State Theatre New Jersey

Family

If You Want to Raise Arts-Loving Children, Give Them Milk & Cookies

I was a lucky child. My mom was a real "culture vulture": a fabulous amateur pianist, lover of opera and classical music, avid theatergoer, and chaperone on countless class trips to museums, historic sites, and—most memorably—the Walker-Gordon dairy farm. (If you never got to see the rotolactor in action, you have no idea what you missed.)  

Mom made sure each of her five kids had lots of cultural experiences of all kinds. High on my list of favorites was seeing Mummenschanz on Broadway. It’s a hard show to describe. The only word I can think of is magical. Or maybe surreal. I can’t wait to relive that bit of my childhood when the legendary Swiss theater troupe comes to the State Theatre in March!

So it’s clearly no accident that I chose the performing arts as my profession. Like my mom, I’m passionate about introducing children to the arts. To me, there’s no more gratifying sight than hordes of preschoolers streaming into the State Theatre for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or the Mayhem Poets making a packed house of high school students forget for an hour or so that they hate poetry.

And then there’s Milk & Cookies. Our Saturday music and storytelling series for young kids has become a much-beloved institution here at State Theatre New Jersey. Over the past ten years, the program has given thousands of children their very first experience with live performance. It has, we hope, been the spark that kindles a lifelong love of the performing arts.

Recommended for ages 3-8, Milk & Cookies is designed with young attention spans in mind. The setting is cozy and informal; in the Heldrich Room (the theater’s upstairs lobby), kids and adults can sit up close on the floor. (Thankfully for the less limber among us, chairs are also provided.) Milk & Cookies’ engaging storytellers and musicians really know how to connect with kids. Their performances always include lots of opportunities for the audience to sing, clap, and dance to the music, and help tell the stories. The shows are age-appropriate in length, too: about 45 minutes.

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get ready for our next Milk & Cookies shows. The first one is coming up soon—Saturday, January 20, at 10am & 12pm. We’re pleased to welcome back a fan favorite, the multitalented Robbi Kumalo. As a singer, “Robbi K” has performed with a whole host of legendary artists, including Aretha Franklin, Eileen Ivers, Jewel, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Rod Stewart, Mary J. Blige, and Harry Belafonte, among others.

But Robbi’s favorite gig is performing for children and families. Called “a unique voice in children’s music” by Disney’s FamilyFun Magazine, she has shared her multicultural songs and stories with kids and families across the U.S. and beyond. At Robbi’s concerts, everybody participates—with voices, hands, feet, and hearts. (Be advised: Robbi’s song, “Keep the Beat,” is a serious earworm. Just thinking about it, it’s become stuck on ‘repeat’ inside my head.)

I should also mention a couple of other great things about Milk & Cookies... Tickets are priced at only $3, making it easy on the wallet for families to engage with the arts. And kids’ tickets even include a carton of milk and a cookie! (A big thank you to La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppes for the yummy chocolate chip cookies, and Cream-O-Land Dairy for the milk. I wonder if Cream-O-Land ever had a rotolactor?)

One more thing… After you’ve taken your kids to a Milk & Cookies show, be sure to stop by Guest Services and buy your family tickets for Mummenschanz.

Sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

By Lian Farrer

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