X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Theatre

How to get your child hooked on theatre (hint: don't rule out Peppa Pig)

DO leave your bourgeois ideas at home, DO buy a toy, DON'T forget to feed them — and DO prepare for trips to the loo

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

I remember my first trip to the theatre. I was about eight, and I got hit in the face by a finger of fudge thrown from the stage by a particularly overzealous am-dram Widow Twankey. It was an inauspicious start to what would become a lifelong passion.

Despite the confectionary-based assault, I’m now a theatre writer; and, fortunately, my wife is a theatre lover, too. When we had our son, we agreed that it was important he should experience the theatre from early on, and I began mentally planning his first visit, determined for it to be more enjoyable than mine.

But when would be the right time to take him? And what sort of production should we take him to? He’d enjoy a show based on a book or TV programme he likes, but there is also a plethora of smaller, more intimate, more affordable productions.

While we were fortunate enough to be able to get him used to theatre early on — at the age of three and a half — it’s worrying how few children experience live performance before they are forced to by their school. Of course, by then it’s ‘boring’ and ‘stupid’ and it’s not cool to like it.

However, there are some easy do’s and don’ts that should help any parent get their child used to the theatre before they are lost to their friends and artificial apathy.


DO leave your bourgeois ideas at home. It might please you to be able to say, ‘Of course, her first theatre experience was Simon Russell Beale’s Lear.’ But if Peppa Pig is what it takes to pique her interest, then park the prejudices. But…

DON’T assume your child can’t handle something more cerebral. I took my boy to see Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom (made by the same people as Peppa Pig, it tells the stories of various fairies, elves and their pet insects. It’s as gritty and realistic as it sounds), which he enjoyed, but he was far more engaged by a low-budget children’s poetry show the following week.

DO buy a toy if your child wants one. If you do end up going to a pantomime, or show based on a book or TV show, there will be merchandise on sale. It’s tacky and it’s tiresome, but all the other children will have luminescent battery-powered spinning windmills bearing cheap plastic effigies of the onscreen characters. Don’t give your offspring something negative to focus on by refusing. It’s a bitter pill, but for the greater good. However…

DON’T get annoyed by the noise. And, believe me, there will be noise. This will range from chatter to full-on tantrums. Unless it’s disturbing your child (or unless it is your child), let it wash over you. This trip is for them, not you. You’ll be surprised at what they can tune out.

DO prepare for toilet trips. Even if your little one sits nicely with their hands folded, they will almost certainly need the loo. Watching Aliens Love Underpants involved five toilet excursions for my wife and me. Again, this trip is for your child, so don’t worry about missing bits. Besides, the plots aren’t exactly tricky to pick up again. And don’t be concerned about disturbing other parents whose kids have better bladder control — they’ll have been in the same position at some point.

DON’T forget to feed them. Hungry child equals grumpy child. Snacks and the attendant rustling might irritate, but if it helps keep your child happy and their attention on the stage, hand over those mini Cheddars.

What matters most is your child’s enjoyment, and helping him/her to realise that the theatre is a fun place to visit. The annual pantomime and its cast of kids’ TV stars might not be your idea of a good time, but if it can sell a child the idea that watching live performance is fun, then productions that appeal to the whole family will not be far behind.

Despite this age of rapidly decreasing attention spans, I’ve yet to encounter a youngster who isn’t utterly bewitched by the theatre. From birth, children are surrounded by noise, screens and a million other diversions, but theatre still manages to defy the fripperies of modern life, and proves that simple storytelling, mystery and magic are enough to enchant and entertain.

Inspire their curiosity and imagination first time round, and you’ve got them for life. Just keep an eye out for aerial attacks from rogue chocolate bars.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close