Kids can be the best active listeners and audience members…when prepared!
Why do I say that? Well, if you’ve ever spent 5 minutes with children, you know they speak the truth from the bottom of their hearts. There’s no pretense. If they don’t like something, they’re not afraid to say so. And when they love something, their joy is contagious! When you’re considering taking your kids to the theatre, do yourself a favor and prepare, prepare, prepare them! Although you cannot control the quality of the performance, you most certainly can set your kids up for success as audience members and active listeners.
1. Pre-show: Clearly define the expectations of an active listener.
What kind of show are you attending? Are the kids allowed to get up and move, dance, and clap along? Or is it a performance in which they’ll be expected to sit in their seats and watch until an intermission or the finale? Make sure they understand their “role,” as part of the audience.
Give them a time-frame of the performance they can relate to. For example, “The first act is as long as an episode of Sesame Street or Wild Kratts.” If they are aware of the length beforehand, I find it makes the experience far more enjoyable for everyone.
Tell them as much as you can about the storyline. Spend time sharing important details they should look for and listen to while watching the show, instilling the idea that their job, as part of the audience, is to be an active listener.
2. Showtime: Arrive 15 minutes early to ensure the following steps are handled. (This is where the fun really begins!)
Pick up the tickets, find the washroom, buy a bottle of water, take a photo of the lobby to share on social media, find your seats, take a selfie inside the venue to share on social media, open the bottle of water, skim the program notes, admire the size and/or decor of the theatre, let them do the obligatory bouncing up and down in the seats, let them find the exact position their legs and tush cause the seat to move upward into a “closed” position so they can stand up, sit back down, turn around, check out the back of the theatre, look at the stage, look to the wings, take a sip of water, pop in a mint or maybe five M&Ms, lean to one side or the other when someone sits in front of them, find the best position where they can see the stage and feel comfortable simultaneously and definitely remember to turn off your phone.
This is a bit tongue-in-cheek, yes, but my point is this: you and your children will be far more ready to become engaged audience members and active listeners when you allow yourself enough time to settle in.
Assuming the performance is of the highest quality and your kids have that look of joy in their eyes, do yourself a favor and take a moment to savor this experience.
3. Post-Show: Ask questions that reveal your child’s perspective.
This is by far, one of my favorite parts of taking my kids to the theatre. The post-show dialogue can reveal so many interesting things about your kids; the way they perceive things and how they look at the world. Don’t miss this opportunity to listen to their thoughts.
We need our children to become active listeners and critical thinkers. The theatre is an incredible tool for helping them do just that.
Let me know what show you took your children to where they actively listened and enjoyed the experience of being an audience member?