As mums, we are on a never-ending quest to find fun and meaningful activities to keep our precious little ones occupied. If you’re thinking of what to do with your kids this June holidays, why not bring them to watch a live theatre performance? The benefits of taking children to the theatre are aplenty.
But where do I catch these performances? And how do I know what kind of production to start my kids with?
These are some questions you might have. Fret not. We have the answers for you. We're going to tell you where you can catch these wonderful performances. But first, let's look at the benefits of taking children to the theatre.
Benefits of taking children to the theatre
- Exposure. Just like reading, taking children to the theatre exposes them to a plethora of cultures, historically significant events and tradition. For theatre, there is the added benefit of the visual element. It always works well for children.
- Appreciation. Appreciation follows exposure. Children may get fascinated by a new culture, or a character’s personality and develop an appreciation for it.
- Critical thinking. On the other hand, children also learn to become critiques from a young age. They might disagree with a character’s actions or prefer one performance to another. It helps them to form opinions. It creates a platform for discussion and critical analysis.
- Imaginative power. A benefit of taking children to the theatre would be how it ignites the spark of imagination within them. Children always go home chatting incessantly about their plans to stage their own performance when they get home. Sit back and watch the magic unfold!
- Empathy. Watching or participating in drama is extremely effective in teaching children how to understand other people’s feelings. In doing so, they learn how to empathise.
Watching the characters perform a story aids in building empathy in children.
Dew M. Chaiyanara, a playwright and artistic director with more than 20 years of experience in theatre, and a mother to a five-year-old daughter, shares her take on the benefits of taking children to the theatre:
Theatrical plays specially catered for children will usually have a simple yet engaging storyline that will captivate the young audience (and parents alike!) – some of which are variations of popular fairytales, well known fables, and children’s storybooks.
It’s a great way to bond with your child and introduce her to the arts. She’ll also be fascinated by the magic of a live theatrical performance. It's a completely different experience from watching a movie at the cinema.
This is what Dew has to say to parents about the benefits of taking children to the theatre:
It is absolutely precious to see the wonder in your child’s eyes as she watches the magic of theatre unfold before her. The energy and passion that you feel from the theatre performers onstage enhances the whole experience. You will learn to appreciate all the hard work that goes into making plays come to life.
Theatre is a whole different world altogether. I strongly feel that it should be part of every child’s learning experience – either watching it as an audience member or up on stage performing in the spotlight!
Getting the kids to sit through a production
While parents may be convinced of the benefits of taking children to the theatre, many of them are skeptical if their children will sit through the duration of the production. This is especially the case for those with younger children.
Singaporean parents often say,
Oh yes I would love to bring my kids. But I honestly don’t think they will sit through it. Their attention span is too short.
Well, that’s not really the case. If you actually try watching a play or musical with your children, you will notice how engaged the children are. If you follow the age guidelines, it is unlikely that your child will feel bored.
Productions targeting young audiences usually have sing-along and other interactive segments during the performance.
Dew adds that there are usually catchy tunes to single along to, and fun and interactive segments where your kids will be delighted to be a part of.
It is not uncommon to find the actors walking through the audience and engaging the children. Children are called up on stage to be a part of the performance in some productions. As shy as children can get, they are more than thrilled to participate!
On your part, you can encourage your child to sing along and participate. Try asking some questions to set them thinking or point at something on stage that would interest them.
Some children will have a host of questions about the technical aspects of the production. I was rather taken aback when my four-year-old son started investigating the lighting and projection effects.
Also, the duration of the plays, especially for younger audiences is usually not more than 45 minutes to an hour. Trust me, as hard as it is to believe, your child can sit through it.
Many of these productions also include meet-and-greet sessions or photography sessions with the cast. Children absolutely love this!
Give it a shot. The benefits of bringing your child to the theatre definitely outweigh whatever reservations you possibly have.
Head on to the next page to find out where in Singapore you can catch one of these wonderful live theatre performances for kids!
Where to catch these performances?
PLAYtime is an interactive theatre series for children aged two to four. Each experience is an opportunity to spark your child’s creativity and encourage learning through performing arts.
Playtime Esplanade stages performances in a more relaxed and interactive setting that works well for young children.
In fact, if you have never taken your child to a live theatre production before, this is probably the best place to start. The performance venue is the Esplanade Theatre Studio. The audience sits on the floor.
It is not as rigid or formal as a regular theatre. Also, the props and set up surround the children. They get to move around and interact quite a bit.
An added benefit is that most of the performances infuse the Singaporean flavour!
