Puppetonia: An Interactive Show for Babies and Toddlers

Puppetonia is now called Puppetsburg. Read all about its new incarnation and schedule here.
Pop quiz: How do you please a roomful of toddlers?

a. Puppets
b. Singing and dancing
c. Bubbles
d. Parachute play
e. All of the above

The answer is, of course, e., and Puppetonia at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg cheerfully delivers all of that fun and more. This puppet show-playtime hybrid is one of those rare events that worked for both my baby and toddler.

When we entered, we were greeted with stickers (always appreciated by the preschool set) and given name tags. After a few minutes of free play with assorted toys, our hosts Sarah and Liz invited the kids to sing and dance to a couple of toddler standards ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the like). Then the puppet stars made their way to the spotlight.

During the hour-long interactive performance, which includes multiple simple, self-contained tales, the kids are invited to play along. There is no stage per se; instead children mingle in the performance area, while parents can sit back a bit and relax on chairs. On the day we attended, my kids got to help put a baby to sleep, care for a dragon's young and pet a tweeting bird. I liked the wacky story of a selfish dragon who learns to share best, but my kids enjoyed everything, especially the simple art project that closed the show.

Sarah and Liz were able to keep children of varying ages (and attention spans) engaged. My two-year-old hid behind my chair for a bit until the "magical" bubble machine came out, and then she warmed up fast. (At bedtime that night, she asked me about the puppets and wondered what they might be doing, so clearly they made quite an impression.) I think my five-month-old had even more fun than she did: He spent the entire show bouncing and giggling. There's also an alternate version of Puppetonia aimed specifically at babies, but I have to say, my son was perfectly happy with the "mature" show.

Puppetonia was created by a team of educators and arts professionals, and it's got a public television edutainment vibe. In fact, it feels like a day of preschool condensed into 60 minutes. Advance tickets are $12 (it's $16 at the door) and adults get in free. A bit pricey, yes, but less than the cost of most play spaces. And with the winter weather coming, we'll all be in need of indoor places to let our toddlers loose.

The folks behind Puppetonia said that it's just been extended at The Brick Theater, and it's also playing at Hoboken's Symposia Bookstore (where prices are slightly less expensive). The website hasn't been updated yet but you can contact them for an up-to-date schedule.

Find out about other great things to do with NYC babies.

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