Out of the House with Stories @ STAGES

When my daughter was little, she and I participated in just about every class or activity available to the toddler-preschool set on a weekday morning. Little Gym? Check. StrollerFit? Check. Art classes? Check. Story time at the library? Check. Mommy and Me playgroups? Check. I could go on and on.
Like so many stay-at-home moms, I struggled through those first few years – happy with my decision to stay home, but unsure how exactly to fill my days or where to find the adult interaction I so desperately craved. Fortunately, I eventually found my groove and some much-needed "mom friends," and by the time child number two was born, I no longer felt the need to race around town to every enriching activity an 18 month-old might possibly enjoy.
These days, I’m a lot more selective when it comes to where we go and what we do during the day. My daughter is in school, but I’ve still got a 4 year-old son at home with me – one who loves nothing better than to stay in his pajamas and build Lego cars all day long. Add to this the fact that I’m working from home more and more and, needless to say, it takes a lot to drag us out the door.  

When I heard about Stories @ STAGES, though, I immediately knew it was an event worth leaving the house for. STAGES St. Louis has a long history as one of the area’s premiere musical theatre companies, and in recent years, they have dramatically expanded their educational offerings for kids and teens through the STAGES Performing Arts Academy in Chesterfield. In addition to classes, camps, and a variety of performance opportunities, they also offer Stories @ STAGES – a free, interactive storytelling session for preschoolers – on a monthly basis.  
My son and I attended in March, and I was more than a little surprised to see just how many other parents had the exact same idea. Given STAGES excellent reputation I probably shouldn’t have been, but then I’m also a total introvert who tends to shy away from large crowds, and pretty much any situation that forces me into conversation with total strangers.
I sort of prefer small and intimate, and this was, well, not.
But the toddlers and preschoolers sitting on the carpet – my son included – were totally oblivious to the fact that there were easily more than 40 other kids (plus parents and siblings) in the room with them, and all were totally engrossed in the St. Patrick’s Day-themed story of Clever Tom and the Leprechaun. (Minus the one or two picking their noses and wandering aimlessly around the room, but in this age group that’s pretty much the norm no matter where you go.)
In addition to listening to the story, the kids got to make their own leprechauns as a craft project, and even head into the dance studio for some fun and silly exercises in singing and movement.

I was incredibly impressed by how efficiently and energetically the instructors handled the size of the group, and appreciated that they had several activities prepared to meet the needs of small people with short attention spans. According to the STAGES website, the program is designed for preschoolers and early elementary-aged children, but my 4-year-old was one of the oldest kids in attendance, and the many toddlers who were there seemed to enjoy the activities just as much as he did.
If you’re interested in attending Stories @ STAGES, the May session is on May 1 at 10:15 a.m. or 1:15 p.m. (with the theme The Wonderful Book).  These storytelling sessions are free, but reservations are required, and you can learn more by visiting www.stagesstlouis.org or by calling (636) 449-5775. Stories @ STAGES sessions return in September.

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Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, mother and margarita lover, not necessarily in that order. In addition to writing for STL Parent, she is Contributing Editor at Parenting Squad, and covers parenting, health and lifestyle topics for publications across the country. She recently moved from the suburbs of St. Louis to a small town in rural Jefferson County, where she is learning to survive with no Target or Starbucks in sight. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaChirco


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