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Tips for Taking Children to the Theater

Updated on May 20, 2013
Teaching Theater/Theatre Etiquette to Your Children Is Important at an Early Age.
Teaching Theater/Theatre Etiquette to Your Children Is Important at an Early Age. | Source

Children and Theatre in the Same Sentence?

I'm sure every parent has been put in a challenging position when taking children to the theater.

Your focus is constantly on them to make sure they are staying in their seats, not playing and making noise, getting up every 10 minutes to go the bathroom, and my favorite, finding that treasured popcorn or leftover candy on the floor and putting it in their mouths! Ahhhh the joy of parenthood!

Live Theatre Etiquette is Different from Movie Theater Etiquette. It's Important to Know the Difference When Teaching Your Children.
Live Theatre Etiquette is Different from Movie Theater Etiquette. It's Important to Know the Difference When Teaching Your Children. | Source

Theater vs. Theatre

There are two types of theater that require certain etiquette and rules when attending, especially with children. The following tips can be very helpful and should be used for both the movie theater and for live theatre.

The movie theater is considered a cinema house where we all go to watch the current movies and purchase our favorite munchies from the concession stands.

Live theatre is a play or musical that is performed live on a stage in a theatre house, school, convention hall, etc.

Be sure to check the ratings for each movie. Remember that a "G" rating doesn't necessarily mean it is a movie for children
Be sure to check the ratings for each movie. Remember that a "G" rating doesn't necessarily mean it is a movie for children | Source

Children and Movie Ratings

As parents and teachers, we should always be concerned with what our children are watching on TV, the computer, and at the movies.

CARA (Classification and Rating Administration) is responsible for rating motion pictures that are intended to be distributed commercially to the public in the United States and to provide parents with valuable information regarding the content of those motion pictures.

Every motion picture is assigned a rating along with a description of that rating, by CARA which will help a parent decide which film is appropriate for their child's age.

The following ratings and descriptions are as follows:

  • G - General Audiences (All Ages Admitted)

A G-rate motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence, or other matters. The G rating is not a certificate of approval nor does it signify a children's movie.

  • PG - Parental Guidance Suggested (Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children)

Motion pictures with a PG rating should be investigated by parents before they allow their children to attend. There is a chance that a PG rated movie may have elements of profanity as well as depictions of violence and/or brief nudity.

Checking The Movie Ratings

Do you check the ratings and the content of a movie before deciding if it is appropriate for your child to watch it?

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  • PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned (Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13)

A PG-13 rating is a sterner rating issued by CARA to enable parents to determine whether or not they should allow their children under the age of 13 to view a movie that may have material that may not be suitable for them. A PG-13 rating goes beyond a PG rating where the language can be stronger, more sensuality, violence, and the nudity is more than brief, yet not quite an R rating. Any drug use in a motion picture will require at least a PG-13 rating.

  • R - Restricted (Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Legal Guardian)

According to CARA, an R rated motion picture will contain more adult material. It may contain adult themes and activity, intense and persistent violence, strong language, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse and other elements. Therefore, it is strongly urged that parents do research on an R rated film before bringing children to that movie.

  • NC-17 (No One 17 and Under Admitted)

Exactly what it says and means: NO ONE 17 AND UNDER ADMITTED! According to CARA, an NC-17 rating signifies that the content is appropriate only for adults because of the content. AN NC-17 rating can be based on sex, violence, aberrational behavior, drug abuse, Hard language, and any other elements that parents would consider too strong for their children.

If your child is a frequent "go-er", Sitting towards the exit will be helpful and less disruptive in taking them out when needed.
If your child is a frequent "go-er", Sitting towards the exit will be helpful and less disruptive in taking them out when needed. | Source
Running through the theater is very disruptive.
Running through the theater is very disruptive. | Source

Children and Theater Etiquette: with an "ER"

When bringing small children to the movie theater, it's very important to understand that small children have a very short attention span. Some of the most popular and familiar challenges you may face are the following:

"Mommy, I gotta go potty!"
If your child has the tendency to want to "go potty" every ten minutes, choose seats near the back of the theater and on the end if possible. This way, the other theater patrons will not be disturbed.

