Theatre Acting for Kids – The Parents Guide

Some kids seem to be born for the stage. If you have a child with a flair for the dramatic, you may have been wondering how to help encourage or develop their love of acting. Obviously, the best way to get kids into acting is by getting them into a drama class, but if you don’t happen to have any in your area, or the cost of classes are outside your budget, no need to worry. There is actually quite a lot you can do to help your child learn about drama, theatre and acting at home.

Learning how to act for the stage can be very beneficial for kids.  Theatre teaches children skills like public speaking, teamwork, and self-discipline (just to name a few), that can have a major impact on how successful they are as adults. It is also super fun and kids love it.

So if you are looking for some ideas to help your young actor, then read on because there is lots of cool stuff parents can do in the comfort of their own living room.

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Why is Theatre Acting so Great for Kids

There are many reasons to encourage your children’s love of drama or acting; some studies have shown a correlation with drama involvement and high academic achievement. More specifically, kids involved in theatre arts have higher standardized test scores, stronger reading comprehension skills, and better communication skills.

Not only is acting good for kids academically, it can also help build social skills like self-esteem, confidence, and it lets children learn to express themselves creatively.

Learning to act isn’t just beneficial for outgoing children; it can also be helpful for children who are shy or are lacking confidence. Theatre can help improve confidence by giving kids experience being in front of a crowd as an ensemble player in a safe environment, while also letting them practice their public speaking skills. For a shy child the advantages of an activity that can help them overcome the fear of public speaking is a huge plus.

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Easy Things you can do at Home

When kids are small they are natural actors, taking on roles and different characters through dramatic play. As they get older they start to grow out of this type of play, so to help bring it back you can use:

Props You probably already have a house full of Halloween costumes, puppets, dolls, masks, and action figures collecting dust. Pull them out and dust them off, because these can all be used as a great starting point to helping kids use their imaginations to portray whatever crazy fun stuff they might come up with.

Drama Games For small children a wonderful way to help them learn about acting is through games. There are hundreds of games that you can use. (Check our website and book recommendations below to learn more). You can find games that are suitable for all different ages. Using drama games to help kids learn is not only fun, but it helps focus and concentrate their energies and it allows them to learn by doing.

Puppet Plays Hand Puppets are a natural and fun extension of the pretend play for kids. If a child puts a puppet on their hands most can’t resist launching into a silly voice or taking on a new character for the puppet. It gives kids the freedom to express their ideas and feelings while trying on new personalities in a safe and non-threatening way.

Readers Theatre is a style of theater in which the actors do or do not memorize their lines. Actors use only vocal expression to help the audience understand the story rather than visual storytelling such as sets and costumes. If your children are able to read, then you can make it a fun activity by reading with them and each reader can take on the personality of the character they are reading. You and your child can make the characters come alive through dialogue, facial expressions and hand gestures. This is a simple way to develop acting skills without having to put much preparation on effort into doing it. It’s also a pretty fun way to read a book.

Best Drama and Acting Books for Kids

Most of the books for younger kids contain acting games not really much on theory. Kids often learn better when having fun and this is especially true with acting. Here are four books that we recommend for younger kids:

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  • On Stageis probably my favorite book of theatre activities for kids. It has more than 125 theater games that introduce basic theatre concepts, ideas, techniques and everything kids need to know by learning by playing the ‘games’. It is quite a big book (224 pages) that is full of cute illustrations and lots of easy to read instructions on how to do the games that are suggested. The games are broken down into: Getting onstage (games about blocking and stage direction), twisting your tongue and warming up, anytime theatre games, game that are played in a circle, Ideas for funny scenes, creating characters, improvisation, using and becoming objects, and creative drama. The book is laid out in a way that you can just pick it up and easily find a fun game that you can do with your child. The instructions are clear, brief and very reader friendly, and each of the games says what it is that you will be learning from the game (but not in a heavy handed way).
  • Kids Take the Stage is a book that has been written for parents and teachers who work with kids ages 8-18. It has basic lessons in acting, sample scenes, relation techniques, trust building exercises,  games, improvisations and building from the rehearsal process through to a final show. This book isn’t as readable as On Stage but there is lots of great information in it if you are looking for practical information on how to get a show going.
  • Drama Start! is a collection of drama activities. It includes games, role playing ideas, action poems, plays and monologues, suitable for children between the ages of 3 and 8. This book is accessible and easy to follow. It is divided into three parts – Drama Games, Plays and Monologues. Each section provides the reader with a variety of creative and imaginative ideas for stimulating drama activities in many different settings.  The activities are simple but on point with the lessons and detailed descriptions.
  •  101 Drama Games for Children is a straight up drama games book. The games in this book are non-competitive and include: introduction games, sensory games, pantomime, story games, sound, and games with masks and costumes. Each game contains an age guideline, an estimate time of play and suggestions for the most appropriate type of music. It also has some interesting information on how to link drama games to play, as well as why it is important to use drama games and some helpful tips. If you are going to be leading a group that will be performing the games, it gives to some information on things to keep in mind.

