Monday, 15 October 2012

Children and stage shows: Tips for an enjoyable experience

Last year when I started this blog, I wrote about the Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy show that my husband and I took Sophia to watch.  I described how she was mesmerised by the vast majority of the show while Dexter stayed at home with his grandparents because he was only around seven-months-old or so at the time.

But, one year on and things are different.  One year on and both Sophia and Dexter have grown so much.  They're both taller for starters but that's not really what I mean.  Their personalities are getting more distinct every day, they are able to do more and more complex tasks and they are also able to sit and watch their favourite films from start to finish.  One year on and I think both of them would enjoy sitting through an eye-catching, fun, spectacular show.  And, as luck would have it, there's a new show in town which I think they will love and can't wait to take them to see - Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure.

I'm a fan of the Ice Age films, I think there is a certain charm to them.  The character of Diego always goes down well with Sophia who adores all types of cat and for me, Scrat is hilarious who deserves his own cartoon series.  When I discovered that Ice Age was going live and on tour, there was a certain relief when I found out all our favourite characters will be taking part, including Scrat.

Photo: Stage Entertainment/Morris Mac Matzen 

We, as a family, have been invited along to the show's World Premiere on Friday 2nd November and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.  Not only should it be lots of fun but it will be Dexter's first ever stage show and will give both him and Sophia an opportunity to experience the world of Ice Age close up.

However, I'm aware that they are only young.  Especially Dexter.  At 18-months-old, his attention span can dip quicker than the rest of us and he can quite very restless if the mood takes him.  So, I'm starting to think about how I can keep both the children (but particularly Dexter) occupied and interested during the show.

I have a list of essential tips for going out and about with small children, which I have learnt from various family trips, including our Disney on Ice experience last year.  With these in mind, here is my 'plan of action' for when we attend the Ice Age Live! premiere:

Get them interested in the show beforehand.
What's the point going to see a show if it's about something your child has never seen or showed an interest in?  They will probably get bored very quickly, regardless of their age.   I'll be making sure those Ice Age films are on fairly constantly between now and the time we go.

Leave home in plenty of time.
Stressful, rushed journeys get the whole experience off to a bad start.  Leave your house in plenty of time so that you can have a relaxing trip to the venue.

Don't get to your destination too ahead of time.
While it's good to have a fairly leisurely journey, the last thing you want to do is to turn up to a show early and end up sitting in your seat for 10, 15 or 20 minutes before it starts.  Unlike the cinema, there will be no adverts on a big screen in front of you to keep you occupied (not that children would be interested in them anyway).  Small children will inevitably get bored because there'll be nothing to look at.  And, once they're bored, it's harder to get them engaged with the show when it does start.

Take some 'distractions' to occupy each child.
Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure lasts for a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes with an interval in the middle.  Will a three-year-old and an 18-month-old sit still for that amount of time?  I doubt it.  Dexter in particular can get very restless when the mood takes him so it's important to keep that mood at bay.

I'll be taking a couple of toys for each child to keep in my bag in case they start squirming in their seats and get a little bored.   It can be very handy to whip one of their favourite toys to pre-occupy them and keep them quiet for a while.  The only thing to remember is, once your child is bored of the toys you take along, they won't want to play with them again so decide wisely when you want to use them.

If you have a smartphone, make sure you have some games on it that children can play.  This is something else I'll be doing; it's another way to keep them quiet if they begin to get restless.  At the moment Sophia and Dexter really like Peppa Pig's Sports Day, Around the Clock and Tom the Talking Tom Cat.

Keep your child well fed and watered.
Chances are that children will get hungry and thirsty at some point during the show.  While you will be able to buy refreshments at the venue, they tend to be expensive.  You may want to stock you bag up with snacks before you leave the house.  That way, you can include a variety of different treats such as oaty bars or raisins, as well as chocolate.  You may also want to think about taking one or two drinks with you to minimise the cost of the whole trip.

Talk to your child during the show.
This tip only really works if you're going to see a show aimed at children.  Once you're in your seats and the show begins, point out various things of interest on stage to keep them interested.  I've not been able to find out much about Ice Age Live!  But, what I have been told is that there'll be "action-packed thrills, eye-popping effects, mischievous humour and toe-tapping songs.".  So hopefully there will be lots to entertain the children.

What sounds really good though is the level of detail behind the characters.  Every character will apparently have realistic facial expressions and their mouths will move in time to the pre-recorded speech and songs.  They've also been built 'big' - Manny the Mammoth apparently stands at a height of 3.6 metres.  I'm anticipating Sophia and Dexter being pretty amazed by this.  Personally, I'm imagining this show to be a cross between Walking with Dinosaurs and a West End stage performance.  Yes, I know that sounds strange!

Give them some spends.
At any show there are stalls to purchase programmes or other show goodies.   At children-focused shows there is always lots on offer.  A good idea is to give them a bit of money each that they can spend on whatever they choose.  If they start to get bored during the show, take them to the stalls then for a browse, it'll be much quieter.

Accept the inevitable.
Your child will get bored.  Fact.  Embrace it and be flexible.  Don't get stressed or worry about what other people might think.  If you do, your child will sense it and raise their 'game' to, ultimately making it a miserable experience for everyone.

Do you have other top tips?


Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure gets its World Premiere on Friday 2nd November at Wembley Arena in London but is previewing in Cardiff and Nottingham before then.  The Cardiff shows run from this Friday (19th October) until Sunday 21st October, and then appears in Nottingham between Thursday 25th and Sunday 28th October.  Ticket prices start from £20.

Please note: My family is receiving free tickets to review Ice Age Live! A Mammoth Adventure in November.  However, all opinions and tips in this post are mine.


  1. I'd love to take Z to something like this but I don't think he's quite ready yet. He did sit through about half of In The Night Garden and he really loved it. I encouraged him to dance during the songs and that kept him entertained for a bit.

  2. Those sorts of shows are ideal for small children. I'm not sure how much scope there'll be for dancing at Ice Age Live but I have a feeling my children may try it regardless!


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