How live family theater can complete a well-rounded childhood

Attending live theater influences children’s social, emotional, and academic growth in powerful and long-lasting ways, according to years of education research. When it comes to attending live theater with family, however, those experiences can go even further in a world of children’s over-scheduled activities and digital distractions. They can help shape a more well-rounded childhood by strengthening bonds and creating memories that support wellbeing for the full lifespan.

Live theater exposes children to different cultures, perspectives, and art forms, and it can spark their imagination, creativity, and critical thinking skills, contributing to their overall development. “The magic really happens when children attend live theater together with their families,” said Melanie Weir, Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement. “It allows families to foster deeper connections, cultural appreciation, and social skills. It serves as a meaningful alternative to the hectic pace of modern life for children, often filled with in-school expectations and screen time.”

Family time, like going to a museum, the theater, or a ball game, has gotten harder and harder to fit in, and not just because children are over scheduled. Cultural experiences are usually concentrated in larger cities farther away. They also can be expensive, especially if you want to include the whole family.

Luther Burbank Center of the Arts aims to address those barriers when it develops our Clover Sonoma Family Fun Series of live performances for families in the North Bay. With additional support provided by Exchange Bank, these five shows a year are less expensive than out-of-town shows and conveniently located for families right here in Sonoma County. We also made it easier for families to schedule several outings throughout the year by offering two-levels of packages, which have the added benefit of even lower prices.

Sharing enriching moments and memories

Family time influences children’s opportunities for success just as much, if not more than, having a wide variety of extracurricular activities. For example, live theater elicits attention and full engagement, offering a break from busy schedules and allowing families to relax and enjoy a shared experience in the present moment.

The emotional impact of live performances can evoke laughter, tears, and catharsis that promotes emotional well-being. “Sitting next to their children in the theater, watching them react to a plot twist or a character’s dilemma, parents or other caring adults can feel the same ups and downs the kids do,” said Melanie. “It gives them the chance to connect on a different level. Together, a family can focus on a topic and discuss how it made them each feel, how they might have behaved differently, and empathize with differing points of view.”

Experiencing the magic of live performances also fosters an appreciation for the performing arts. Children can develop a lifelong interest in theater, dance, music, or other forms of artistic expression from just one early experience.

“Families want to provide their children with fun, engaging activities they can enjoy,” said Melanie. “We, as caregivers, also want to create positive memories our kids can carry into their adult lives in the hopes they contribute to their wellbeing, happiness, and resilience. Attending live performances allows them to achieve both at the same time and more in-depth.”

Studies show that creating warm, happy memories with parents and/or primary caregivers is not only enjoyable in the moment but also lays the groundwork for children’s emotional, social, and cognitive development that carries them into the future. Being able to look back on good times helps to form a strong understanding of how to be happy.

LBC continues to develop Family Fun Series programming for the many gains that children and families enjoy when attending live theater together, especially in today’s digital age where screen time and extracurricular activities often dominate children’s schedules. Through our Family Fun Series, we can provide families in the North Bay the positive shared cultural experiences that contribute to children’s future success, while also building stronger emotional connections with family members.

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