Online Drama and Acting Lessons

There are lots of free online videos for adults who are looking for acting lessons, but very little for kids. (If you know of any good free online acting lessons for kids, let me know I’d love to add them to the list). I did find a couple of lessons that are aimed at kids, check them out below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t-7fDMa_dQ

Websites

  • Story Cart has some free Readers Theatre scripts that you can download, as well as scripts that you can pay for. Readers Theatre is the type of theatre I mentioned earlier where you don’t use props, costumes or a stage, but instead the ‘acting’ is done orally through the voice, as well as facial expressions and hand gestures.
  • Beat By Beat Press are a team of writers and arts educators in New York City and San Francisco who are passionate about inspiring kids through musical theatre. They publish original, high-quality plays for kids to perform and this site has a great list of drama games.
  • Drama Resource has all sorts of information for young actors, parents and teachers. It also has a really good list of games that can be used at home to help kids develop their acting skills.
  • Drama Notebook  has over 40 free drama games that make great activities for drama teachers.

Hopefully you found something that might be usefully to help your young performers develop their acting skills in a fun way. If you have any great resources , please let us know so we can share them with other parents.

photo credit: Seoulful Adventures via photopin cc

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

 

How to Get Children Interested in Poetry

Everyone should have more poetry in their lives. It is wonderful because it can be silly or serious, it can help you learn something about yourself or the world, and it is a great form of expression for anyone. Lots of children get their first introduction to language and books through stories (Dr. Seuss) and nursery rhymes that use poetic devices, but sadly somewhere along the way poetry tends to fall by the wayside.

Since it is ones of those things that kids generally love, we thought we’d look into some fun ways to include poetry in your daily life and hopefully help get kids excited about reading it on their own.

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Books

The easiest way to gets kids interested in poetry is to get a good book and read it together. Since there are thousands of books to choose from, you should start with some of the more popular children’s poets. Almost anything from Shel Silverstein is a good choice,  other favourite children’s poets to check out are: Jack Prelutsky, Kenn Nesbitt, Jon Scieszka, Roald Dahl,Paul Janeczko, Marilyn Singer, Sharon Creech, or Allan Ahlberg.

If you want to get a collection or anthology for children there is no shortage of material to choose from. Here are a few to check out:

  • Poetry Speaks to Children – is a collection of more than 90 poems that were written specifically for children ages 6 and up. Some of the poets in this collection include Roald Dahl, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ogden Nash, John Ciardi, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, Seamus Heaney, Dennis Lee, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni and X. J. Kennedy. There is also a CD that comes with this book that has 50 of the poems being read, most by the poets themselves.
  • Hip Hop Speaks to Children with CD is from the A Poetry Speaks Experience series (that also includes Poetry Speaks to Children). This collection has 50 songs and poems with 30 performances on the CD from Eloise Greenfield, Mos Def, Lucille Clifton, Oscar Brown Jr., Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Nikki Grimes, Walter Dean Myers, Common, and Nikki Giovanni.
  • A Child’s Book of Poems is a collection of famous classical poems, proverbs, limericks, nursery rhymes, and folk songs for children. This anthology has 200 pieces with beautiful illustrations to go along with the poems. Some of the poets include William Blake, Kate Greenaway, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth, Lewis Carroll and Eugene Fields.
  • Poems to Learn by Heart is a lovely collection of poems for children chosen by Caroline Kennedy. This beautifully illustrated book covers a wide range of topics and has some classical as well as contemporary poems. It is a great introduction for anyone.

