Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kids and arts events

How old should your child be before you start bringing him to arts events?  As a lover of the arts and the parent of a toddler, my first inclination is to declare that if your child is old enough to hold his head up, he's old enough to be at an arts event!  But upon deeper reflection, I realize there are many factors to take into consideration.  
3-Legged Tale, coming up April 22 on the UIS Family Series

What kind of arts event is it?  Will there be enough color, light and sound to hold his attention?  I brought my then-six-month-old to a performance of Drumline and the heavy beat, rhythmic movement, and creative lighting held his attention beautifully.  Conversely, he did not fare as well a year later at a holiday-themed acoustic performance by Boston Brass.  

How loud will it be?  If it is going to be especially loud, please get some child-sized noise-canceling headphones to protect your child's hearing.  My son loves wearing his (whenever he comes across them at home, he wears them around his playroom for an hour or more).  If it is going to be especially quiet, consider if your child might need to talk to you during the performance and how that might negatively impact the other patrons around you.  I have generally found that mid- to louder-sounding events minimize my son's distraction to other patrons.  His questions and fidgeting have not been distracting at blues events and classic Broadway musicals, especially those that have music and color throughout, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  

Where will you be seated?  If you have concerns about your child being distracting to other patrons, is there a place you can be seated that can limit your child's ability to be distracting?  Some theaters have "cry rooms" where parents and children can see and hear the performance acoustically separated from other patrons, when necessary.  When this is not available, purchasing an aisle seat best enables a quick exit if your child becomes problematic.  

How long will the performance be?  Most venues can let you know the length of the performance in advance of the event.  If there will be an intermission, would you feel comfortable enjoying just half of the show with your child before leaving?  I have done this many times, and the long-term result is that it doesn't diminish mine or my son's experience; the shorter length is usually just perfect for him.  

Do I have to pay full-price for my child's ticket, or do I need a ticket at all if they will sit on my lap?  Ask!  Most theaters have a specific policies in place.  At Sangamon Auditorium, we require everyone to have an actual ticket, but "infant passes" do not cost anything; these tickets are for children under age 2 who will sit in an adult's lap.  Child/youth tickets at our venue apply to anyone high school or younger and are usually discounted 50% (some events are restricted, however).  

Will there be other children in the audience?  Sangamon Auditorium is pleased to offer the UIS Family Series and there are always plenty of children and families on hand!  Not only are the events selected for families with very young children, but many of the events actually encourage audience participation in the form of "oooohs" and "ahhhhs" and other shout-outs from young patrons.  You will not feel out-of-place with your infant or toddler in this audience!  I hope you will consider joining us for our next Family Series event, the Earth Day-themed 3-Legged Tale on Monday, April 22!

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