"Mommy, I'm Hungry!"
Ahhhh, the infamous sound of the "cry for food!" You can avoid this most of the time by having the appropriate munchies ready for your children. Give it to them in limitations so they last throughout the movie. In addition, instead of giving your child soda or a high sugar drink, give them water or a mild low-sugar juice that you can easily store in a small water bottle and keep in your purse. This way, your child won't get the "High Speedies" and then have the urge to run up and down the isles....which brings us to:

"Look how fast I can run Mommy!"
We've all seen it and we have all rolled our eyes as we've watched parents allow their precious babies run up and down the isles while waiting for the movie to start. Then the movie starts and they are still running up and down the isles. WRONG! Teach your children from the first time you attend a movie that this is not appropriate.

Sometimes it's necessary to take the child out into the lobby and let him walk off his energy.
Sometimes it's necessary to take the child out into the lobby and let him walk off his energy. | Source

Solutions to Theater Etiquette

It is more likely than not that most parents will eventually have to deal with these challenges when taking their children to the theater. It may take a few times to teach your child the proper way to behave when in the theater. One thing that we must remember as parents is that children are in that stage of learning, exploring, touching, feeling, and so much more. They are not in the wrong if they need to go potty 10 times, it's because they are in a new place and want to explore. They are not wrong when they want to run up and down the isles, they simply want to have fun and exercise.

If they begin doing these "things" early into the movie, try these tips to help both you and the child:

  1. Quietly take them outside into the lobby and let them walk around. Usually most theaters today have video machines, etc. to play. When the child seems to be less antsy, ask them if they want to go back in and watch the movie. Allow them to make that choice. You can even make up a game with them to see if they can find the correct theater you came out of and also the correct seats. If Daddy is still in the theater, see if they can "find daddy!" At first you may not be able to watch entire movies, but as the child goes more often, they will learn to sit a little longer.
  2. instead of sugar drinks and candy, give your child water or low-sugared drinks and bring a bag of crackers or Cheerios. Those are healthier and will keep the child calmer during the show.
  3. Potty breaks are going to happen. Take them quietly, allow for their time to do their "business" and again, make a game with them to see if they can find their way back to the right theater and the right seat.

Source

Children and Theatre Etiquette: with an "RE"

Taking children to a live theatre performance is an entirely different way of acting and thinking.

It can be very stressful for the parent, child, theatre patrons, and the actors when a child acts out during a performance.

As a musical theatre director for nearly 35 years, I have seen parents allow their children to run a muck in the lobby, screaming and yelling while a performance was happening. This is totally unacceptable behavior for any type of production in live theatre.

Where parents are responsible for their children, so are the producers, directors, and advertisers of a live production just as responsible.

Classic Example of Live Theatre Etiquette Disregarded

The following scenario recently took place during a live performance of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." Although this example has nothing to do with children acting out during a performance, it does have everything to do with Theatre Etiquette and responsibility on both sides.

Anything Goes is a wonderful, high energy classic musical that has drawn audiences for years. During a community theatre production of Anything Goes, teachers from a local school took their 3rd graders to a performance with the assurance from the director that it was suitable for audiences of all ages.

They attended the production, and approximately halfway through the first act, the teachers were upset at the adult content in the show. They were going to wait until the intermission and then take the children home until a scene that they felt was inappropriate began. The teachers immediately stood up in the middle of the performance and took their children home.

The choreographer of the production took great offense to this and wrote the local paper stating how rude the teachers were by interrupting the performance and making it hard for the actors to concentrate. Of course the parents and other teachers stood by those teachers who made a brave decision. I also commend them as I would have done the same thing. However, this is where the responsibility lies on both sides:

Responsibility of the Parent or Teacher

The teachers claimed that the director of the show assured them that the show was age appropriate. As a director, I am aware of the adult content in the show, where most people who have not seen the production are not. Therefore, as a teacher (or parent) I would have taken it a step further and asked specific questions:

  1. Any foul language?
  2. Any explicit scenes or sexual undertones?
  3. Any guns/violence used
  4. Any hints of drugs used
  5. Ask about anything that you would not want your child to see or hear. This is not only your right to do so, but your responsibility. Someone's interpretation of "age appropriate" can mean something entirely different than what your interpretation might be!
  6. The internet is perfect for searching content of a show and should also help you make that decision. See "Anything Goes" (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


By asking the right questions, you as a parent can then decide if you want your child to see that production. If you know full well what the production content is, then proper theatre etiquette requires you to sit through the production until the intermission or the end before you get up and disrupt the performance.

Remember that you should always ask the same questions that you would when screening for a TV show, or movie at the theater, or video game, etc.

