Theater for young kids: where to go and what to expect
Anxious about bringing young kids to the theater? Don't be. Seattle has lots of kid-friendly performances.
Photo: StoryBook Theater/Facebook
The theater holds a special type of magic – the music, the live action, the story unfolding in front of your eyes.
But even with all that magic, you might have a few legit fears about taking your young child to a live performance – the dark room full of strangers, the lack of toys, the need to sit still and quietly for a defined period of time.
Luckily, Seattle offers several ways around these fears with wiggle-friendly options for catching a show on stage.
Parent's review: StoryBook Theater
When my three-year-old son and I walked to our first theater experience together at StoryBook Theater, he asked if we were going to the park. And if there would be a slide and playground.
I tried explaining that we were going to see a story of The Little Engine that Could – but not in a book, on a stage! And there would be music, maybe a little dancing, and silly people in costumes!
He nodded, somewhat unfazed, taking it in. And then he asked, “Will there be swings?”
As we entered the Kirkland Performance Center, he perked up when asked to hand his ticket to the nice woman at the door. In the lobby children could play with a small pop-up train set, a nice touch that provided something to do without being too distracting from the main event.
As show time neared, we walked into the auditorium which was starting to fill with other families with small children. After a little negotiation, we chose a couple of seats off to the side – closer to an escape route, I thought wryly.
Then we settled in and excitedly waited for the show to begin. The theater was busy, but it still didn’t feel crowded. Our auditorium’s atmosphere was almost party-like; the kids all seemed happy but a little antsy, understanding they were about to see something special.
When the show began, the lights lowered without becoming terribly dark. The small cast of adults were dressed in simple but fun costumes as different trains, and they often broke that “fourth wall” to engage with the audience. The kids delighted whenever new trains walked through the theater’s aisles up to the stage.
Several of the children became a bit restless about 30 minutes into the show, but snacks helped mine refocus. Fortunately, no one batted an eye at bringing your own food and drink. Many children stood up or paced a little around their family’s seats in the low-pressure environment.
While a few of the jokes were clearly aimed at adults for good measure, the majority of the show was geared toward a little one’s attention span and sense of humor.
Fifty-five minutes in a toy-less and screen-less room passed far more quickly than expected. Soon enough, the story was over (spoiler alert: the little engine could and did!), and the cast bowed while we all enjoyed another traditional theater highlight: a rambunctious curtain call.
Despite a few extra-wiggly moments that were soothed by Cheez-Its, our kiddo successfully enjoyed his first day at the theatre – seeming to all but forget his initial hopes for slides and swings.
And that is nothing short of magic.
Seattle-area theater for small children
StoryBook Theater (Seattle and surrounding areas)
Multiple performances at Fremont, Renton, Kirkland, Shoreline and Everett. Show times vary by location.
The 2019-2020 season: Beauty & the Beast (October-December), Little Red (January-March 2020), and The Frog Prince (April-May 2020). Sensory-friendly performances are available.
Venue vibe: While the shows rotate to different theaters, each location is very casual, comfortable, and welcoming to even very small children.
Schedule: See the latest schedule on their website.
Tickets: $15 (all ages)
SecondStory Repertory (Redmond)
SecondStory Repertory in Redmond hosts a Theater for Young Audiences series geared toward grade school-aged students. Families with younger children are encouraged to attend shows held on Sundays.
The 2019-2020 season: Elephant & Piggie's "We are in a Play!", Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook, Christmas Carol Junior, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Fluffy Tale of Adventure.
Venue vibe: Saturdays are typically quieter performances catered to the grade school crowd, but Sundays are very casual when you’ll find young children sitting on the floor or however they’re most comfortable.
Schedule: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. performances on Saturdays (recommended for grade school-aged attendees), and Sundays (all ages). See the full list of current show times on their website.
Tickets: $10 (all ages); Sunday discount: $5 (ages 1 to 3)
Seattle Children’s Theatre (Seattle Center)
Seattle Children’s Theatre offers a city theater experience designed for a younger crowd. The recommended age varies among performances, which are often tailored for elementary school-aged children.
Tip: Make sure you go to the correct Seattle Center theater. There are regularly two plays being performed simultaneously for different ages in both the Charlotte Martin and Eve Alvord Theatres.
The 2019-2020 season: Black Beauty (recommended for ages 6 and older), Corduroy (ages 3 and older), Snow White (ages 5 and older), The Best Summer Ever (ages 8 and older), and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (ages 5 and older). Sensory-friendly performances are available.
Venue vibe: SCT encourages guests to “come as they are,” but shows at SCT are typically the most professional experience of the options discussed here. Depending on the day’s audience, the vibe ranges from casual (especially for the shows recommended for 3-year-olds) to more formal.
Schedule: Varies by performance. See the full list of current show times on their website.
Tickets: Varies, pricing for most shows begins at $15-$20. Children aged 2 and under are free if they sit on a parent’s lap for the entire performance. All children must purchase a seat if they are not sitting in a lap.
Heather Hansen works in marketing and communications. She lives with her husband and 3-year-old son in Bothell.
More Seattle theater for kids