Take a look at your child’s class schedule, and you’ll likely see subjects such as coding and web design. In the face of an increasingly technology-driven society, schools replaced more traditional (dare we say antiquated?) subjects like Latin with progressive ones. Some of these changes are welcome, but others chip away at the cultural foundation necessary for building curious and artistic young minds. Studies show that art and music spur a child’s creativity and discipline while performance arts teach confidence. Luckily, it’s easy to foster an appreciation for classic subjects, from opera to cinema in a child-friendly atmosphere outside the schoolyard.
EXPOSE THEM TO MONET, MANET AND MATISSE
Dallas Museum of Art (DMA)
The DMA makes its collections accessible and interesting for even the youngest guests (infants to age 12) through classes and workshops. The upcoming Nov. 12 Cats Meow family workshop sends kids ages 6–12 prowling through the “Divine Felines” exhibit before creating a take-home piece of 3-D art. The 5-and-under crowd shouldn’t miss the museum’s First Tuesdays program, which provides free story times, performances, art projects and gallery explorations from 11am–2pm on the first Tuesday of each month September–May. Or explore the DMA on your own. Download free family guides from the website, and let Arturo, the museum’s avian mascot, lead you on a themed journey.
Cost: General admission, free; prices for classes and workshops vary.
Nasher Sculpture Center
The Nasher gives families free admission to the museum on the first Saturday of each month through the Target First Saturdays program and provides special activities geared towards preschoolers through fifth graders. Each month, kids create art projects and explore the museum through activities centered around one topic. Kids discover the wonders of architecture this month with an architecture-focused scavenger hunt and 15-minute architecture-themed tours. Then they use their newfound knowledge to fashion a take-home building using baker’s bags, brightly colored construction paper and more. At other times, take advantage of free family guides and gallery kits that can be picked up at the admissions desk. Inspired by current exhibitions, gallery kits include hands-on activities to keep kids entertained.
Cost: Adults, $10; kids 11 and younger, free.
Kimbell Art Museum
Teach the kids about Monet at the upcoming 60-painting exhibit Monet: The Early Years, which opens Oct. 16 and runs through the New Year. Beyond that, the Kimbell offers programming targeted specifically at young art enthusiasts. Make use of the family drop-in area at the Piano Pavilion, which has a full library of kids books, do-it-together activities and digital interactive stations, all geared towards ages 5 and younger. The Kimbell also hosts special classes such as the Pictures & Pages series, where preschoolers make art inspired by popular children’s books, and the Children’s Workshop series, where ages 6–12 learn about a new art form (like “iPad Photography for Kids” on Oct. 22). Don’t miss the free Fiesta de la Familia festival celebrating Hispanic Heritage month with face painting, music performances and family art projects on Oct. 2 from noon–5pm.
Cost: General admission is free; special exhibitions cost extra: adults, $18; kids 6-11, $14; kids 5 and younger, free. Class pricing varies by program.
Fort Worth, 817/332-8451
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The best place to school your kids on modern and contemporary art is, naturally, The Modern. The Modern provides a free program called Drawing from the Collection For Children for mini Picassos ages 5–12 (those under the age of 6 should be accompanied by an adult) on select dates throughout the year. In this program, rotating guest artists lead kiddos through informal art exercises using pencils or collage in open gallery spaces. Or go online to register for a paid class through the museum’s Focus Focus Focus program, where kids get an in-depth look at a particular exhibition and use it as inspiration to create their own take-home art. On Nov. 12, kids get a chance to explore the KAWS: Where The End Starts exhibition and learn about the graffiti artist-turned-gallery artist before setting to work on their own project ($20 for nonmembers; $15 for members). If you’re planning a family trip, be sure to check out free sketchbooks with engaging activities for kids from the front desk.
Cost: Adults, $10; kids 12 and under, free.