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Responsibility of the Theatre Production Company

Once again, as a director or producer of a show, you have the responsibility to advertise the production correctly. There are shows that you can take liberty of licence and edit portions with foul language or explicit scenes to make it more age appropriate, however, in most cases, that is not allowed. Therefore, the advertising must state if it is not recommended for children under a certain age "Due to mature content" or language, etc.

I always take mine a step further when I do a show that has strobe lighting or loud bangs, or frightening scenes. This also allows for those with medical conditions to be aware of anything that could not be inappropriate for them as well. This was the case when I did Wizard of Oz, as we used pyrotechnics and fog.

I would never give false information to anyone just to sell a few tickets.

To Sum it All Up!

Whether taking your children to a movie theater or a live theatre production:

  1. Always do your research on the production or movie.
  2. Prepare to sit in an easy access exit just in case little ones need to get up.
  3. Be respectful of the other patrons and performers.
  4. Bring necessary munchies that are healthy. (Movies only. Live theatre does not allow food or drinks inside during a performance)
  5. Be prepared to go home early, but don't leave disruptive.
  6. Make it as pleasant as possible so everyone can enjoy it
  7. Search for age appropriate productions.
  8. When in doubt, don't go. Rent a movie and stay home and enjoy each other!

Source
Elizabeth Rayen
Elizabeth Rayen | Source

About the Author

Lisa has directed and acted in musical theatre for nearly 30 years. Her musical upbringing allowed her to pursue her career in teaching and directing and continues to direct shows today. As the owner of 2 online Home Décor sites, Lisa’s passion for Rustic Living all begins with her love for the home, outdoors, and her many hobbies. Lisa loves to laugh, and she share’s that love through her comedic hubs centered on her MOM. Lisa’s passions include writing, directing, acting, photography, singing, cooking, crafts, gardening, and home improvement, including decorating. Lisa also writes under her penned name, Elizabeth Rayen.

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COPYRIGHT © ELIZABETH RAYEN AKA RUSTIC LIVING, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COPY OR USE THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM ITS AUTHOR.

Comments: Tips for Taking Children to the Theater

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    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Hi, Lisa!

      This is absolutely wonderful information. As a long-ago parent of little children and presently embedded in my empty nest syndrome years, wanting nothing more than a quiet, peaceful theater/theatre ambience in which to enjoy a performance, I applaud you for writing this much-needed social etiquette piece. Great job, my dear friend! Aloha from the Pacific Northwest!

      Joe

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Mahalo nui Joe for your wonderful comment. As a director myself, I have certainly seen it all and it is so important that anyone who brings children to the theatre/theater, they understand it as well. I've been pretty fortunate throughout my years of directing to have wonderful patrons who do understand and only bring children to the show if it is designed for them. Live theatre is a lot harder for younger children as they can't eat or drink during the performance and definitely can't be getting up every 10 minutes. I applaud parents and teachers who take the time to teach their children. I'm so happy you stopped by. It was nice to see you again. Aloha from the Pacific Southwest! ♥

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      rusticliving - An absolutely excellent and very informative hub on this topic! I love the clip art you created - so very clever.

      I'd love to see a poll on how many people actually know that "theater-theatre" has two different spellings and how they are used.

      Very glad you wrote this because I've been irritated more than once at the behavior of children in both movie theaters and musical theatres.

      I will share this and voted up, useful, awesome and interesting. You are one gifted writer and I learn so much from you. Mahalo!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you so much vocalcoach! I'm pleased you liked it and can relate. With your background, I'm sure you have had your share of issues as well. It's very simple to train our children and make it enjoyable as well. But patience and some sacrifices play a big roll when teaching the really young ones. Thank you for the votes and shares. ♥

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      You have got to be kidding me, 3rders to Anything Goes. Did the teachers think this was going to be a remake of the "Love Boat"? This is an excellent reminder that somethings need to be taught, before the situation occurred.

