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Cultural Awareness: Taking Your Child to the Theater

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A few weeks ago I took my six year old to her first theater performance at the South Coast Repertory to see The Night Fairy based on the children’s book by Laura Amy Schlitz. We went with my daughter's Daisy Troop and the girls made a flower tiara at one of their meetings to wear on the day of the play. It was a special moment for us as I use to go to plays and musicals with my mother as a young child and it was wonderful to introduce this world to my own daughter. I can still remember watching The Nutcracker with eyes wide open with amazement. Introducing children at a young age to these types of cultural events can teach them to extend their own natural habits of play and learning.  Starting in pre-kindergarten and elementary classes, children learn how to structure their pretend play for an audience. I know my daughter has been a little entertainer since she came out of the womb and I really believe this pretend-play and performing in front of people has helped build her self-confidence.

Cultural Awareness

Cultural Awareness Through Children’s Theater

Theater for young audiences, also known as children’s theater, is dramatic theater performed by professionals specifically for an audience of children. Education.com says there are many benefits for young children when they take part in drama as a participant or enjoying it from the audience.

As young children take part in drama, they gain many benefits:

  • Knowledge of and skill in theater arts
  • Improved literacy skills—reading, writing, and speaking
  • Development of imagination and aesthetic awareness
  • Independent and critical thinking and increased ability to solve problems
  • Social growth and the ability to work with others
  • A healthy release of emotion
  • Fun and recreation

Cultural Awareness

Educational theater offers parents benefits as well:

  • Time spent with their child in creative moments
  • Insights into the observations, impressions, interests, fears, and humor that their child reveals
  • Opportunities to witness their child’s developmental growth
  • The chance to help their child understand some of life’s dilemmas

The World Theater for Children and Young People Day is March 20 and was established by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (ASSITEJ) to encourage parents to take their children and expose them to all of the delightful events happening around the world on this day! The ASSITEJ is an autonomous international organization and recognizes the right of all children and young people to enrichment through the arts and their own cultural traditions, especially theater culture. The description they give on their website sums up so eloquently what theater can do for children as they are finding their way in the world: Theatre respects its young audiences by presenting their hopes, dreams, and fears; it develops and deepens experience, intelligence, emotion, and imagination; it inspires ethical choices; it increases awareness of social relationships; it encourages self-esteem, tolerance, confidence, and the free expression of opinions. Above all, it helps future generations find their place and voice in society.

There is no need to wait until next March to enjoy some cultural events happening in your town. Just check your local theater listings to see what is playing near you. I am sure it will be a special day for you and your kids. I know I will always remember my happy little girl with the flower tiara in her hair excited about being a big kid and watching her first play with her mom.

 About the Author:

Melissa Northway, M.S., is a children’s picture book author and founder of Dandelion Moms. Her daughter was the inspiration to create a strong female character in her award-winning Penelope the Purple Pirate storybook app and book. She created Dandelion Moms to provide a platform for women to share their stories and inspire women to go after their dreams—whatever they might be!  You can reach her at mcube@sbcglobal.net and find her at DandelionMoms.com and MelissaNorthway.com, @dandelionmoms and @melissanorthway.
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Jill Greenlaw

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