We LOVE taking our kids to the theatre. The arts are really important to us as a family and we were determined to instill an appreciation of live theatre in them from a young age. Don’t worry – we’re not talking about full length operas or gritty plays in another language. We love to go and see kid friendly shows that come to Adelaide such as plays based on their favourite books, children’s music groups, magic shows and circuses.
It’s not always easy though. Even though kids shows are generally short, it can be a big ask for our little people to keep still and stay engaged the whole time. Below are a bunch of tips that we have put together based on our many trips to the theatre in Adelaide with our kids in tow. Hopefully they will help you and your kids enjoy a fun, theatre experience the next time there is a special show on in Adelaide.
- START THEM EARLY
The best way to create good theatre go-ers & foster a love of the arts is to start taking them to the theatre from a young age! Luckily for us, there are heaps of theatre shows that are suitable from birth, including a bunch of Adelaide Fringe shows and productions from theatre companies such as Patch Theatre and Windmill Theatre. Most of the time really young kids are free if they are on your lap.
- RESPECT THEATRE RULES & ETIQUETTE
Kids learn from us adults right? So do the right thing while you are at the theatre with your kids and follow the rules. If an announcement has been made asking for no photography or videoing during the show, pop your phone away and enjoy what’s happening “in real life”. If you are going to a show with another friend, during the show isn’t the time to catch up with each other – save that for over a coffee before or afterwards. If your kids see you following theatre etiquette, chances are they will too!
- TAKE SNACKS (MAYBE)
Having some snacks on hand can be great during a performance if the kids are getting a little restless. However this tip comes with some tips of its own – find out beforehand if the theatre allows food inside (if not, it might be better to pack a quiet fidget toy instead). If you can take food in, great! Just make sure it’s not something that’s going to get too messy (clean up after the show if you do have a popcorn spill – it happens) and make sure the packaging isn’t too noisy if it’s a show where there are likely to be quiet or serious parts.
- BUY A PROGRAM
Most shows these days have a program you can purchase which gives you background info on the show, bios of the cast and crew and photos of the performance. We highly recommend getting to the show with enough time to buy a program and look over it with your child. Talk about the costumes and the set. It will get them excited about what they are about to see and they are more likely to stay engaged looking out for the things they spotted in the program before the show. Plus they make a great souvenir.
- TALK TO THEM ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT
In the days leading up to the show and on the trip into the theatre, spend some time talking to to them about what might happen while they are there. Explain that it’s important that they go to the toilet before the show so they don’t have to leave partway through and miss some. Let them know that at the start of the show the lights might go down, making it dark in the audience. If your child is sensitive to noise, make sure they are aware that there might be loud music or dialogue. The theatre is a magical experience but it can also be a weird place for our little ones!
- STAND UP & DANCE? OR SIT DOWN & WATCH NICELY?
The first few shows we took our daughter to were plays or “sit down and watch nicely” shows. When she went to her first Peter Coombe concert she was horrified that kids were standing up to sing and dance! We had to explain to her that at some shows you need to sit quietly and watch the actors on stage so you don’t miss parts of the story, but at other shows, it’s perfectly acceptable (and often encouraged!) to get up and dance and sing along! Have a chat to your kids about the difference depending on what type of show you are taking them to.
- CLAP FOR THE CREW
Have you ever wondered why when the cast come out at the end to take their bows (that’s called the Curtain Call btw) they will gesture down in front of them or to the back of the theatre? That’s their way of thanking the orchestra, sound, lighting and backstage crew! It takes a HUGE team of people to put on even a small show, so be sure to explain all of the different roles of the theatre to your child and give a big clap for everyone behind the scenes!
- TAKE A BOOSTER
There’s nothing worse than getting your child settled in their seat only for a tall adult to come and sit in front of them. In most theatres, even if this does happen they should still be able to see, but consider bringing a cushion for them to sit on. Some theatres have boosters on hand but these are often given out on a first come, first served basis.
- GET CLOSE TO THE FRONT (IF YOU CAN)
At some kids shows you pay one ticket price and people can sit wherever they want (most Adelaide Fringe shows are like this). However sometimes you need to pre-select your tickets and pay accordingly based on where you are sitting. If pricing allows, we always suggest to sit as close to the front as possible. It’s more likely that your child will be more engaged if they can see the actors faces and make out the small details of the set and costumes. Don’t worry if you can’t afford front row tickets though, most shows are designed so that you can get the most out of it no matter where you are sitting.
Most importantly, enjoy your child’s first theatre experiences! Don’t stress if they get a bit grizzly halfway through or if the kid behind you is kicking your chair – they are all learning and the more you take them, the easier it will get. Enjoy the looks of awe on their face the first time they see a stunning costume or a magic trick or some aerial acrobatics.
To find a show to take your child to, be sure to check out the What’s On section of our website for all the best events happening in Adelaide!