Tips for Taking Children to the Theatre

London’s West End is a well-known hotspot for parents seeking a perfect outing for the whole family. Taking a trip to the theatre is a great way to introduce youngsters to the arts and expose them to new forms of storytelling. It sets their imagination racing – and it’s something parents can enjoy too!

However, due to varying age restrictions from theatre to theatre, finding a one-show-fits-all can be a difficult task. There may also be concerns about whether the show you want to see is suitable for particular age-groups and if the venue can provide a pleasant experience for your children.

It may seem daunting at first, but the rewards of a family theatre outing are well worth it. We hope the below guide will help guardians of any little theatre-goer to make informed choices.

A young child attends a theatre performance with his mother

Age Suitability

Big West End shows are generally not tailored for a younger audience. In fact, many large-scale productions may not be entirely child-friendly. Some theatres, such as the Lyric Theatre, Garrick Theatre and Vaudeville Theatre, regularly house productions specially made for children. Shows like The Gruffalo, Horrible Histories, The Snowman and The Railway Children have been favourites for children on the West End.

Certain shows, such as The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum will hold special family-friendly matinees, where usual age restrictions are not enforced and small children of any age are welcome.

Whilst many theatres have strict age restrictions that do not admit youngsters under 5 into the auditorium, the above-mentioned shows are typically made for little ones of all ages. Even babes-in-arms are sometimes allowed into the theatre, although usually all attendees must hold their own ticket.

It is very important to check the age restrictions and recommendations for all productions before booking with children. Some venues will not allow patrons under the age of 16 to sit by themselves, so it is recommended that anybody aged 16 or under is sat next to an accompanying adult.

 

Kid’s Week

Kids Week is an annual summer event that actually takes place for the whole month of August, with the intention of introducing more young people to the theatre. Participating West End shows allow children aged 16 and under to see shows for free when accompanied by a full paying adult, with two additional children being able to attend at half price! What better way to spend a day in the summer holidays?

 

Recommended shows for ages 4 and under

Below is a list of theatre suitable for those aged 4 and under.

Off-West End theatres that house shows tailor-made for babies, toddlers and young children include Polka Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Half Moon and Little Angel Theatre. These venues host productions perfect for youngsters, alongside many fun workshops that may get your little ones involved in theatre.

The below list includes shows at major West End theatres and will be kept up-to-date, so be sure to keep checking back for our latest recommendations!

Show Venue Age Recommendation Age Restriction Does my child need a ticket? Are booster seats available?
The Tiger Who Came to Tea Theatre Royal Haymarket 3+ Although recommended for those aged 3 and up, the show operates a babes-in-arms policy. Yes No

 

Recommended shows for ages 5-10

Below is a list of top theatre shows suitable for children aged 5 and over. Generally, West End shows do not offer discounts for children unless it is Kids Week.

Show Venue Age Recommendation Age Restriction Does my child need a ticket? Are booster seats available?
Wicked Apollo Victoria Theatre 7+ Children under the age of 3 will not be admitted. Yes Yes
Matilda the Musical Cambridge Theatre 6+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes Yes
The Play That Goes Wrong Duchess Theatre 8+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No
The Lion King Lyceum Theatre 6+ Children under the age of 3 will not be admitted. Yes Yes
Mamma Mia! Novello Theatre 5+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No
Les Miserables Sondheim Theatre 7+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes Yes
Mary Poppins Prince Edward Theatre 7+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No

 

Shows suitable for ages 10-14

Below is a list of top theatre shows suitable for children aged 10 and over.

Show Venue Age Recommendation Age Restriction Does my child need a ticket? Are booster seats available?
The Comedy About a Bank Robbery Criterion Theatre 10+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No
The Phantom of the Opera Her Majesty’s Theatre 10+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Palace Theatre 10+ Children under the age of 5 will not be admitted. Yes No
SIX Arts Theatre 12+ Children under the age of 10 will not be admitted. Yes No

The cast of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery on stage at the Criterion Theatre, London

Pushchairs

If you are bringing a young child to the theatre, there is often space in a cloakroom or “buggy bay” to store your pushchair for the duration of the performance. It is worth phoning the theatre’s box office to double check before bringing a pushchair, however. 

Booster Seats

Booster cushions/seats are only occasionally available from large London venues. It’s therefore worth phoning the theatre if you are unsure of which tickets to book. Here are a few things we think you should know about booster seats in a theatre:

  • A booster seat is not included as part of your child’s ticket
  • Not all theatres provide booster seats – booster seats are provided at the discretion of the venue, which may charge a small fee
  • Booster seats cannot be booked in advance
  • Most children will not need a booster seat in a West End theatre as the stage will be at a higher level than the seating
  • Booster seats are generally not provided in the higher tiers of seating
  • Height restrictions are in place for booster seats
  • Theatres usually have a limited supply of booster seats that are first-come, first-served
  • Most theatres will not be keen for you to bring your own booster seat

General Tips

  • Arriving early may guarantee a booster seat and necessary toilet visits
  • Dress/Royal Circles are often the best seating level for children
  • Sitting close to an aisle will allow easier access to the exits and toilets if necessary
  • Matinees are often the most appropriate performances for children as evening performances can run quite late
  • Make sure you research the show beforehand, as some children may not enjoy particular scenes
  • Be aware of the appropriate level of behaviour in a theatre
  • West End theatres do not invite children on stage
  • West End theatres do not make birthday announcements during a show
  • Theatres often do not have baby changing facilities

For more tips on the perfect shows for children, check out our top 6 West End musicals!