As Laurel has come out of her shell in the past year, she has started to express an interest in theatre (recently going so far as to state that she's going to be an actress when she grows up). Subsequently, I've been interested in checking out Kidstock in Winchester. From what I have heard from various sources over the years, Kidstock's summer theatre camps are pretty fantastic. A couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to visit Kidstock for the birthday party of one of Laurel's friends, and I must say, I was impressed.
Kidstock is a colorfully outfitted maze of connected hallways and rooms, and the party started with the kids coloring a mural for the birthday boy in the cake room. Once all the guests had arrived, the group proceeded to a performance room (complete with a small stage, set, and costumes), where the teacher (Bob) engaged the kids in circle time, making introductions and teaching the kids how to act out emotions (e.g., happy, sad, scared, angry) in face and posture and engage in imaginative movement (e.g., walking through peanut butter, floating on clouds).
The theme of the party was fairies, dragons, and wizards, and the kids picked costumes (impressively, all oversized adult t-shirts adorned in creative ways + hats, crowns, etc.) and then Bob did an amazing job of leading the kids through a play. (Most of the parents either dropped their kids off for the party or hung out in the waiting room drinking coffee, but Laurel wanted me in the room, which ended up being fun since I got to see everything.) Bob asked the kids what characters they wanted to be and then he led them through three sections of the play (beginning, middle, end) for practice, then recorded the performance in those segments. I was extra impressed that Bob remembered each kid's name, even when the name tags were covered by costumes.
After the play portion was done, the party moved to another room for present opening, which was filmed. The dad of the birthday boy told me that usually they don't bother opening presents at parties, but Kidstock encouraged the process, to instill appreciation (each gift giver got to sit with the birthday boy while he opened their present) and sharing (the birthday boy's little sister got to sit with him and help open presents), plus, it was a nice bonus to have the kids' reactions recorded and so the parents could remember who gave what. After cupcakes (back at the first room where the mural was colored), the party concluded with the kids and parents watching the recording of the play in the gift opening room. The kids loved watching themselves on TV, and it was fun for the grownups to see the final production as well.
In short, if you're looking for something creative and off the beaten path for a birthday party, check out Kidstock. Though it's highly possible Laurel will change professional aspirations by summertime, if she's still keen on theatre as school draws to a close, I'm definitely going to investigate Kidstock's camp programming.
Kidstock, 50 Cross Street, Winchester,781-729-5KID