2.Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT)
SRT stages performances by The Little Company (TLC), a theatre company producing quality plays for children using professional adult actors. The plays target two age groups – under 5’s and 6 to 12 year olds.
Past productions include well-known children classic stories such as Charlotte’s Web, Treasure Island and The Three Little Pigs to name a few. They never fail to captivate the audience and always put up a performance that is nothing short of fantastic.
Again, there is the added benefit of the local flavor. It is interesting how they adapt these classics to suit our culture. For example, The Three Little Pigs were Char, Siew and Bao! TLC also stages Mandarin versions of some of these classics.
My favourites are Treasure Island and The Cat in the Hat. Definitely worth the watch!
3.School of the Arts (SOTA) Drama Centre
International production companies commonly perform here. Most of you would have heard of Kids Fest. Kids Fest is a three-week Festival of world-class theatre for young people in Hong Kong and Singapore. They have a number of productions over a span of 5 weeks. Famous all time-favourite productions include – The Gruffalo, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Stick Man.
Famous production companies from the United Kingdom also stage productions here. You can look out for timely Christmas favourites such as Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs and Rod Campbell’s Dear Santa.
SOTA Drama Centre has a great mix of local and international productions. Children love their meet and greet sessions too!
4.Ulu Pandan Community Club
The Players Theatre, one of Singaporean’s leading theatre companies, stages their productions here. Players Theatre is also a non-profit Children’s Theatre with the mission to ‘Touch Hearts and Build Lives”.
Some of their most well-known performances include Roald Dahl’s The Witches and The BFG and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. The best part of watching a production here is that along with the benefits of taking children to the theatre, you are also contributing to welfare organisations.
5.Act 3 International
Act 3 is Singapore’s leading Arts Company for the young. It focuses on juxtaposing arts with the environment, heritage and culture to form a holistic creative environment.
Here’s what I love about Act 3 – they have performances and drama workshops for all age groups! They even have holiday programs to help keep the children busy.
There’s always something or the other going on in Act 3.
They have staged well-known tales such as Pinocchio and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Act 3 has Sunday programs, holiday workshops as mentioned, as well as one-off performances and workshops.
A whole lot of good stuff going on here!
Apart from these regular locations, big productions such as Disney Live and Hi-5 take place at Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.
Hi5 at the Mastercard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands. A huge hit with the little ones.
On an ad hoc basis, you can look out for productions held at various branches of the National Library. These are usually free of charge.
For those interested in exposing your children to ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre often stages adaptations for little children at the Esplanade. An example would be The Nutcracker, a classical ballet, condensed into an hour-long special for young audiences! Children could come dressed in their favourite costumes and there was a meet and greet session as well.
Mums, ballet isn’t only for the girls. My son loves watching the ballet and he’s your quintessential boy who plays with pirate swords and racing cars!
For those into orchestra, you can look out for Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s performances that are specifically catered for younger audiences.
Do also keep a look out for workshops and performances at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Shaking it With Shakespeare was a great success, with actors from the world renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London. They conducted interactive acting workshops as well as staged parts of the all famous King Henry.
An actor from London's Shakespeare's Globe Theatre conducting an acting workshop for children.
What about age recommendations?
If you look at the information for any of these productions, there is usually a recommended age guide. Some productions even allow you to bring in infants! Parents have differing views on this.
Dew's take is that yes, the benefits of taking children to the theatre starts while they are young. However, the recommended age groups are stated for a reason. Infants or toddlers probably won't be able to understand nor follow the storyline. The loud audio and stimulating visuals might cause a sensory overload - resulting in a meltdown.
Having said that, the "age limit" is usually just a rough guide. It's entirely up to you to gauge whether your child would be able to sit still for the duration of the whole play and enjoy the performance. You know your child best!
Dr Natalie Epton, SBCC Baby & Child Clinic, Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, is a strong advocate of the benefits of taking children to the theatre. She encourages parents to take their little ones to the Baby Prom, performances by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and even the ballet! This helps to build in them an early love for music and performing arts.
It's never too early to take your children to a ballet performance.
On the whole, exposing children to theatre expands a child's mind, improves concentration skills and improves their ability to appreciate other art forms says Dr. Natalie.
As for age recommendations, Dr. Natalie describes how she used to bring her own children when they were nursing infants. When her baby felt afraid or uncomfortable, she would soothe her by allowing her to nurse and then let her continue watching.
Productions definitely ignite the senses of even the littlest of kids!
There you go mums, a comprehensive guide to understanding the benefits of taking children to the theatre as well as how to go about doing it. We hope you find this information useful!
Do leave a comment sharing with us your thoughts or experiences of taking kids to the theatre.