Film festivals for kids. Improv musicals for preschoolers. Turn your children into arts fans with events designed especially for them.
TEXT BY JO TAN
Published on 11 May 2015
TEXT BY JO TAN
It’s a common scenario: well-meaning parents take their children to arts and culture events only to end up with a bored and fidgety brood on their hands. Patience wears thin and bouts of scolding ensue. The fact is, not all events fit the interests or attention spans of today’s young’uns. In this article, we suss out some age-appropriate events tailor-made to introduce inquisitive young minds to the wonders and joy of different art forms. Whether it’s a play, dance performance or storytelling session, arts programmes can help children develop language, memory and other cognitive skills, as well as encourage them to use their imagination. Best of all, they’ll soon figure out that learning is fun!
If even us grown-ups are too used to four-minute Top 40 tracks to sit through a symphony, what hope is there for younger audiences? Lots, it would seem, since the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) and other classical music coalitions, such as the Tee Khoon Tang Grand Series, often organise well-received concerts for children. In a musically-engaging environment, children can enhance their ability to concentrate and make full use of their eyes and ears. On 30 May, the folks at Tee Khoon Tang Grand Series will put together two short, sweet, interactive 50-minute musical programmes that begin with the basics. One concert teaches tots about the four string instruments using specially-chosen pieces by Schubert, while the other is a study in poetry coming together with music to make songs. See teekhoontanggrandseries.com for details.
The SSO aims for an even more comprehensive classical music introduction in Jason’s A to Z of Classical Music (part of its regular Concerts for Children series) happening 1 June. Associate conductor Jason Lai will take budding Mozarts through the FAQs of classical music, unveiling why the orchestra always tunes to A at the beginning of a concert, among other fun facts. More details at www.sso.org.sg
Want to introduce your child to something different-sounding? The SCO is known for pulling out all the stops with its Young Children’s Concerts (such as the upcoming one on 22 & 23 May), playing not just catchy, child-friendly Chinese music, but often incorporating fantastic characters to help weave the tunes together. The use of puppetry or different types of theatre certainly go a long way in keeping kids on the edge of their booster seats. Visit www.sco.com.sg for details.
Classical ballet’s delicacy and precision might be lost on young audiences. But you can open their minds to how coordination, stamina and focus come into play with the Singapore Dance Theatre’s ballets for children, as well as its annual Dance Appreciation Series (DAS) of ballet excerpts. In July, the company presents children’s ballet production, Peter & Blue’s Birthday Party, which tells the tale of a boy, his dog, cat and various magical forest creatures.
Meanwhile, the DAS takes selected excerpts from renowned ballets like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, and links them by way of narration of the main plot for easy comprehension. DAS also incorporates educational elements about dance, such as demonstrations of graceful ballet moves. The whole event lasts no longer than an hour
to better cater to the junior crowd and their short attention spans. It often includes photo-taking sessions with the gorgeously-costumed dancers post-performance. Visit www.singaporedancetheatre.com to find out more.
Visiting a museum or art gallery is one of the easiest ways to introduce youngsters to the world around them and expand their understanding of their place in the universe. By viewing different exhibits, they also enhance their ability to observe, describe and analyse. Check out the extremely interactive art at the ongoing Imaginarium at SAM@8Q (on till 19 July), the annual contemporary art exhibition for children. Expect mini museum-goers to be able to jump on bicycles to trigger secret exhibits, pick candy off trees, and even construct their own housing estates from cuddly Tetris-shaped blocks. See www.singaporeartmuseum.sg for details.
Even the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) — which houses non-contemporary, and in fact pretty ancient artefacts — explodes with youthful life on the first Saturday of each month. Saturdays@ACM features storytelling and special performances especially for the playground pack, as well as activities teaching them how to create their own artwork. From
30 May to 26 July, ACM presents Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Animal Race, a special trail where participants can explore interactive art ensembles, create animal-themed art and hear stories, all inspired by how the art of many cultures revolve around animals in different forms and visions. See www.acm.org.sg for more information.
We do take care of our baby bookworms in Singapore. The annual Singapore Writers Festival boasts a students’ arm, Words Go Round, which takes literary luminaries, including writers, storytellers and poets, into schools to meet aspiring literati aged as young as four. Singapore also hosts the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, where visitors can browse children’s books from across Asia, some newly-launched at the festival. Held at the National Library Building from 30 May to 6 June, there will be free multilingual public activities like storytelling sessions, interactive performances, author appearances, and even a live duel between illustrators as they draw a story on the spot while it is being read to them. Also in the programme line-up: workshops for parents to help them facilitate Junior’s reading journey. A child who likes reading and storytelling will not only have better literacy and communication skills, he/she will also have a greater understanding of other cultures described in the many tales encountered.
When people think improvisational comedy, they think of stand-up comedy or Whose Line Is It Anyway?, both of which may require more than a PG rating. You’ll be surprised to know that kids have their improvised comic content, too! The Fantastical Story Factory, a visiting UK production that ended its run on 3 May, was a completely improvised musical adventure for kids, with a new show each night created from audience suggestions.
If you missed that, there’s always Story Challenge performed by the education and outreach arm of The Theatre Practice, and taking place across Singapore multiple times a year at schools as well as public venues, including libraries. The concept is simple: actors have the audience call out a title of an existing book/film/TV show or other story. They then use that title to create a brand-new tale on the spot — such as turning Hollywood hit The Hunger Games into a weight-loss competition. Young audiences will have fun throwing out suggestions and imposing additional conditions on the performers, like instructing them to speak only in rhyme. Audience members are also regularly invited onstage to take part in the story-reinvention, with the help of the professional actors, of course. The next edition of
Story Challenge will be held on 2 June at the National Library Building as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.
We’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of film festivals this year, from the European Union Film Festival and the Southeast Asian Film Festival to the Singapore Chinese Film Festival and, of course, the Singapore International Film Festival. It’s only fair our little darlings get Big Eyes, Big Minds, the first and only film festival in Singapore dedicated to kids from as young as two years of age. Choose to attend screenings of various short-film collections, grouped by target age or youthful subject matter, such as Stick Up for Yourself! or Bicycles & Balloons. You can even expect some quality works created by camera-toting boys and girls, a cinematic showing of self-expression that could inspire your movie-loving moppet to be the next Eric Khoo or Royston Tan. This year, the festival takes place on 30 & 31 May
as well as 6 & 7 June. Log on to www.bigeyesbigminds.com for tickets and details.
Singapore boasts myriad children’s theatre productions each month, featuring a slew of songs, multitude of masks and proliferation of puppets. Here are some extra-value kids’ festivals that offer theatre and more.
Happening from 30 May to 9 June, Jelly, Wobble! is a one-stop tot-targeted art exhibition, theatre show and drama workshop complete with interactive visual arts activities. Seeing how it’s based on a book (The Jelly That Wouldn’t Wobble by Angela Mitchell), it also encourages interest in literary arts. Centred around the story of 89 year-old Princess Lolly who receives a birthday jelly that refuses to wobble, participants are taken through various fun tasks to help Lolly and Jelly find their respective happy endings. Along the way, your cheeky cherub will learn about what it means to be stereotyped and the derring-do required to break free from labels. Information and tickets are available at
More family-friendly arts fare is available at the Esplanade’s excellent annual Octoburst! festival. On from 9 to 11 October this year, it offers a range of acclaimed free and ticketed theatre, music and dance performances sourced from both our shores and far beyond. You can also sign up for various parent-child workshops where you and your mini-me learn how to make fabulous art together. Visit www.esplanade.com/octoburst for updates.