Taking your kids to the theater can be an enchanting experience but may also seem like a daunting task. Selecting a super show, adhering to a timetable, commuting, handling “hanger” management issues and more might be enough to make you second-guess your decision. But thanks to Petite Seat, exposing your kids to the magic of theater will be a breeze.
Petite Seat is a comprehensive parent’s resource for family-friendly NYC area theater and live entertainment. Co-founded by two in-the-know, super theater moms, Liz Schwarzwalder and Mindy Swidler, Petite Seat is a resource for theater tips, recommendations, offers and more.
Petite Seat provides us with the must-have, essential entertainment expertise to get from opening curtain (without fear) all the way to the final bow.
We recently sat down with Petite Seat’s Liz and Mindy to learn their Top 10 Theater Tips:
While you should always pay attention to the provided age recommendations, it’s important to recognize that not all children mature at the same pace. For example, some 6-year-olds may easily be able to sit through The Lion King, but for some, the story might be too “scary”. Finding the right material for your child is important, especially for a first show. A positive first experience is the key to get them to go back.
Choose the best time of day for your child
Always make sure the time of the performances works for everybody. It’s important to keep in mind your child’s best time of day when selecting a performance. Be sure to consider things like nap time and mealtime so that you’re not fighting an uphill battle during the show.
Consider the format of the show
If you know your child can easily sit through a 2-hour movie, chances are they will do pretty well at a Broadway show. But if you’re just starting out, it’s probably best to stick to 1-hour shows with no intermission and something at a smaller venue. It takes practice and time to be able to focus for 2+ hours and a big theater can be overwhelming for younger kids; smaller stages and houses are more manageable experiences.
Choose the right seats
A few tips here: [a] Aisle seats are often a good bet; they allow for easy getaways (bathroom breaks, tantrums, fears or just restlessness); [b] Closer is not always better. Some shows can be very loud or overwhelming, and sitting very close can make all of that even more intense. If you’re not sure how your child will respond, or if you know your child is sensitive to loud noises, you may want to sit further back; and [c] Pricing can vary, sometimes a lot, by location. This is especially true at larger venues, if you are price sensitive make sure to check the rows 1-2 behind where you are looking or same rows but to the left or right, you might be surprised to learn those are less money with nearly identical views.
Study up and talk about the story beforehand
If it is a musical, and the cast recording is available, play it often for a week or two before the show to familiarize your child with the music. Many of the shows geared towards younger kids are based on books; read them a few times in the day or two beforehand.
Check venue details
Do you want to bring a stroller with you? Do you need a booster seat? Or plan to bring your infant along? You’ll want to read up, before you leave the house, to know what’s in store. This information is sometimes hard to find, but Petite Seat’s website consolidates all of this information.
Plan ahead for travel
Getting kids from point A to point B is never what you plan—between tantrums, unplanned bathroom breaks and commuting, a cushion of 20-30 minutes is not just nice but a necessity. If the stars align for you and you arrive a little early, that’s okay too, this will give your child time to explore the theater when you get there and many shows geared towards young kids will have some pre-show activities, if you do get there early: Coloring, character meet-and-greets, play areas, etc.
Bring a snack
It doesn’t matter the length of the show, it could be two hours, or it could be 30 minutes – all kids will come out starving. Often liquids and sometimes food are not allowed into the theater, you didn’t hear it from us, but it’s always worth having a small sealed bag of food (granola bar, goldfish, etc) tucked away somewhere in the depths of your bag.
Make a day of it!
Find a nice spot for breakfast, brunch, or lunch (pending show time) and find out what else is nearby. If your schedule allows, add another special activity to extend the day. With most children’s shows being only about an hour, finding an “encore activity” turns the whole day into something special.
Broadway is not always best, at least for kids
Consider Off Broadway for early theater experiences. Off Broadway offers you the opportunity to “dry run” everything first, often with shorter shows, more expected content, lower price points and the camaraderie of other parents in the audience. And the good news is there are so many options for kids (of all ages) to help you do just that.
Petite Seat has recommendations, by age group, for family theatre and live entertainment in and around the NYC area. Learn more at petiteseat.com.