What Child Actors Should Expect Over the Years

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Turn on the TV or visit Broadway these days and you’ll see plenty of children. There’s always work for kids of all ages—but there are also always many out there trying to make a buck teaching classes in everything from modeling to acting. Be wary, smart, and knowledgeable. Here’s what you can expect your child’s acting career to look like at the different ages and stages of their youth.

Toddlers & Tiaras
Your baby is adorable, of course. You get stopped on the street asking if you have ever considered putting them in the business. If your little one is personable, separates easily from you, and you are willing to do the schlepping, go for it. As an infant, they won’t remember the rejection. You don’t have to spend money on classes or professional photos; snapshots work fine at this age as they are growing and changing daily. And classes for babies—seriously? I don’t like to turn down work but when asked to coach a – year-old I have to say no. Find a mommy and me class. At this age let them play.

Early Readers
Children ages 5 to 7 are just grasping the concept of reading, so encourage reading out loud to further this skill for your young actors—but make sure they’re exploring their imagination and having fun. An improv class or game-inspired acting class is the way to go at this age, while being careful of overcoaching. If your child likes to sing, encourage them. However most vocal coaches will not start training until the vocal chords start to develop at around age 8. If they are auditioning for musical theater at a younger age, it is wise to check in with a professional vocal coach and get their assessment. There are plenty of audition opportunities for adorable, charismatic kids this age—just make sure they are enjoying the process.

Primetime Players
Agents and managers love when I recommend an actor ages 8 to 11. His voice is unchanged, he’s disciplined enough for long work hours, he’s reading, he’s not old enough to have developed acne, and he’s still the height of a child. There are a plethora of roles for kids this age in all mediums and agents are hungry to represent them, especially if they are not only cute but can act!

The Awkward Teen Years
Braces, acne, budding breasts—your little girl is no longer a child. She is now a young woman and in the throes of adolescence. She may start doubting herself as she is separating from mom and dad lacking the confidence she once had. Now is a great time to take classes and master skills beyond her natural ability. Roles are no longer available in theater; she’s too tall to play a kid but not old enough to handle the maturity and skill some roles require. There is still plenty of work in commercials and TV and film. Get experience working in student films and start to build a demo reel. Real teens are needed—not adults playing teens—so be prepared when the opportunity strikes.

Not Quite an Adult
At 16 or 17,your young man is now driving. He doesn’t need mom to take him to auditions anymore, but he still needs a tutor and there are working restrictions on set. There are plenty of 18-year-olds who can play yoiunger, and it won’t cost the production company money for tutoring. If your teen wants to further his acting career this a great time to study and prepare for college theater auditions, as getting into a good program is more competitive than ever.

Whatever age your child is, there will always be opportunities for work in show business. Just make sure the passion is coming from them, not you. You are their greatest advocate and with your support and a small nudge every now and then, you will have a very happy child.

Master your craft, empower yourself, enjoy the journey.

Now check out our audition listings for young performers! And watch the video below for more great advice from Denise Simon!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Denise Simon
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years as an actor, teacher, director, casting director and personal talent manager.
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