Fort Worth, 817/738-9215
EXPOSE THEM TO BRAHAMS, BEETHOVEN AND BACH
Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO)
Little attention spans can be tested by classical music’s long performances and lack of visual stimulation. The DSO changes all that with its special Family Series programming. All Family Series shows run about an hour, feature familiar and exciting music and have a powerful visual component to keep the younger set engaged. Check out the Oct. 29 “Disney’s Fantasia — Live In Concert” performance, where the orchestra brings Mickey’s animated adventures to life with music and high-resolution scenes from both the 1940 and 2000 versions of Fantasia. Then kick off the holiday season watching costumed singers perform popular holiday tunes accompanied by the orchestra at “A DSO Family Christmas” on Dec. 3 (Santa may even make an appearance.) Arrive an hour early for any Family Series show to participate in a full roster of kid-focused activities, including arts and crafts, the opportunity to test out several instruments in the musical petting zoo and special timely extras like a Halloween costume contest or photos with Santa. Buy tickets in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance .
Plano Symphony Orchestra
The Plano Symphony Orchestra Encore Youth program is dedicated to educating the younger generation about all elements of classical music. The Family Symphony Sunday Series offers special concerts for kids ages 3–12 and their families in Plano, Frisco and McKinney. Before attending a show, let the kids navigate the Encore Youth website, which offers free educational tools explaining the different instrument families and more. And attend the program’s pre-concert arts and crafts activities and the ever popular instrument petting zoo that allows kiddos to experiment with various instruments. Kids also get to play conductor by standing on a podium and holding a baton. Be sure to catch the upcoming Halloween-inspired “Spooky Symphony” concert on Oct. 30 with recognizable music from favorite films (think songs from Frozen and the Star Wars and Harry Potter series). Musicians combine fun and learning through short demonstrations that highlight the different instrument families. Buy tickets in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance.
Multiple locations, 972/473-7262
Northeast Orchestra of Tarrant County
Support local talent by attending one of five yearly concerts by the Northeast Orchestra of Tarrant County, a nonprofit composed of volunteer musicians. The orchestra puts on 60-minute performances with a brief intermission at Peace Lutheran Church. Two of the more family-friendly events include the Halloween-inspired fall concert on Oct. 14 and the holiday concert on Dec. 16. At the Halloween concert, a fully costumed orchestra plays songs from The Addams Family in D-minor and “Night On Bald Mountain” from Fantasia. At the holiday concert, kids sing along to popular holiday songs and enjoy a performance from a high school choir. Purchase tickets at the door.
Cost: Adults, $10; kids under 18, $5.
Fort Worth Youth Orchestra (FWYO)
Start them young at the FWYO Early Childhood Music Program. Really young. Enroll infants through early elementary-age children in weekly, family-centered classes that focus primarily on classical and folk music and teach rhythm using percussion instruments and fun props such as puppets. Music appreciation is also a large component. Kiddos learn to identify different instruments in an orchestra and explore the works of well-known composers. There are 15 different class times available Monday–Saturday. Upon graduating from the Early Childhood Music Program, little musicians learn cello, violin and viola in the Suzuki Strings program. Register online.
Cost: $180 for 16 weeks; additional siblings, $144.
Fort Worth, 817/923-3121
Flower Mound Community Orchestras
This all-volunteer ensemble performs eight free concerts a year, including a children’s concert held each spring, where kids hear classical music (think pieces from favorite Peter and the Wolf and others) accompanied by dances performed by the local Footlights Dance Studios. After the 60- to 75-minute show, kids participate in a question-and-answer session with the musicians. Can’t wait until spring? All shows are held at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church, and none run too much longer than 75 minutes, so really any performance could be deemed kid-friendly. Take your littles to the fall concert on Oct. 15 and the Christmas concerts Dec. 10–11.
Flower Mound, 214/879-5225
Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra
The theme of the 2016–2017 season is “Symphony Goes Wild,” and with good reason: It kicks off on Oct. 15 with a visit from some live Dallas Zoo animals and animal-themed activities before 17-year-old Kiarra Saito-Beckman’s solo violin performance. Plus, each of the eight concerts in the monthly series featurea renditions of critter-inspired ballads such as “Flight of the Bumblebee” and even “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” And on Dec. 17, encourage kiddos to sing along to traditional Christmas carols and visit with Santa during intermission. If you can’t make it to a show — or your little ones can’t make it through a two-and-a-half-hour performance — the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra’s Kidsnotes program brings the music to them at area libraries and bookstores. During the hourlong free event, kids listen to a story, hear music and get to touch and play various instruments in the petting zoo. Check the Facebook page for upcoming Kidsnotes happenings.
Cost: Tickets for performances start at $16.50 each.
