What do you do with a 5 year old?
This is a question we get asked all the time. But I often think the answer is inadequate for people. ‘We teach the young kids the same stuff as the older kids – acrobatics, trapeze, juggling,etc.’
For some reason people seem to expect young kids to be less able than older kids. And that’s really not the case. In my opinion, it’s not that young kids are less able, it’s that they’ve had less exposure. Said another way, it’s not that they’ve been around on the planet for less time but that they’ve been around circus for less time that makes them less able.
We probably all know this but the main way that very young children learn is by copying. So if they’re brought up around circus they’ll copy circus. The earlier the exposure and the more time devoted to copying and learning circus the better they’ll be by the time they’re five.
My friend Lesley (incidentally it’s her birthday as I’m writing this – happy birthday Lesley!) runs the Wookey Hole Circus, a very successful youth circus in Somerset. Her daughter was watching all the people around her teaching, learning and performing circus from the moment she was born. Here she is at 18 months practicing her hula hoop and taking a call at the end. (In case you don’t realise, this is impressive for 18 months!)
I can’t wait to see what she’ll be like by the time she’s five.
Our classes for young kids have exactly the same content as our classes for older children. So what’s the difference? Well, there really isn’t any difference in the content – all of our classes include juggling, trapeze, tightwire, acrobatics and more – but the delivery style changes with the different age groups. Our 5-7 students have slightly more structure than the 8-12s who have slightly more than the teens. As students get older, they naturally gravitate towards certain skills and away from others, possibly disregarding some skills entirely. One of our teens told me last week that she’s not interested in acrobatics at all and doesn’t want to do it. She’s got her heart set on the unicycle and is always ready and eager to get back on it and practice each week. And that’s more than ok by me. Not everyone is built for, or interested in, every circus skill, and that’s one of the beauties of circus: there’s something for everyone.
Although at the moment we only offer classes for young people who are 5+ I’m committed that as Airborne Circus grows we start to offer classes for pre-schoolers and toddlers too. The early we get them the better they’ll become!
In the meantime here are a couple of videos of young children who started circus early on. They obviously didn’t learn this overnight but it should give you a sense of what young kids are capable of if they’re exposed to circus early and given the chance to learn.