Theatre for babies sets the stage for physical literacy

There is a new group of theatregoers in Toronto. These little fans are smiling, peek-a-booing, and waving their arms in delight at the Young People’s Theatre.

One Thing Leads to Another, the innovative and interactive theatrical performance created specifically for babies, returns to the stage after its hugely popular first season.

Commissioned by the Young People’s Theatre for infants 3 to 12 months, the show incorporates music, visuals, and tactile play-based scenarios to engage and stimulate babies, helping them develop and learn about the world around them.

“We aim to inspire the baby’s sense of sight, sound, and touch,” explains Maja Ardal, who researched and developed the original concept and theme and performs in the show. “We play with appearance/disappearance and we play with each other in simple relationships.”

Babies and their caregivers sit on mats on the floor, allowing the adults to interact closely with their infants. Using everyday objects like fabrics, balls, and water, the performers engage the tiny audience through patient repetitive and sensual play, encouraging physical movement and helping infants learn new skills by imitation.

Ardal describes the technique as an “authentic performance” aimed at appealing to all of the babies’ senses.

theatre-for-babies

Following the performance, children and their caregivers can experiment with objects from the play right on the set. For the creative team, part of the presentation is to inspire parents to continue to explore these activities afterwards; 90 percent of the props used in the play can be made or found at home, or purchased.

“When we invite the babies into our playing space they gravitate towards the props and items we used in the performance,” she explains. “The babies often explore these items in new ways, as well as in ways that mirror what we performers did with them.”

Dancing with your baby in your arms, for example, offers immersive and stimulating physical engagement, develops a sense of rhythm, and helps with cognitive, social, and sensory-motor development.

“The vocal and movement elements really seem to inspire the parents who often comment on how they will now ‘dance’ or ‘sing’ more for their baby,” says Ardal.

The Young People’s Theatre has also produced a guide to the performance and the activities that you can try at home with your little ones.

One Thing Leads to Another is presented until October 8, 2016.

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