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Most grownups can remember the excitement of performing a play or skit for their parents and friends as a youngster- finding old dress clothes and household items for props, choosing characters and creating a (usually comical) script. Nothing brings out a child’s imagination more than writing and putting on a play!
With a little bit of guidance and help with finding materials, your child can experience the satisfaction of dramatically relaying a concept or theme that is important to them. You will be surprised how quickly your child will take the reins and run with their idea. Even very young children can come up with a workable script and series of events.
Your young playwright probably will not need help naming characters or coming up with a storyline, but they may need help writing down their script and gathering costumes and props. The amount of assistance you will need to provide will depend on the age and capabilities of your child.
Preschoolers can be introduced to dramatic play as a natural extension of your interaction with them. Playing “peek-a-boo” and “Where’s the baby?” will awaken their inborn ability to pretend and surprise.
Toddlers love to combine movement and song. “Finger plays” are simple movements put to song or a poem, using either hand or whole body movements. Classic songs like “Where is Thumpkin”, “Five Little Monkeys” and “I’m a Little Teapot” and others can be found at the Fingerplay Website referenced below, and are an easy next step to introducing dramatic play. You can of course make up your own silly rhymes and songs!
If the opportunity arises, take your child to a school or church play or a puppet show. This will effectively extend their idea of dramatic play. If an older sibling has a role or “lines” in a play, you will find your preschooler practicing right along with them!
Every child likes to play “dress-up”. Save old clothes, hats, shoes, jewelry and Halloween costumes. Dressing up is wonderful practice for writing and putting on a play. Children very naturally take on new characters!
If you belong to a playgroup, or if your child attends daycare or preschool, promote the idea of a small dramatic production. A good time to do this is around holidays or when the group has reached a special milestone. Most children will enthusiastically join in, and those who don’t can be assigned non-acting parts, such as serving refreshments or passing out simple programs. Just as in more grownup productions, not everyone involved is an actor or actress.
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Young school age children get very excited about the prospect of a dramatic production at school or church. If your child’s teacher has not planned a play, you may want to suggest the class try one. Your offer to help with the venture may increase the teacher’s willingness try putting on a play.
Your child may find it even more fun to write and produce their own play. They will need a script, characters to play the parts, costumes, props, some kind of “set”, lighting, and a program or playbill.
Children this age still need something to model after and guidance to follow through to completion. You can help by providing a script for them to look at, which can be easily had by going to the local library or searching the web. What your child needs to remember when writing their own play is that:
The set can be any space that will contain the action of the play. Props can be household items, cardboard creations cut and painted to suit the script, or nothing at all. Costumes again can be fashioned from what you have around the house or purchased at a second-hand shop or garage sale. Half the fun for your child will be collecting what they need!
Every play is a collaborative effort, but every play needs a director/producer to organize activity and delegate jobs. Your child may love this role, rather than a performing role. Producing the play will mean finding (or creating) a script, auditioning and selecting actors, coordinating set design and scheduling, and directing practices.
Kids this age will need you to standby for support and possibly for materials, but they will surprise you with how much they can accomplish on their own! When all is said and done your child will be delighted with their production, and you probably will be too!
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Older children will be able to write and produce a play independently. If they have taken part in a play before, they will be familiar with the process of script writing, auditioning, and backstage preparation. They will need you for transportation and possibly problem-solving and encouragement.
If your child is passionate about the theater, it is important to foster their interest. Going to local productions, an occasional Broadway or off-Broadway show, or watching plays on DVD can give your child an idea of the many genres of theater- from skits and parodies to the opera.
Many communities have a young actors’ guild. Joining a guild will give your child an outlet for their talent and interest in acting, writing, or producing. If there is no guild in your area, your child could start a theater group with your help. Some summer camps offer an opportunity to be involved in a dramatic production, as well.
The Internet is a good source of materials and information. Your child may also find a community of young people to talk and share ideas with. Some resources are listed below.
Drama is uniquely human and a wonderfully powerful way to express those things deep within us that may otherwise be difficult to convey. Helping your child to write and produce their own play- whether a tragedy, comedy, musical or high drama- will create unforgettable moments for them- and for you.
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Posted in Leisure.