The idea of taking your children to see live theatre can seem daunting, especially if we’re talking about kids under six. But if you take the right steps, it can actually be a relatively smooth experience.
First, lower your expectations; taking your five-year-old to the latest Tony winner at the Royal Alexandra Theatre probably isn’t a great idea. Next, pick an event that doesn’t interfere with nap or meal time. And speaking of food, pack plenty of snacks and water and don’t be afraid to use them to encourage your children to stay in their seats or use the potty before the show starts. But most importantly, pick a show that captures your child’s imagination so intensively, they voluntarily sit still for minutes on end.
Here are eight places and stage events in Toronto that might just gift your family with a love for live theatre this year.
Fringe KidsFest | fringetoronto.com/fringe/kidsfest
George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place
This annual event runs alongside the grown-up Fringe Festival every July. It’s an affordable option, with $5 tickets, that aims to be the perfect place to introduce your kids to live theatre with morning performances and front-of-house staff who are “friendly kid-experts.” The Fringe KidsFest also tries to feature material that’s inclusive and represents a range of family dynamics. Following the performances, have your little ones run off their pent-up energy at the Fringe KidsFest ‘s adjacent by-donation play space.
Harbourfront Centre | harbourfrontcentre.com
235 Queens Quay
Head down to Lake Ontario to take a wide variety of exciting, live performances, some of which are even free. During the warmer weather, there’s pretty much a different festival running every weekend at Harbourfront, many of which celebrate specific cultures and parts of the world. There’s also plenty happening during the winter, including some fun holiday events. One of Harbourfront’s most kid-friendly events is coming up in May. Junior is an international children’s festival that will feature everything from threat to puppetry to storytelling.
Lower Ossington Theatre | lowerossingtontheatre.com
100 Ossington Ave
As the name suggests, this venue is located on Ossington. While it does feature more adult shows, it often hosts such kid-friendly classics as Mary Poppins. It’s also home to regular Christmas and holiday programming. The venue is on the small side, meaning pretty much every seat offers a great sight line and kids’ shows are usually pick-your-own-seat, which is great for more fidgety children. For more on the LOT, visit our review of it here.
Mirvish Productions | mirvish.com
Several downtown theatres
You can’t have a list of Toronto live theatre events without including the Mirvish name. And while yes, most Mirvish shows aren’t appropriate for kids under 13, it does usually bring one or two shows through a year that are perfectly suitable for younger kids — think School of Rock or The Lion King. Still, given the cost of these tickets, we recommend that you only bring children (and adults) who are comfortable staying in their seats for 60 minutes straight and who won’t melt down when you refuse to buy that overpriced ice cream bar.
Second City | secondcity.com/toronto
51 Mercer St
While the bulk of Second City’s programming is definitely adults-only, every year it offers a few kid-friendly shows, usually around March break and other holidays. While some of these events are structured as traditional plays, others take on quirkier formats, like the family-friendly improve show. But whatever the format, your whole family is sure to find themselves bursting with laughter at Second City’s always amusing antics.
Solar Stage | solarstage.on.ca
601 Christie St, Studio 176
For over 40 years, Solar Stage has had one goal, “make beautiful live art that everyone can enjoy.” And while its shows are designed to be all-ages, children are going to be the ones who get the most of its engaging and colourful performances. Many of the productions are interactive or encourage the audience to do things like come in costumes or, in the case of its popular Robert Munsch show, pyjamas.
Toronto Centre for the Arts | tocentre.com/kids
5040 Yonge St
You don’t have to head downtown to treat your kids to live theatre. North York’s Toronto Centre for the Arts often features family-friendly offerings, including the brand new Uptown International Children’s Festival. Taking place from May 16-19, 2019, this festival features tickets starting at $15 and free events over at nearby Mel Lastman Square.
Young People’s Theatre | youngpeoplestheatre.ca
165 Front St E
Toronto’s oldest not-for-profit theatre company has been producing quality live events for kids in junior kindergarten through grade 12 since 1966. Its performances cover everything from classic plays to dance shows to material that makes contemporary social issues accessible to kids. It also offers special programming, such as “touch tours” and “relaxed performances,” aimed at children with special needs. And if you have a budding young actor in your household, note that the YPT is known for its strong drama lessons and camps.