CHENNAI: Parents can understand the effort it takes to keep toddlers busy when they are at the height of their mischief. They can also relate to the difficulty in teaching their kids about right and wrong and also proper social skills for interaction. But how many have used theatre to teach values and leadership skills to their kids? Evam Entertainment’s Big Hero 6 aims to achieve precisely that. A programme for kids — from toddlers to 15 years — promises to keep your wards occupied while also teaching them valuable skills in leadership.
“The thing about kids, especially toddlers up to three years, is that you cannot teach them anything by telling them to do something,” chuckles John Pradeep, a theatre practitioner and the programme dean. “They are stubborn and strictly prefer learning by themselves. So by exposing them to the proper environment, we can teach them subtle skills, which is where the application of art forms like theatre comes in. Even then, you can’t do one thing for more than two minutes with them!”
The Big Hero 6 uses six different art forms — theatre, puppetry, shadow theatre, mime, street play and story creation — in a structured manner to inculcate cognitive, social interaction and leadership skills. “The point is to use theatre as a medium to teach kids about socio-emotional skills, improve hand-eye coordination and vocabulary through speech and drama,” says John.
For this reason, the programme has zeroed in on eight different leadership traits. “The learning is different, and whichever art form supports a particular trait, that is taught to the kids,” explains John. For example, he adds, if they wanted to teach kids about body language and expressing themselves without speaking, they would rely on mime. “It teaches them the importance of posture and body language, and also helps them communicate with others by observing the same,” says John. “Similarly, puppetry teaches them character development and empathy and also about presenting it to an audience in a way they understand. It teaches them to understand others in order to be understood.”
They are also shown various perspectives when exposed to shadow theatre, John adds. “If I wanted to express happiness in a shadow, I need to do it in profile. Also, I may have to jump up and down to show the character is happy. All this leads to children thinking from the audience’s perspectives.” The kids are also urged to create a small play at the end of each programme for the parents to see and appreciate.
“For toddlers, at no point do we try to teach them anything,” John laughs, “because they simply will not learn when told to! It’s all about involving them, letting them make mistakes and learning on their own.”
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