I’ve been going to live performances and shows with both Lady AB and Baby 2.0 since they were babies and I think it’s an activity that’s beneficial for adults and kids. Live performance exposes kids to artistic and cultural concepts in an age-accessible way and for adults it’s a good excuse to get out of the house!
Today’s post is in response to a recent reader question. Jenny asks “I would like to take my two year old to her first live show. We are open to anything! Theatre, dance, circus… Is there anything age appropriate? And do you have any advice for new theatre going families?”
So here are my Top 7 tips for going to theatre, performance or live show with babies, toddlers and young kids:
1. Get in the mood
If the show is related to a book or movie, read or watch it before the show. While adults like to be surprised, kids do better when they know what to expect and are looking out for familiar characters, objects and scenes.
Depending on your child’s age it may also be worth explaining some rules of show etiquette eg inside voice, no kicking seats, clap afterwards.
2. Arrive early
My experience is that arriving at least 30 minutes before the show begins is a good time frame. It allows both you and your child to get familiar with your surroundings, to have a snack and to go the toilet/change a nappy. Some performances will have pre-show activities/entertainment too.
Arriving early also means having a plan as to where you’ll park or knowing the public transport timetable.
The times where I have had to run to theatre doors (or make my kids run) have been unnecessarily stressful experiences.
Bring LOTS of snacks and water
You think that your child will be able to sit through a 30 minute performance without asking for food and water? Think again.
It’s always when I’m not prepared that my kids start whining about being hungry and thirsty, and you don’t want that to happen in the middle of a show. I pack a Nude Food Movers full of food and a drink bottle and then plonk them down to eat and drink before the show starts (see tip 1).
If you bring snacks that don’t make a noise or mess then sneak them in during the show :)
Sit on the aisle and near the back
If I’m with really little kids ie under 2s I like to sit near the aisle and at the back so that I can make a quick getaway without disturbing too many people. I’ve had to leave in the middle of shows before because my kids were scared, whiny or needed the loo.
Aisle seats mean you can also lean out to see past tall adults! Some theatres may provide booster seats.
Select an age-appropriate performance
There is a reason that shows have a recommended age bracket. I took 4 year old Lady AB to see The Rabbits (recommended 8+ years) and she started screaming ‘I want to get out of here’ as soon as the lights went down and music started. We were also seated dead centre (see tip 3) so I had to climb over everyone as quickly as possible with a wailing child in tow.
If your child is a squirmer, a crawler or easily scared it may be a good idea to wait on investing the time and money to go to a fancy show. And even if your kid is technically within the age bracket use your judgment to decide if they’re really ready. That’s why we decided not to take Lady AB to the 4 hour long Lion King musical.
Arts Centre Melbourne, ArtPlay and Melbourne Recital Centre have regular programming for under 5s – it’s worth getting on their mailing list. You may also find suitable programming at Footscray Community Arts Centre, Gasworks Arts Park, the annual Roola Boola Children’s Arts Festival and during school holidays at your local library or local theatre troupe.
A little post-show treat
A small post-show treat like a babycino or a nearby playground visit is a great way to unwind after sitting still and a chance to discuss what you’ve just experienced. It also enhances the magical ‘special outing’ feeling of going to a show!
I consistently avoid merchandise stands as I don’t want them nagging every time we go.
Most events for under 5s are normally pretty relaxed in terms of seating and include a high level of interactivity, so relax and have fun!
Don’t worry too much if your kids don’t look like they’re particularly engaged in a performance at the time. In my experience they will translate their experience into play later, whether it’s singing a song from the show, drawing the characters, recreating the action with toys or using the performance as a springboard for making up their own story.
What are your tips for going to a live show with babies and toddlers?