Though she isn’t quite ready yet, you can’t wait for the day when your toddler or preschooler will be old enough to attend the classic Christmas ballet, “The Nutcracker.” She may not be mature enough to sit through the full-length performance, but she can still enjoy the show’s sights and sounds if you recreate some of its memorable aspects in the cheer and comfort of your home.
Create a “Nutcracker”
The humble toilet paper roll can be the basis for your toddler or preschooler’s very own nutcracker creation. Let him transform the roll into the nutcracker’s body with red, non-toxic paint. Help him to cut strips of black construction paper for boots and a hat, and red construction paper for arms. Glue these onto the toilet roll body for him. Help him to cut a round face from white construction paper, letting him use a marker or crayon to draw the nutcracker’s face. Glue the final black paper strip to the top of the face as a hat, attaching the whole thing to the roll. Allow the glue to dry completely.
Dance to the Music
Dig out your childhood copy of Tchaikovsky’s famous music from “The Nutcracker” ballet. If you don’t own the music, find a recording online at a website such as Classics for Kids (link in Resources). No need to worry about the technical movements executed by professional ballerinas, just let your toddler or preschooler go with the music, dancing in her own style. Introduce her to a variety of rhythms and moods by switching between “March,” “Dance of the Snowflakes,” “Arabian Dance” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” for example. Your child can explore long, flowing movements or short, staccato ones, depending upon the selection.
Make a Costume
Your preschooler might fancy dressing as Herr Drosselmeyer or the Nutcracker. A piece of black fabric with a ribbon attached for tying at the neck will create the mysterious Drosselmeyer’s cape. Add a simple black shirt and pants beneath. Let him watch a snippet of the opening scene of the ballet, and he’ll get some useful ideas on how to swing the cape for dramatic effect. To recreate the military look of the Nutcracker’s costume, trim a red, button-up pajama top in gold braid and paint the buttons gold. A used oats carton, covered in black felt and secured with an elastic band under his chin creates the hat. Show your “nutcracker” how to march around, wooden-soldier style.
Act Out a Scene
There’s more to a performance of “The Nutcracker” than pirouettes and grand battements. Focus on acting out the opening party scene with your youngster, letting her choose which character she’d like to portray. To give the full effect of the scene, plan your re-creation to coincide with an afternoon play date that includes a few of her friends. Use sturdy Christmas decorations and wrapped gifts as props and have the children enact the arrival of guests and the presentation of the nutcracker by Herr Drosselmeyer to Clara. Your afternoon of playacting can end with your child’s guests bidding their fond farewells still in character as the party-goers from the ballet.