Kids react to school plays differently

As the end of the school year approaches, the final school play call-sheets are being put up in schools around the country. Participating in a school play can help a shy child feel more confident and help to form new friendships, not to mention how sweet and delightful it is to have a great memory to record and play back when they get older. For the more reluctant participant, lean on their sensory mode to build confidence and inspire them for their big night of performance.

Auditory children will be very adept at memorizing long and complicated speeches, especially if they have a recording of it and can listen to it at home. They will understand nuances of tone and when to pause for effect. They can, however, become very distracted if there is too much background noise; if the audience is chatty, your child may stop and get flustered. Their ability for rote memorization will make it hard for them to be flexible during the all-too-common mishaps of a youth performance! As it is difficult for them to pick up midway through a speech, suggest they start the section again, and they will be back on their way.

Visual children will love dressing up, especially if some time has been devoted to costume and set. If, however, the costumes are put together at the last minute and the set looks messy, you can expect their enthusiasm to wane. It often helps with visual children to have a visual cue to help them remember their lines; for example, a small costume change such as jacket on or off, or a teacher holding up different colored cards to signal their turn to speak. In a conversational sequence, your auditory child may be a red card, another child blue and another child yellow.

For taste and smell children, the idea of being in a play is often better than the actual act. These children love the concept of dressing up and becoming a character, but when the audience is watching, they can become easily scared and freeze, thereby becoming embarrassed and anxious. These children do best in small but important parts, such as a fairy godmother or a butterfly that comes on for a few minutes at a time and says only a few lines. The costume will delight your taste and smell child, but they won’t feel overwhelmed by too much responsibility.

Tactile children, who tend to be larger than life anyway, will feel right at home on the stage. They are best in physical type roles, especially ones where they have a specific job to do – like be the wood cutter, or the general, or even the tree whose branches whip around in the wind. They will take great pride with learning their part and will be very enthusiastic in helping the less confident children learn theirs. Because of this skill, they are good as “anchors:” dependable and un-shy, they will help keep the play running and the other children on track, especially when other children forget lines or get nervous.

The school play is a highlight for both children and parents. The sense of community that comes from building something together as a class, a grade and by parents and teachers is also important and will be remembered for years to come.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” Learn more about Dunstan at