    • HeatherH104 profile image

      HeatherH104 3 years ago from USA

      Great advice! We want to take our antsy 5 yr old son (who is crazy about Monsters Inc) to see Monsters U in June. We are a little nervous about it. I like your tips, very helpful! Voted up!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      lol tirelesstraveler! I'm not sure, but it would have been in their best interest to check further and ask the questions. I have no doubt that this will be a criteria the next time. Nice to see you again! ♥

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Hi Heather! Thank you so much for your comment. Are you nervous about taking your son or nervous about the movie? Is this his first time to the theater? The Monsters Inc movies are animated and fun. Lots of kids attend these movies. With that type of demographic watching the movie, I'm sure he will have a great time! Let me know how it goes. :) Thank you for the vote up! ♥

    • HeatherH104 profile image

      HeatherH104 3 years ago from USA

      True, there should be lots of kids there. It will be his first time at a movie theater and I think we're nervous about how well he will sit, and all the things you mentioned (potty, hungry, etc). I like the suggestion of bringing water and non-sugary snack, you are right, they don't need the sugar rush. I'm sure he'll be excited enough without any added sugar. :)

      Looking forward to reading some of your other hubs. I'm a Board Certified Music Therapist and I see you are a musician! :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Ohhh Heather.. you are going to have such a good time with him. One of the things I love is to watch children experience something for the first time. And yes, keep those Cheerios in your purse for him.... hehehe

      A BCMT? Fabulous!! I see you have hubs written on your expertise. I will definitely take time to read through those! :)

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 3 years ago from Austin, TX

      Oh, what a nice hub, and quite different. We have kids and it's difficult to keep them stayed glued to what they're watching. Thanks for your very helpful tips. Up and useful. :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for your comment iguidenetwork! I am so pleased you find these tips helpful. Of course every child is different and each one with certain needs, but the concept is the same and it can be an enjoyable experience for both parents and the child. Mahalo for your votes. ♥

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Lisa, VERY well done. Strobe lighting and other shocking things to the senses can also trigger migraines and seizures. I commend you for using this information as far as theatregoers are concerned. Awesome and up.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Deb (aviannovice)! You are so right. I have attended productions where strobe lighting was used and not one, but two people who were attending ended up having seizures. I know I would want to know if special effects such as strobes and pyrotechnics were being used, especially if I have children with me. Thanks for the comment and vote up! ♥

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Great tips and advice, thank you for sharing.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you Nithya (Vellur). I'm pleased you liked it. ♥ Thank you for sharing my hub as well :)

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 3 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      My son has been going to the movies since he was 2. He is now 30, and a movie addict. Oh, what did I create...lol. Great hub! Thank you for sharing.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      LOL cloverleaffarm! My mother did the same thing to me! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! ♥

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 3 years ago from Thailand

      Nice and useful hub written in an entertaining way. It certainly sounds like you are speaking from plenty of experience lol. It is funny how parents will often frown upon the actions of others, but then let their own little ones do the same thing ... it is hard to see your angel as being annoying I guess lol.

      Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and useful.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      haha Brett.. you hit it right on the nose! Everyone at one point in their life has experienced this situation, no matter what end. Sensitivity and awareness are the keys! Thanks for sharing and votes.♥ (Nice to see you again!)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Sharing this! All parents need to be aware so as to manage the classification better! Thanks for sharing!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you Michelle. I really appreciate it and the shares! You're awesome!♥

    • artsandlearning profile image

      Debora Wondercheck 3 years ago from 1518 Brookhollow Drive, Suite 15, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

      These tips are very useful especially for young children. It is a great way to inspire a child as well as encouraging them to use their imagination and can offer an exciting and refreshing experience for today’s little ones.

      http://www.artsandlearning.org/

    • artsandlearning profile image

      Debora Wondercheck 3 years ago from 1518 Brookhollow Drive, Suite 15, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

      Awesome hub, which is written in an enjoyable way.Theatre, can offer an exciting and refreshing experience for today’s little ones. One can avail these things by visiting A&L Conservatory with certified professionals.

      http://www.artsandlearning.org/

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Excellent artsandlearning! There are many avenues out there to help teach the little ones.. AND the adults in proper behavior and respect when attending the theater. ♥

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 3 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for your comments artsandlearning! I appreciate your visit and opinions! ♥

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      I am hoping to see a The Secret Garden next weekend, I wish H.J. was old enough to go. Two is a little young.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 2 years ago from California

      How did you like the Secret Garden tirelesstraveler? Were you able to go?

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Beautiful Rusticliving - I had to pay another visit to this outstanding and educational hub you've written. I've learned so much about movie ratings that I didn't know before. This is really a 'must read' for everyone. So I will share it and pin as well.

      Thank you, 'baby girl' for protecting our children and teaching us about theater etiquette for children. ~ Hugs.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 2 years ago from California

      Awweee.. you are welcome vocalcoach. Thanks for the kudos and shares. I hope it does help those who struggle with it :)

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