 2 years 11 months and LOVED it!

    Both Kaitlynn and William had their first cinema experience at 2 1/2 and both sat and enjoyed the film.
    The only thing that stops us going is the cost! Ouchy!

    1. Lucky there’s lots of offers to look out for. Check out all the free Warks mags for kids as they quite often have competitions for shows in. And local papers for cinema ticket competitions. Shame See Film First etc never has children’s films, only adults.

  4. Because I am a single mum to four, it would be quite expensive to take my children to the theatre so I would want to wait until they were all old enough to appreciate it. They have been to a few Christmas pantos at out city theatre, which they did enjoy, but they did struggle to sit for so long 🙂 Great debate tho with pros and cons for either option!

    1. Definitely a big expense. Guess it’s lucky that nowadays there are so many local shows on, especially pantos.

      I’d recommend checking out local papers and leaflets aimed at children’s activities – our local ones quite often have offers or competitions to win tickets.

  5. Monkey won’t contemplate the cinema. We took him to the Andy & Mike show in November and he was fine with that, but I’m not sure he’d cope well with a packed theatre and a full on production. I’d love to take him to see Peppa Pig but think it would all be too much for him. His friends all love the theatre, but as with everything Monkey will go at his own pace!

    1. I think N would be the same to an extent. He’s not big on crowds and lots of noise (unless it’s watching AC/DC gigs on DVD!), although he does quite like to laugh along with people on tv. Maybe a panto is the way to go first of all?

  6. Mine haven’t been to the theater yet…Unless you count the panto but nobody bothered if they shouted or made a noise….
    I would love to take mine to see something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Lion King….They both love the films!

    1. They’re nearly there then. The panto’s got to be the first stage it seems, and if they love the films, the theatre production would surely be magical for them bringing it to life.

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