Let's get this show on the road. We know it can be daunting taking your little ones to the theatre for the first time so we've come up with six top tips to ensure the best experience possible!
There's so much exciting child and family-friendly theatre just waiting to be seen all around London but The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone is one of our all-time favourites for unique and innovative entertainment, specifically aimed at young ones and their families. Whether you like puppetry, animals or adventures - The Cockpit has it all!
Here are our six expert tips to guide you through your first experience taking young ones to the theatre. Let them experience and enjoy the magic.
There's so much great theatre on offer in and around London and it can sometimes be difficult to determine what is suitable and what's not. Thankfully, most shows nowadays have recommended age restrictions to ensure that those in the audience are able to deal with themes touched upon within the show and that no one is left wondering what is going on! We recommend checking out these age restrictions beforehand on the Kidadl app to ensure a fun time for all. We would also recommend going to see a matinee performance of a show - that way, there's no need to worry about staying out late and catching the last train.
Swish! at The Cockpit is a brilliant show for both adults and children. Suitable for those under 5, Swish! focuses on introducing children to environmental issues through engaging and magical puppetry!
2. Engage in conversation about the nature of the theatre
There’s nothing more exciting than a trip to the theatre but for first-timers it can be daunting. To help ease this, talk to your children about the nature of the theatre beforehand. Tell them about the grand auditorium, where all the music comes from (the secret orchestra pit!) and all the people working hard backstage to make what’s on stage happen. Familiarise them with the concept of sitting in the dark and watching live actors - explain how it differs from the cinema in that sense. When you get to the theatre, try to engage your little ones - why don't you let them be the one to hand over the tickets to the usher and find their seat; this way, it won't seem so foreign.
Dr Dolittle at The Cockpit is a great way to introduce your mini thespians (aged three and above) to the theatre - a story that most are already familiar with and that is sure to put a smile on anyone's face.
3. Brief them (briefly) on the show beforehand
There’s no denying that a trip to the theatre isn’t incredibly magical but it goes without saying that it can be a little overwhelming for youngsters. Now, we’re not suggesting that you explain the plot in depth, rather, that you should familiarise your little ones with the story. Children's shows are usually based on children's books or television programmes, so if there are familiar characters and themes in the show, it might be wise to read the book or watch the programme beforehand. This way, they'll be seeing some familiar faces up on stage! A lot of children's shows are also highly interactive and hands-on so be sure to explain this opportunity to your little ones - they can be a part of the show too.
The Lost Luggage Adventures at The Cockpit is just one example of interactive theatre. Suitable for those aged three and above, pick a suitcase and discover a magical world hidden within!
4. When in the theatre
After you’ve sat down in those luxurious, red velvet seats, soak in the atmosphere. Why not play a game of "I spy"? Take in all the different components of the theatre. Maybe even get to the auditorium a little early and have a wander down the aisles. We also recommend taking mental notes throughout the show - this way, if there’s an interval, you can discuss and engage with the performance. What do their costumes look like? Are there any cool props? Also, it is important to make sure your little ones are comfortable and are able to see. Booster seats are readily available at most theatres, so never be afraid to ask for one!
Leaping Frog at The Cockpit makes use of super cool puppets and props to explore the story of Goggles the frog. Suitable for those aged two and above - bounce on down!
5. Bring snacks
We know snacks can be a big no-no in the theatre but shows can be long, especially for those who are of a younger age. It's easy to become restless even if the show is providing the best entertainment. As long as they aren't rustly and you get them out of your bag before the show starts to avoid distracting anyone around you, giving your little ones something to snack on will ensure that their brains are fuelled up, ready to be fully engaged in all the action! Snacks can also be expensive at the theatre, so we recommend bringing your own - that way, you won't run the risk of not finding anything suitable and you'll save your pennies. Win win!
Käfig: Fool's Parsley at the Cockpit is a great one for keeping both you and your little ones on your toes! Suitable for those aged four and above, this unrehearsed, improvised play is an incredible unique experience for all the family.
6. Enjoy it
Some of the most magical memories are created in the theatre - us folks at Kidadl certainly remember our first trips to the theatre! There's something truly unique and special about going to the theatre with your family and being immersed in someone else's world for a few hours. We know it can be daunting to even think about taking your toddler to the theatre but there are so many brilliant kid-friendly shows out there - it would be a shame not to. Be inspired and sit back and relax!
Ellie is a keen Londoner, thespian and foodie! She's the oldest of three and loves taking her younger siblings, aged nine and fourteen, on adventures to the theatre and food markets, trying new foods and dabbling in the world of musical theatre. Some of her favourite spots include Primrose Hill and the Natural History Museum, not to mention the ever-changing Spitalfields Market.