On Saturday, my mom and I took three children ranging from 3-8 to a local play that was a double feature of "Hansel and Gretel" and "James and the Giant Peach." I was worried at first that the kids would find it boring and not like it, based on the constant and vivid stimulation they are used to through television, video games and those wonderfully ugly plastic toys that sing and make noises at you. At the end though, they enjoyed it a lot! And they picked out their favorite characters and their favorite scenes and all wanted to act in their plays.
Sunday, we were talking about it with my family and one of the kids mentioned it was fake and someone said "No, it's real!" The kid heartily disagreed and then it hit me that plays have always been and will always be infinitely more useful to the brain than any little kid "educational" television shows. Let me explain.
1. Plays stimulate imagination. Not only do you have a story being told, but you have people dressing up as characters very clearly, so that while you understand the actors are real people, you are able to make the connection with your brain that they are pretending to be someone else. Whereas on television, if you wanted to portray a giant grasshopper, you would just draw a giant grasshopper, making young children believe that there are giant grasshoppers in the world along with Hannah Montana and The Wizards of Waverly Place.
2. Plays stimulate your attention span. As said earlier, plays tell stories that oftentimes, you aren't familiar with or that are tweaked from your remembered version. If you don't pay attention the whole time, you won't understand what's happening. A three-year old sat still for an hour, had a fifteen minute break, and then sat still again. When is the last time you saw a three-year old sit still for even ten minutes while watching TV? Since attention spans need to be trained in order to be long enough to sit through a classroom all day, taking a child to a play will make them want to sit still! It's like a dream come true, right?
3. Plays are fun for adults, too. Unlike the endless droning of every kids' show that somehow manages to be exactly the same as every other kids' show, plays are fun for adults too. Not only do you get a break from child chaos due to number two above, but you also get to enjoy the play from your own unique, adult perspective. Oftentimes, writers will throw in jokes only adults will understand and that kids won't really know is supposed to be funny. Spongebob does that all the time, which is why it's so great. Case in point: at the play I went to, the grasshopper said "Oh, poppycock!" in a splendid British accent that just made me laugh so hard, but the kids had no idea why British accents in American plays with British words is hilarious, so I was able to enjoy something unique from the experience.
And that, my friends, is why Plays&gt;Television and we should all ban cable and just be theater people, like the old times.