Poetry Websites for Kids

If you are looking for something a bit more interactive there are quite a lot of websites for kids. If you have a favourite contemporary poet, there is a good chance they will have their own site some with games and links to their work. Some other websites that are great for kids are:

  • Poetry4Kids is Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt website that has funny poems, games, a rhyming dictionary, writing lessons for kids and lots more. There is a lot of great material on this site for kids.
  • Mother Goose Club  is a fantastic collection of Mother Goose resources. It has videos of all of the famous Mother Goose rhymes as well as songs and activities for young children.
  • Giggle Poetry has hundreds of funny poems, for kids to read and rate. This site is great because the poems are organized in easy way and there are fun activities and games for kids to do.
  • Story It has a great list of links to classical poems for children written by a variety of poets such as Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edward Lear. The poems range from fun and lively to solemn and thought provoking.

Apps

For those times where you may be stuck somewhere and want a quick fix for your kids, here are a couple of poetry apps that might come in handy:

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  • iF Poems is a beautiful app that has 270 poems that are nicely illustrated and are read by some famous British actors like Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Hiddleston. The app isn’t specifically for kids, but you can search for poems by age range and there are lots of poems for kids on this app.
  • Nursery Rhymes for Kids is a free Android app that covers most of the basic nursery rhymes that kids love.

Finally…

I came across Classical Baby: The Poetry Show when I was looking for some music resources and it’s a cool little intro to for very young children. It is a compilation of 13 favorites from poets like William Shakespeare, John Keats, Woodie Guthrie, and Gertrude Stein that are read by famous people like  Gwyneth Paltrow and Susan Sarandon.

I feel like I should end with a poem, but I won’t. Happy reading!

photo credit: Nomadic Lass via photopin

 

Teaching Kids Simple Magic – The Parents Guide

Kids love magic tricks – doing the tricks themselves or watching them being done and trying to figure them out can keep a child entertained for hours. You might not know that learning about magic tricks is not only super fun, but it can also be really good for kids as well. Learning magic is said to improve a child’s self-confidence, public speaking, critical thinking skills, work ethic and even their school grades. With that in mind, here are some of the best magic sets, online videos, DVDs, books, apps and simple magic tricks to help your kids learn a little bit of magic.

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Where to Start

If you happen to live in or near a big city, check to see if you have a magic shop that you can visit. Magic shops are fun and inspiring places to take a kid who is just getting into magic.  The cool thing about going to an actual magic shop is that the people working there will demonstrate the tricks and show your kids exactly how the tricks work. They will also be able to recommend something that the child will be capable of doing without frustration. You might pay a little bit more than you would if you bought a magic kit at Toys R Us or Walmart, but having someone show your kids how a trick works will go a long way in helping keep your child interested magic.

The Best Kits for Kids

If you don’t live near a magic shop there are some very highly recommended magic kits for kids around, (there are also a lot of really bad kits, so take your time in picking the right kit). Here are some of the top rated and best reviewed sets that we could find:

  • Melissa & Doug Deluxe Magic Set (for ages 8 and up) is a great choice if you are looking for some simple magic tricks for children to learn. Most of the tricks in this kit are made of wood and there is a nice Egyptian theme to it. The instructions are also very cool for kids with a sort of aged, burned parchment effect to the paper, and they are clear enough for kids to be able to follow.  Most reviewers of this kit agreed that it was a really highly quality product for a very good price. The kit has 10 magic tricks including: Disappearing Ball, Magic Coin Box, Secret Silks, Great Escape, Magic Number Prediction, Money Maker, Egyptian Prediction, Vanishing Zone, Cylinder Squeeze and Vanishing Coin.
  • Melissa & Doug Discovery Magic Set  is different from the Melissa and Doug Deluxe set in that it is for a slightly younger crowd (a lot of people recommend it for 4-5 year olds) The tricks are very simple and easy for very young children to perform. The kit itself is wooden and very well made. The set includes the following 4 tricks:  “Sword in the stone” trick where the child uses a secret ring to get the sword out of the stone, a trick where the child can change the color of a string from white to red by pulling it through a wooden box/gadget, an illusion box where items “disappear” when they are dropped inside, a trick with a box and a dice where the child can guess the side/color of the dice that an audience member has chosen.
  • POOF-Slinky 0C4769 Ideal 100-Trick Spectacular Magic Show Suitcase with Instructional DVD (for ages 7-12) is a bit different than the Melissa and Doug sets in that it has 100 magic tricks and props so there is a lot going on with this set. The quality won’t be as good as the Melissa and Doug sets, but if you are looking for quantity at a good price, this is the set for you. This set includes a magic hat, a suitcase that doubles as a magician’s table, the “Secrets of 100 Magic Tricks” book and an instructional DVD starring magician Ryan Oakes.