Las Colinas, 972/252-4800
Lewisville Lake Symphony
While the Lewisville Lake Symphony’s Family Pop Series performance of Peter and the Wolf (complete with popcorn) isn’t until the March 3, parents are encouraged to take kids of any age to the free International Chamber Series. The season, which highlights students from University of North Texas’ College of Music, starts Oct. 7 with a piano concert at Trinity Presbyterian Church. The more intimate venue provides an opportunity for kids to get very close to the musician and his instrument — and to ask questions after the show.
Cost: Concert ticket prices vary by performance; the International Chamber Series is free.
Flower Mound and Lewisville, 972/874-9087
EXPOSE THEM TO SOPRANOS, BALLERINAS AND ACTORS
The Dallas Opera
Not many people take their 6-year-olds to the opera. Operas are long and often hard to understand. But The Dallas Opera Family Performance series disavows the assumption that kids can’t appreciate opera. Instead of a 2 1/2-hour show plus an intermission, the family series performances last less than 45 minutes. Bring kids in Kindergarten–fifth grades to the shows an hour and a half before the curtain goes up to play dress-up, make arts and crafts and experiment with instruments in the orchestra petting zoo. Upcoming performances include the Oct. 23 rendition of The Three Little Pigs, a 30-minute version set to Mozart’s operas, and Verdi and Company on Nov. 13, where kids journey through composer Giuseppe Verdi’s life and get inspired with performances from young artists their age.
Cost: $5 per person.
Multiple locations, 214/443-1043
Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts
The Eisemann Center hosts plays, concerts and dance performances throughout the year. Take kids who can sit through longer productions to the Russian Grand Ballet’s performance of Sleeping Beauty on Oct. 6. Or check out the special family-friendly Methodist Richardson Medical Center Family Theater Series. Touring children’s theater companies put on shows for kids ages 3–12 and their families on Sunday afternoons at the Hill Performance Hall. On Nov. 13, watch a single actor switch seamlessly between roles in The Frog Bride. And on Jan. 15, kids learn the true meaning of friendship watching Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider in Theatrework’s adaptation of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance.
Dallas Children’s Theater
Each production that the Dallas Children’s Theater puts on transports kids to a different world and teaches them important social values like integrity and cultural diversity. Now through Oct. 23, Horton the Elephant and other favorite storybook characters entertain kiddos 5 and older in the musical Seussical. Starting next month, see A Charlie Brown Christmas (for ages 5 and up) and in the spring, reserve seats for Jack and the Bean Stock (for ages 4 and up). Buy tickets in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance.
Fort Worth Opera
Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre program will have your kiddos singing and dancing through their spring break. Each March, the opera puts on two 45-minute shows that make opera music accessible to kids through whimsical storytelling, entrancing characters and colorful staging. This year, the plays include The Bremen Town Musicians, a show about a group of farmyard animals who form a band and Little Red’s Most Unusual Day.
Cost: $5 per ticket.
Fort Worth, 917/288-1222
Casa Mañana Theatre
While some may take their littles to Casa Mañana’s productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and West Side Story, the sophisticated themes might be too much for all ages. But the Children’s Theatre concerts are fun for all ages. Now through Oct. 16, see A Year with Frog & Toad, a Tony Award-nominated adaptation of Arnold Lobel’s beloved children’s book that comes to life during an hourlong performance set to hummable music. Kids follow cheerful Frog and grumpy Toad as they plant a garden, swim, rake leaves, sled and learn life lessons along the way. The February children’s production Rapunzel, Rapunzel: A Very Hairy Fairy Tale puts a clever, hair-obsessed twist on the classic fairy tale with wacky characters like Sir Roderick’s hairdressing sidekick Edgar and the dragon who’s lost his poof. Purchase tickets in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance.
Fort Worth, 817/332-2272
Bass Performance Hall
If A Year with Frog & Toad seems too juvenile for your crew, you might consider taking the kids (ages 9 and older) to see the two-and-a-half-hour production of The Phantom of the Opera with its dramatic death scenes and complicated love story. Or hold out for Annie coming to the stage Jan. 17–22, and let kids sing along to the Tony Award-winning score that includes favorites “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow.” Purchase tickets in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance.
