Ms Cooper discusses the importance, and many benefits, of taking your children to see plays, ballets, even opera—in other words, to get them away from the passive act of being entertained by television and into a magical world which lives and breathes and happens before their eyes.
I think Susan and I would have got on swimmingly, to borrow an English term she might like. She would be one of the rare souls who doesn't think I'm crazy for taking my toddlers to see Shakespeare. And she would know, beforehand, that anyone who saw these toddlers AFTER they'd sat through A Midsummer Night's Dream would suddenly be forced to admit that the idea wasn't crazy at all. Granted, I am blessed to live in a part of the country where the arts are made very accessible and relatively inexpensive. In the summer, multiple highly-acclaimed troupes perform Shakespeare and other great works throughout the state in beautifully constructed outdoor theaters—for free or for a donation. So I don't have to work as hard as other parents to take my kids to a play—and that's why in her first three years of life, my oldest daughter has been to 6 plays—mostly Shakespeare, but some Wilder and other greats as well. Guess what her favorite was? Shakespeare, of course. At two, she sat mesmerized through A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her “older” cousins (6 and 5 at the time) sat whispering commentary into her ear so she could follow who was in love with whom, who was under Puck's enchantment, etc. At three, she cried when Twelfth Night ended and we had to go home, because she wanted to go play dress-up with Viola (she thought the whole dressing up as a boy thing was great fun).
Do you think your child can't handle it? Please reconsider; this is a girl who can't sit still for half a PBS kids' show. As Susan Cooper pointed out, theater will actually help children learn how to behave; for one thing, everyone is behaving around them—for another, good theater deserves as well as demands respect. And viewing it is not a passive act, even if you are sitting still. You are watching life happen, before your eyes. It's not an image on a screen—it's real.
And there are very few substitutes for that kind of wonder. Don't deny it to your children—or yourselves!