Children's activities that stimulate learning

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Why does theatre matter for children?

The Dublin Theatre Festival - Family Season

Playwright George Bernard Shaw said that an “Irishman’s heart is nothing but his imagination”. Every day great theatre is performed on stages across the world, the result of a mere imagining.  And equally every day in Imaginosity I witness children creating theatre.  In the diner they are rushed off their feet serving angry customers, there are epic train crashes occurring on the town table and a patient is just moments away from tragedy in Dr Appleaday’s surgery.  You see it in your own home too – children don’t need the backdrop of a children’s museum to create in-depth melodramatic multi-character scenarios:  it’s called Mammies and Daddies. 

And because children love creating theatre they are also the perfect spectators.  And lucky spectators at that, because there are a wealth of phenomenally talented children’s theatre companies in Ireland and beyond who specialise in creating high quality productions for these highly critical individuals.  Have you ever been to a truly terrible play?  If yes, then you will know the feelings it inspires.  You sit trapped, claustrophobic, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide the grimaces.  You want to cry out.  You most definitely want your money back.  Imagine the freedom of being able to wail “I’m BORED!”  This is the risk children’s theatre practitioners run every day, so is it any wonder they hone their craft?  If you think theatre critics are harsh just wait until your performance is ripped to shreds by a four year old.  

Children don’t just benefit from children’s theatre because it’s generally really good, and although that is the most obvious reason to take your child to a show, American Theatre Essayist and Playwright Lauren Gunderson outlines more sociological benefits in her article “How Theatre for Young People Could Save the World” .  Gunderson theorizes:  “Not to sound overly grand (too late), but so much of the toxicity in this world comes from a collective draining of empathy. We don't understand each other, and we don't want to. But theater invites us -- no, forces us -- to empathize. theater is like a gym for empathy. It's where we can go to build up the muscles of compassion, to practice listening and understanding and engaging with people that are not just like ourselves. We practice sitting down, paying attention and learning from other people's actions. We practice caring.”

As a parent or carer, children’s theatre is equally entertaining, and not just because the majority of quality practitioners have the good sense to create work that appeals across the board.  There are few things in life which bring you more joy than listening to the sound of a child laughing their heart out at a joke or questioning aloud the motives of a character:  in children’s theatre the usual rules of decorum most certainly do NOT apply, and all the better for it! 

So get thee to a theatre – the Dublin Theatre Festival launches on October 26th and offers a quality programme of family theatre for a wide range of ages.  Feed your child’s imagination!

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