Fort Worth, 817/212-4325
Texas Ballet Theater
Surprise tiny dancers with a trip to see the Texas Ballet Theater at Bass Performance Hall. The Oct. 7–9 production is a two-for-one performance. Carmen & Danse A Grande Vitesse couples a classical ballet with a more modern, supercharged, 26-dancer performance that might be better suited for slightly older kids. Carmen is essentially the story of a love triangle and involves a tavern and love scenes. Check for all-ages-friendly performances coming this winter, including The Nutcracker and The Nutty Nutcracker, the funky classic-with-a-twist that stars ballerinas Chewbacca and T-Rex. If your little leaves feeling inspired, look into the weeklong summer ballet camps the Fort Worth school offers for kids of all skill levels ages 3 and older in June and July. Buy tickets for shows and register for camps in advance online.
Cost: Ticket prices vary by performance; camps start at $190 per week.
Fort Worth, 877/828-9200
LakeCities Ballet Theatre
Take advantage of the free pre-performance workshops offered prior to some shows by the LakeCities dancers. The next one for ages 8 and older precedes the Oct. 15 performance of Le Ballet de Dracula at Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater and lets girls and boys learn some simple choreography from the production, make crafts, watch demonstrations and meet cast members. And don’t miss the ever-popular annual performance of The Nutcracker Nov. 26 and 27 and a springtime collection of the “best of the best” performances called Director’s Choice.
Cost: Tickets are $20 per person.
Flower Mound and Lewisville, 972/317-7987
Irving Arts Center
Give preschoolers a leg up on an arts education through Irving Arts Center’s free JumpstART Stories & Art program held on the first Thursday of each month. The program explores a different area of children’s literature, then provides ample materials for kids ages 2 and older to create a take-home art project. Children of all ages craft at Second Sunday Fundays, a similar free program on the second Sunday of every month that uses the center’s galleries as creative inspiration. Plus, be sure to swing by one of the center’s 60-minute family matinee plays. The characters of Tarry Town take the stage on Oct. 16 to tell the partially scary — but mostly silly — story of the headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (for ages 6 and up). Come spring, littles ages 4 and older are invited to watch the mermaid Arabella and her musical friends in The Little Mermaid on March 24.
Cost: Performances are $7.50 per person.
Studio B Performing Arts Center
Let kids not content to just sit in the audience take the stage. Encourage theatrical kiddos ages 6 and older to audition on Oct. 15 for the December performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, or the children-only February production of Peter Pan Jr. open to ages 4–14. Studio B also offers classes to improve a kids’ acting chops — from comedy to singing and dancing. Classes are offered on select days after school Monday–Thursday for ages 4–14; semester-long tuition starts at $175.
Cost: Performance prices: adults, $16.80; kids 10 and younger, $11.
Highland Village, 972/966-2787
The Actors Conservatory Theatre (ACT)
Teach kids to appreciate theater by making them part of it. Performing in front of an audience teaches kiddos self-expression and builds their self-confidence. This month, take kids ages 5 and older to audition for The Actors Conservatory Theatre’s upcoming Christmas show, Elf, The Musical Jr. Everyone who auditions gets a part, which they’ll perform for friends and family Dec. 9–11. Email or call ahead to schedule an audition time. Since this is a community theater, each family is expected to contribute 20 hours of volunteer service. Other upcoming productions include Peter Pan (auditions Jan. 3) and Dear Edwina, Jr. (auditions March 10). Does your little one need more instruction before trying out? Enroll kids 4 and older in classes to learn to create new characters, use their imaginations and develop improvisation and dramatics skills.
Cost: $60 per actor due at auditions for cost of show production and costumes. Classes start at $100.
EXPOSE THEM TO MOVIES THAT AREN’T IN 3-D
They don’t make them like they used to. Take kids to see a piece of classic cinema like Roman Holiday, a black-and-white 1950’s film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, about a European princess and an American journalist who fall in love in Rome on Oct. 7. Sure it lacks the special effects of Pete’s Dragon and the modern humor of The Wild Life, but it’s the perfect film to watch in this 1940s art deco theater that also shows old and contemporary classics — from Hitchcock films to the Indiana Jones series — once a month. Things really rev up around Christmas, when the theater shows old-school holiday favorites such as It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and White Christmas. Buy tickets online or at the door starting an hour before the show.
Cost: $6 per person.
This article was first published in the October 2016 issues of DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild.