Create Great Theatre With Kids

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and took a crash course in driver’s ed. I was in class every day from Monday through Thursday from 9:00 until 2:30. I wanted to leave the girls with something engaging and fun to do, so I made a list of what I called ‘Boredom Busters’. 

The activity that most appealed to Hannu and Aylu was creating a play. Hannu has been devouring the McEldery Greek Mythology book, so I had the girls select a story and create a play complete with props and costumes that they would stage for our close friends and family. They chose the story of Arachne, who is turned into a spider after challenging the goddess Athena to a weaving competition.

It turned out that the girls eventually felt a little overwhelmed about committing Hannah’s sophisticated adaptation to memory, so I spent a couple of hours with them and worked through the story. When I broke the story down into parts in a “what happens next” series of questions, both girls knew almost all of the lines. We decided I would read the part of the narrator, to help out Hannah who already had three roles to portray.

They seriously blew my mind and we had so much fun with this. All I did was jog their memory and suggest some very basic staging. The rest is all their steam and attention to detail, and they were so proud and excited to present their creation. I’ve included a link to the very simple video we shot, but like all stage shows the real magic was in watching the live performance.

Some tips for creating theatre with children:

  • Let them choose a story that they are inspired by and excited about. Stick with classic tales from mythology and folklore because they tend to be very simply written. Have them create a ‘script’ based on the story.
  • Keep a well-stocked dress up box for your kids and replenish frequently with thrift store finds. Think beyond commercial characters and try to find costumes for classic characters and archetypes. Sometimes the ‘ethnic clothing’ section of a thrift store can be a gold mine!
  • Don’t hold them to memorizing lines. Instead, help them remember the story arc and the key characters. If they can re-tell the story to you, then they can create a play that brings the story from the page.
  • Encourage them to play multiple characters by changing simple costume pieces. It’s great fun for kids to explore the ways different characters move and speak.
  • Create pride in their work by having them make hand made invitations that they can issue to friends and family. Turn the play into an event they can look forward to.
  • Help them rehearse by working with them on annunciation, volume, and simple staging. Resist the urge to over-direct them or turn into a rabid ‘stage mom’. Prompt them to consider how lines might be delivered, or how their characters might feel about what is happening.
  • Get involved by helping with props, costumes, set design, but don’t take over. You’ll likely be amazed by the scope of your kids’ imagination!
  • Document the event. Make sure you get video so you can play these when your kid wins their first Tony or Oscar.

Rain or Shine

Noah and I on a practice hike.

Noah and I on a practice hike.

Or, How to Guarantee an Interesting Tuesday

It’s 7:30 am and there’s a light gray cast to the day. Our POP is currently 50%, moving to 30% at 10:00 am when we are scheduled to begin our first hike with our summer hiking club. While you are reading this, hopefully sipping coffee (which reminds me, I must take some coffee with us!) I will be trekking with Hannu, Aylu and the Noodle. We’ll either be going along swimmingly, or we’ll be quite soggy. Either way, we’re sure to have an interesting couple of hours.

I’ve been practicing with my baby-carrying backpack, which is extraordinarily comfortable. It was purchased way back when Hannah was a babe made by Macpac, a New Zealand company. Nekky had to find a local importer back then, but now you can buy direct from their website, pretty much anywhere in the world.  I suspect out of all of our kids that Noodle will get the most use out of the carrier. I love hiking, and this pack is a dream, especially with my scoliosis – it doesn’t bother me a bit. Of course, around here my walks are 40 minutes at max, and today we’ll be out for two hours, if the girls can last that long. With all of their weekly ravine walks at their former school, I think they are likely to out pace me!

I think we’ll need to start with some yoga at home because I’m feeling really stiff this morning. They should be able to manage some sun salutations, and their new room has enough floor space for all three of us to easily enjoy some poses. That and a good breakfast should give us what we need to get a good start to our adventure.

Here’s what I’ve packed:

Two water bottles

Three granola bars

Two packs of baby rice cookies

A banana

*A thermos of coffee (MUST remember this!)

Rain coats and pants for the girls

Rain boots for the girls

Rain jacket and boots for me (alas, no pants, must locate a second-hand pair)

Rain jacket and pants for Noodle (what am I going to put on his feet??)

Natural insect repellent lotion (I’m frankly unsure that this works)

Kibio natural sunscreen (this is an excellent product, I can’t say enough about the stuff!)

Wet wipes

A spare diaper (it occurred to me that the only realistic place to change Noodle will be somewhere after the hike. I think I’ll coat him in diaper rash cream, just in case)

If I’ve forgotten anything, I guess we’ll have to deal. I’m going to encourage the girls to each search for one natural treasure for our nature table, and they will both work on a journal entry when we get home. I must dash off and get ready for the day! I will post some iPhone photos later on my Facebook page. I hope we don’t get those mighty Toronto rains, and I hope nobody needs to poop in the woods!