Does the thought of tantrums, tears and ticket prices put you off taking kids to the theatre? Wondering which shows will suit different ages? We’ve put together a handy guide to theatre-going for kids from 0-99 and a few top tips to help you get the most out of a family trip to the West End:
- Be in control
Gauge how much your child can handle – some shows can be a bit scary for very young children. Bear in mind that many West End (and regional) shows have a minimum age limit, but don’t be put off – there are plenty of great shows even for the very youngest theatre-goer.
- Babes in arms
Occasionally a theatre many adopt a “babes in arms” policy where a very young child/baby may be able to share your seat. The norm is that everyone needs their own ticket, and only shows specifically aimed at very young children will admit babes in arms – check before you book.
- Getting there
Plan your journey. It’s a great idea to allow children to help with this, tell them what transport you’ll use, how many stops etc so that it’s all part of the day out.
- Before the show starts
With their full attention (I know, as if!) explain that everyone will be sitting still for a long time and that they will need to use the toilet before the show can start…even if they are adamant they don’t need to go!
- Setting the scene
Discuss what might happen in the auditorium. Explain that some of the characters may do funny or scary things, and there might be bright lights or music or loud noise but it’s okay because you are with them.
- Don’t fall foul of merchandising!
Decide what you can afford before you go. If you have bottomless pockets that’s great, but many theatres will allow you to take in your own sweets/drinks if you’re discrete and you’ll save a small fortune in the process. If you’re going to a panto, the pressure to buy show merchandise can be overwhelming. Be smart and buy your glow-sticks from Amazon!
- Booster Seats
These are brilliant if you have very small children. Many theatres will have these but often run out, so get there at least 30 minutes before curtain up and ask the Front of House staff. You may be asked to pay a small fee in some theatres.
Choosing what to see!
Here are some suggestions of the great shows coming up:
First Steps: A Child’s Aladdin (2 November only) – Ages 3+
The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Ages 2 – 7
Stickman 3+ but all ages welcome
The Gruffalo’s Child (from 22nd November – 7th January) – Ages 3+
The Snowman – Suitable for all ages
Aladdin The Musical – Advise 6+. Be aware that very young children may not admitted
Annie – Ages 5+
Babe the Sheep Pig – Ages 5-11, Children under 4 not admitted
Baddies The Musical – Ages 6+ not suitable for under 5 years old
Daisy Pulls It Off – Ages 8+
Dick Whittington (from 9th December) – Ages 5+
Jasmin Vardimon Company — Pinocchio (27 & 28 October) – Ages 7+
Lion King – Advise 6+ but will admit from 3 years old with tickets
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – Ages 5+
The Play The Goes Wrong – Ages 8+
Matilda The Musical – Advise 6+ with some scary moments
School of Rock The Musical – Advise 8+ Under 4s not admitted
Stomp – Advise 6+ under 4s not admitted. Be aware that the show is very loud.
Thriller Live! – Advise 5+ but young children may find certain moments frightening
Wilde Creatures (15th – 31st December) – Ages 5+
An American in Paris – Suitable for all ages
The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – Recommend 11+ some adult themes
Hair The Musical – 14+ – Contains nudity
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – (PG)
Les Miserables (PG)
Mamma Mia! (PG)
Motown The Musical (PG) Some strong language and adult themes
The Mousetrap (PG)
Nice Fish (PG)
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical – Suitable for all but may contain PG moments
The Toxic Avenger – 12+ Contains swearing and adult humour
The Woman In Black – Suitable for all ages although we feel it would leave anyone under 11 completely traumatised!
Young Frankenstein – (PG)
PG = Parental Guidance advised, show may contain strong language or adult themes
Rules and regulations
Generally, children under 16 are not permitted to attend the theatre unaccompanied and all children require their own ticket unless specifically stated (eg babes in arms). Most West End Theatres will not admit children under 5 unless specifically stated. Age suitability is only given as a guide.
Tell your young friends and family about Mousetrap Theatre – this terrific organisation exists specifically to help young theatregoers enjoy West End shows at a fraction of the price.
These are usually geared to children who may have additional needs or for whom theatre-going may otherwise be daunting. For details, check each show’s website or visit Official London Theatre’s Access London Theatre page
To keep up-to-date with Family Friendly shows we highly recommend signing up for Society of London Theatre’s Family Bulletin.
Looking for the perfect gift? Check out our must have Theatre DVDs for Theatre-Lovers!