Individual Magic Tricks for Kids

If you aren’t quite ready to buy a whole set for a child, have a look at these simple tricks that are suitable for kids.

  • Pen Thru Dollar Magic Trick  is simple trick that, with a bit of practice, is a good starting one for kids. The point of this trick is a pen is put through a spectator’s dollar bill, without wrecking the bill.  Kids can ask the audience for a bill and then stick the pen straight through the middle of it with no damage done. The trick has instructions included, and is easy enough for a kid who is just getting into magic.
  • Magic Makers Disappearing Dime and Penny Illusion Magic Trick  is another easy to learn trick that is a good one for kids (although kids may need some help from an adult who knows a bit about coin tricks). This trick includes step-by-step instructions and bang ring.  It’s is a very highly rated trick for a decent price.

Tricks for Kids Videos and Websites

There are lots of resources to help kids learn magic tricks online. The best are the online videos that break down the tricks in an easy and straight forward way.

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  • Neo K12 has a great list of magic tricks videos that are suitable for kids.
  • Activity Village also has a really good list of online magic trick videos for kids.
  • Kid Zone has a very good list of magic tricks for kids with instructions. It also has some helpful tips for kids to improve their magic skills.
  • Easy magic coin trick is a video tutorial of the setup and execution of a simple coin trick that is appropriate for kids.
  • Magic Tricks for Kids has some fun videos for kid’s magic tricks. Also check out their main site.
  • Magic in Minutes are very well done online video tutorials on magic tricks that are suitable for kids.
  • The Society of Young Magicians is a part of the Society of American Magicians that offers a membership to youth between the ages of 7 and 17, it includes a subscription to The Magic SYMbol online magazine. If children join they have to take the Membership Pledge where they agree to not to tell any of the secrets of magic to anyone (among other things), which would probably be cool for a kid.

We couldn’t find many apps with magic tricks that are specifically designed for kids. There are a few available but the reviews for them aren’t great. However, there is a pretty big selection of magic trick apps that are designed for beginners that are good for kids as well (with a lot of practice and a bit of patience).

  • Magic Lesson is good for beginner performers with step-by-step guides that include photos and video instructions. It also has tips for improving performance.
  • Magic – Eye is a simple card trick kids can do on a phone. There is review of this app by a kid who explains how the app works and actually reveals the trick here.
  • Invisible Deck is another easy(ish) trick that you can do on an iPhone that is okay for kids to try.
  • Magic 101  has tricks for beginner and intermediate levels, you can start small and advance to more complex prestidigitations, with the option to purchase more tricks through in app purchases. Each trick includes a step by step instruction and a performance by Angelo Oddo – professional magician, and a close up video tutorial where Angelo will teach you the steps to perform each trick.
  • Magic Trick is a free simple card trick app.

DVDs

  • Learn Magic with Lyn: 11 Tricks for Kids (ages 6-12) don’t be put off by the sort of cheesy cover, because there are some really good reviews for this DVD. Professional magician Lyn Dillies teaches kids illusions that can be achieved with a little bit of practice and minimal setup. This DVD has eleven easy tricks children can learn within minutes using ordinary, everyday household items. This DVD includes instructions for the illusions: Newspaper Ball, Magic Ribbon, Mindreading Crayons, Napkin Production, Dime Go, Ice Water, Tricky Lollipops, Cups and Balls, Eye on the Coin, Wonder Wand, and Ropes Thru Body.
  • Magic Tricks R4 Kids, Vol. 1  professional Las Vegas magicians Will Roya & Joan DuKore go through step by step 15 tricks that kids can do at home.  You can see a preview of this DVD here.

Books

  • Kids’ Magic Secrets: Simple Magic Tricks & Why They Work by Loris Bree and Marlin Breefor ages 9-12 (although you could probably go as young as 6) Using everyday items found in most homes, kids can improve their magic skills with this guide to performing magic tricks. In the activities detailed, items disappear, water refuses to leave a container, and magicians make partners disappear (and reappear). Each activity includes step-by-step directions and illustrations followed by an explanation of how the trick works.
  • Easy-to-Do Magic Tricks for Children by Karl Fuvles (for ages 9-12) is an easy-to-follow guide that gives step-by-step instructions for performing 18 simple feats of prestidigitation.
  • Magic: The Complete Course by Joshua Jay isn’t written for kids but it could be useful for older kids who are looking for a good resource to help them improve their skills. It combines expertise, photographs, and step-by-step directions showing how to perform 100 tricks. Each trick is broken down into the Effect, the Secret, the Set-up, and the Performance, with lessons on what to say, how to direct the audience’s attention, where to keep your hands, and so on.
  • Kids Guide to Magic Tricks has instructions for kids on how to do: The Magic Shoelace, Cut and Restored Rope, Sticking a pencil through George Washington’s eye, Cut and restored newspaper and a fantastic 4 number prediction.

 

photo credit: donnaidh_sidhe via photopin cc

photo credit: ian boyd via photopin cc

 

Help Your Kids Improve their Drawing Skills

People often assume that a person is either born with the ability to draw or they aren’t.  Some people strongly believe that you shouldn’t even try to teach a child to draw using a step by step method because it will limit your child’s artistic expression and have too much of an influence on your child’s future work.

We don’t really agree with that because we think a little guidance can be helpful when trying to learn to draw for most kids. So with that in mind, if your child has expressed some interest in learning some basic drawing techniques or improving upon their already existing ability, we have found lots of great drawing websites, DVDs, apps, video games and online art lessons that can help kids draw.

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Before beginning check out this excellent website with two perspectives on drawing development in children that may help you pick appropriate material for your child’s age and development stage.

Quick Overview of Some of the Big Names in Teaching Kids to Draw

  • Mark Kistler  has done a number of TV shows (Imagination Station, The Secret City Adventures, and The Draw Squad) and a crazy amount of books on teaching kids to draw. His work mainly features instruction in 3D cartoon style pencil art, focusing on basic 3D shapes and techniques. Check out his online drawing lessons.
  • Christopher Hart is another big gun in the teaching kids to draw world. He has lots of great books on how to teach Manga style drawing, but if your kids are just beginning you might want to check out his books on how to draw cartoons or how to draw animals. There are some free tutorials on his site as well as a link to his blog that also has lots of cool tips and tutorials.
  • Ed Emberley is great resource for kids who want to learn to draw. He has an incredible amount of drawing books for kids. Check out some samples from his drawing books to see if it is your kind of thing.
  • The Draw Fifty Series by Lee Ames is a great series focusing on teaching kids basic drawing techniques.
  • Mona Brooks is name that comes up a lot with the topic of teaching kids to draw. She has a bestselling book called Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too that is basically a guide for parents and teachers on how to encourage drawing in kids.
  • Draw Write Now is another really good series to think about if you want to get some books on this topic. There are eight books in the series for ages 5-9 that have step-by-step drawing instructions.
  • Art for Kids: Drawing: The Only Drawing Book You’ll Ever Need to Be the Artist You’ve Always Wanted to Be is very popular and well reviewed book that is great for help to teach kids how to draw.

Art Lesson DVDs

Step4Kids: To Draw uses video modeling to teach viewers how to draw over 40 items ranging from shapes to more difficult items like animals, a bike, etc.

Apps

Video Games to Help Kids Learn to Draw

For very young kids there is a Nintendo DS game that is very popular called Let’s Draw! that is designed to introduce children to the creative process by making drawing easy, accessible and fun.

 

Online Art Lessons for Kids

  • Dragoart has lots of online drawing tutorials for kids. They have step-by-step instructions on how to draw just about anything you can think of.
  • Kids Front is another site with step-by-step drawing lessons for children that show kids how to draw cute cartoon animals.
  • Hello Kids also have drawing tutorials and drawing lessons for kids of all ages with lots of different categories to choose from.

Free Online Video Art Lessons for Kids

  • Shoo Rayner Drawing is the “Drawing Teacher to the World”. Such good lessons here. Also check out his other channel Draw Stuff Real Easy.
  • Mark Crilley has how to draw lessons on every conceivable subject.
  • DoodleKat1’s how to draw lessons are great for kids.
  • Doodle Academy’s YouTube channel has some simple lessons on how to create various cartoon animals.
  • Drawing With Paolo this is a really good YouTube channel with very good art lessons. Probably best for an older child (ages 10+).
  • MikeyMushArt a fun YouTube channel with art lessons for younger kids.