Have you ever taken the kids to see a live kids theatre performance? If not, you should! Live theatre benefits kids in lots of ways, from social enjoyment of fabulously presented kids shows, to scientifically proven developmental advantages (yes, seriously!). We’ve got a great list of age appropriate live kids theatre shows and live plays your kids will love, as well as tips for parents to survive that all-important first theatre outing!
Keep reading to find ALL your local theatres and the latest “What’s On” at each!
Why is children’s theatre important?
Live theatre is interactive!
It’s a rare child who has never been to the cinema, but cinema seldom invites audience participation. If you have a child who struggles to sit still or quiet through a movie, you will find you are far less likely to get shushed or tutted at a live theatre for kids. Children’s theatre is often an interactive experience, especially when aimed at younger audiences.
Performers are there to entertain and they love nothing better than to hear your kids squealing with laughter, participating in calling out responses (“He’s behind you!”) and singing along to favourite songs, and children may be invited on stage to join in for some scenes too. Children’s theatre is high energy, engaging and a totally different experience to cinema – and it will encourage your child to become involved.
Live theatre fuels the imagination
Children’s books use colourful pictures to help your child visualise the story as it is told. Imagine those pictures coming to life with movement, energy and sound – how much BIGGER does their understanding of the story become! Far more than when watching a screen, when children experience a live theatre performance they are immersed into a multi-sensory world that sparks their imagination. Your children become part of something big, real and exciting! By giving your child the gift of the theatre, you’re opening up a whole new world for them – one they’ll hopefully revisit well into adulthood.
Live theatre promotes reading
Children’s live theatre shows are often adapted from children’s books. If your child is a reluctant reader, an engaging and enjoyable live kids theatre performance can often be all the inspiration your child needs to seek out other works by the same author or of the same genre. Authors whose work is often brought to the stage include David Walliams, Roald Dahl, Mem Fox and Andy Griffiths. Other popular stage adaptations include well-loved stories like The Gruffalo and The Owl and The Pussycat, and even movies take on a whole new life with School of Rock and Shrek appearing live on Brisbane’s stages.
When children develop a love of reading, they develop a greater understanding of language, which in turn leads to improved performance at school as they can better understand tasks set and articulate results. Live theatre benefits kids academically!
A personal perspective: My son had always been an avid reader but was beginning to lose interest by mid-primary, preferring screen time instead. As a family we saw David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang performed live at QUT Gardens Theatre in Brisbane. That same night he plucked an already-read David Walliams book from his shelf and read it again, before working through the rest of his collection over the next few days and asking for latest books the next time I went to the shops. His interest in reading had been rekindled!
Live theatre helps children develop emotional intelligence
This is one of the scientifically proven bits. Research by University College London shows those who attend live theatre together will synchronise their heart rates, which creates a sense of connection and attachment and strengthens family bonds.
A study by the University of Arkansas found that when primary and secondary school pupils are exposed to live theatre experiences it “increases student tolerance by providing exposure to a broader, more diverse world, and improves the ability of students to recognise what other people are thinking or feeling.”
When a performance covers a difficult topic such as bullying, loss, or feeling ‘different’, seeing these experiences played out live on stage can help children access unfamiliar emotions and develop a deeper understanding of–and empathy for–others. A live performance can often open up the opportunity for discussion based on the characters’ situation and how it might relate to our own experiences. Live theatre benefits kids emotionally.
A personal perspective: I took my teenage daughter to a live performance of X-Stacy at The Ron Hurley Theatre in Seven Hills. X-Stacy tackles the difficult issues of teenage drug use and loss. I took my daughter because she studies drama and stage direction and I want her to see a variety of different productions, but whilst the conversation on the drive home did cover ideas of scene setting, lighting and direction, we inevitably had a very in-depth discussion about the domino effect of the title character’s actions and the emotional responses of those who loved her.
Live theatre benefits communication
Actors on stage portray a range of characters and emotions through voice, expression, movement and gesture. To children they seem so much more real and believable than characters in the two-dimensional world of television and cinema, enabling the child to form a bond or connection with the characters. By observing how a ‘real’ person acts, moves and behaves on stage, children can learn how to express themselves and communicate more effectively. Attending live theatre benefits kids by helping to reduce the frustration of miscommunication.
Live theatre develops “soft skills”
In employment-speak “Soft skills” are the traits that make you a great employee. Soft skills refer to interpersonal skills, leadership, communication, ability to analyse and solve problems, teamwork, and adaptability. Exposure to live theatre shows children how the problems of presenting a big scene in a confined space are overcome with interchangeable sets and direction, and how the clever use of lighting, props, and expression can suggest weather, mood and atmosphere. There is no computer generated ‘green screen’ action or multiple takes from different camera angles – live theatre solves problems in a truly achievable and thought-provoking way. Live theatre benefits continue into adulthood.
Live theatre is a great night out!
Comedy, drama, musical or pantomime, professional or amateur dramatics; whatever you see and wherever you see it live children’s theatre is a great family experience. Performers on a stage communicate with the audience in a way that cinema and television can not replicate. The audience is welcomed and drawn in to the live theatre performance, and leaves with a sense of unique shared experience.
What live theatre shows are appropriate for my kids?
There are so many live theatre productions for kids to choose from that it can be overwhelming to pick one to start with. From live ballet shows for toddlers to kid-friendly musicals, we’ve chosen a few old favourites as well as a few of what’s proving popular around the world to help get you started. Every kid is different, so you might choose plays, or go with a musical, or even a ballet to start with.
Plays for kids aged 3+
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea
- The Wind in the Willows
- Hairy McClairy
- Magic Beach
Ballet for kids aged 3+
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Nutcracker
Plays for kids aged 4+
- The Gruffalo
- The Gruffalo’s Child
- My Robot
- The Owl and the Pussycat
- Edward the Emu
Plays for kids aged 5+
- The Wizard of Oz
- Treasure Island
- Charlotte’s Web
- James and the Giant Peach
- The Cat in the Hat
Musicals and plays for kids aged 6+
- The Lion King
- The Andy Griffiths ‘Treehouse’ series
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Plays for kids aged 7+
- The Secret Garden
- Shrek the Musical
Hints and tips to survive your child’s first theatre outing
Your child’s first theatre experience can be both exciting and stressful for parent and child alike – here’s a handy list of hints and tips to help make your experience a great one!
- Choose the right show for your child. You want to make sure it’s age appropriate, but also that they’ll enjoy it. Make sure you know what your child likes and dislikes, and what they can and cannot handle. If you’ve got a squirmer or a crier, it may be a good idea to wait a while. Some family friendly shows can also include scary scenes, so do your homework.
- Prepare your child for their new experience. Help them to become familiar with the story of the show they’re going to see. Show them songs or videos beforehand, and tell them about the role of the conductor and the orchestra if you’re going to be seeing a musical or a ballet. Make sure you explain to them that a live theatre show isn’t like TV or a movie – they’ll be watching real live people on stage. Finally, teach them about the kind of behaviour that’s expected from them in the theatre.
- Choose the matinee performance. It’s the best time of day for children, and the performance will finish before their bed time.
- Plan for a quick getaway. Make sure you book aisle seats in case you need to leave quickly. You can never predict how your kids will react to the start of a play or musical, so it’s best to be prepared!
- Turn up at least 30 minutes prior to the show. This way, you can make the necessary toilet trips and settle your kids down before the show starts. Lots of theatres offer booster cushions for kids, so make sure you grab one if needed.
- Bring quiet snacks and drinks.
- Make use of the intervals. Make any necessary toilet trips and talk to your kids about what they’ve just seen.
Is something still holding you back from going to the theatre? Let us put your mind at rest over a few common theatre misconceptions.
You have to dress up
No, you don’t! Movies might have given you the idea that a night at the theatre is a lavish affair where one must ‘don one’s best gown’ and grab the opera glasses. Well, you can if you really want to, but there’s no dress code saying you must. You’ll be just fine – and far more comfortable – in the same regular clothes you might wear to the cinema.
Theatre is expensive
A ticket to the theatre does cost more than a ticket to a movie, but it isn’t necessarily significantly so. Small production companies have great family deals, and the same show can often be seen for less at local theatres than when staged at the big city venues. If there’s a show you would really like to see, check our links below to see if it’s on at a smaller venue near you.
If you can wait until a show is nearing the end of its run, you may find you can get tickets at a discount price. Some venues also have standby sales where unsold tickets are sold cheaply just before the show starts. La Boite Theatre even has a “pay what you can” policy on selected shows throughout the year where you choose your own price.
Theatre is for snobs
No, theatre is for everyone! In the old-old days theatre was one of the few sources of entertainment for ‘regular folk’. With the advent of cheap and accessible cinema – which was modern and exciting – theatre audiences dropped. Many theatres closed and those that remained became the domain of the elite, but theatre for the masses fought back! Nowadays audiences can enjoy a huge range of quality productions designed for maximum audience engagement. Theatre isn’t complete without an audience, so go along and see what you’ve been missing!
Where to experience live theatre in Brisbane
There are many great venues across Brisbane that regularly schedule family-friendly theatre performances. Take a look at what’s on at these, and click here to learn more about our local theatre companies.
Brisbane Arts Theatre
210 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane – Brisbane Arts Theatre opened in 1961 and offers family-friendly live theatre shows all year round. Take a look at What’s On here.
Brisbane Entertainment Centre
1 Melaluca Drive, Boondall – Brisbane Entertainment Centre hosts international tours, concerts and plenty of high-calibre kids shows. Take a look at What’s On here.
19 Lamington Street, New Farm – Brisbane Powerhouse has several theatre rooms and hosts a variety of performances. Take a look at What’s On here.
Ipswich Civic Centre
50 Nicholas Street, Ipswich – Ipswich Civic Centre puts on a range of fantastic kids’ theatre shows all year round. Take a look at What’s On here.
La Boite/Roundhouse Theatre
6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove – The Roundhouse Theatre has a central stage with seating all around it. La Boite performs a variety of stage productions, including several family-friendly shows each year. Take a look at What’s On here.
Logan Entertainment Centre
170 Wembley Road, Logan Central – Logan Entertainment Centre is a spacious and accessible venue with heaps of free parking on site. They stage several family-friendly performances each year. Take a look at What’s On here.
Queensland Conservatorium Griffiths University
Queensland Conservatorium offers a variety of live performance genres at two Brisbane locations; 140 Grey Street, South Brisbane and 8 Burke Street, Wooloongabba. Take a look at What’s On here.
Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)
Cultural Precinct, Cnr Grey and Melbourne Street, South Bank – QPAC houses several theatres in one fantastic building, with the capacity to continually host a huge range of amazing family-friendly shows throughout the year. Take a look at What’s On here.
QUT Gardens Theatre
2 George Street, Brisbane – Located on the QUT campus next to the Botanic Gardens, QUT Gardens Theatre regularly stages children’s shows based on popular books. Take a look at What’s On here.
Redcliffe Entertainment Centre
Downs Street, Redcliffe – Redcliffe Entertainment Centre hosts a variety of family-friendly performances throughout the year in a modern venue. Take a look at What’s On here.
Redlands Performing Arts Centre (RPAC)
Sunnybank Performing Arts Centre (SunPAC)
This article was featured in Issue 38 of our printed magazine, published February 2020.