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Tips and advice

Advice for toddler theatre trips

Why take a toddler to a show?

We are in a TV and DVD generation. I have been to the theatre where more often than you would think possible, older children and teenagers talk and fidget throughout the show. They don’t seem to realise that it’s not like being at home where you can make loud comments within your own four walls and pause the action to get another snack!

Taking a toddler to a live show will not only given them a wonderful experience where they can feel more involved with the action than they can on a screen but they will also learn a bit more about focus, concentration and respecting people around them.

And I have to say, when it comes to children’s shows I find watching the reaction of my little one even more interesting than watching the show.

It’s all about the preparation!

1. Choose an appropriate show for your little one’s level. check the suggested age range and ask for more details at the theatre if your little one is above or below that range but you think they may still enjoy it. Read reviews, preferably from parents, to see if it’s likely to be the right choice. You will never really know until you get there as all children are different but a bit of research never hurts!

2. Prepare. Work out your route and / or where you will park. Check with the theatre that there is somewhere to leave a buggy so you don’t end up running back to the car with it or worse – realising you don’t have time to take it back on the bus and return in time.

3. Leave plenty of time to park / use public transport so that you arrive in plenty of time to take everything in, go to the loo and get to your seat calmly. As with all things, if you are stressed, children pick up on it and you will all end up fractious.

4. Check to see if the theatre supply booster cushions – many do – but if they don’t, you may want to take one with you or they can always sit on your lap. It’s up to you.

5. When booking, pick a time that will suit your child’s eating and napping schedule – many children’s shows have a wide range of performance times. We like 10am and 2pm type performances, others will find 12 noon or 4.30pm suits better.

6. Take a few supplies for your child –  we take a drink and some biscuits or fruit, (although V is never very interested in food, especially when there is a show to watch!) as theatre sweets etc can be expensive. But be considerate of your fellow theatregoers. Try not to use the rustliest wrappers and try to only given them out in noisy bits or intervals! Avoid those Maltesers in boxes – there is no control over them and I once witnessed the whole lot rolling down the aisle stairs at the National – and that was from an adult!!

7. Remember that just because you’ve paid for a ticket doesn’t mean you have to stay to the end. Don’t worry about leaving early or at the interval if you feel that they won’t make it to the end without tears. However, audiences for pre-school shows are never silent. Even if the older ones watch quietly, younger siblings maybe more restless.

8. Budget for merchandise but psyche yourself up to be strong in order to deal with pester power effectively as it can be pricey.  I usually go for a programme because it’s nice to have souvenir. Many also double up as activity books these days.

T-shirts, even if more expensive than other things, can be a good buy because you will get a lot of use out of them. The rest of the stuff will often end up gathering dust after a day of novelty value!

Spinning windmill lights seem to be de rigour at many shows so if you get one you can save it for other trips. Yes, they may be themed differently but once they are spinning most children won’t care! (we have a Peppa Pig one that we will also take to Night Garden!)

9. Build up to going so that they know they are going to a special event but I find that it’s not good to start this too early with a young toddler as they don’t always understand the concept of next month, next week or in a few days and wonder why they haven’t been yet! At the moment we usually start the evening before!

10. Discuss the show with them afterwards, what they liked and didn’t like – it’s an important part of the experience to think about what you have seen.

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