4 Tips for Training Baby Actors

We see baby and toddler advertising everywhere… for good reason. Millions and millions of advertising dollars are spent marketing to parents of young kids. We need talent to satisfy these marketing needs.

Your first reaction might be, “How can you suggest that babies and toddlers are actors? All they need to succeed is to be cute.”

Newborn babies are judged on their cuteness to be sure, but older babies and toddlers (up until around 3 years old) are expected to pass certain requirements.

Welcome to the Baby School of Acting Excellence! Here is a list of four things you can do with your baby/toddler in order to train him for success in the industry! And it’s worth it, considering landing a national union commercial can fund your child’s future education.

1. The Walk-Away. The most common test that a casting director will use on a baby/toddler is the walk-away. This means they will literally take your baby from your arms or take your toddler by the hand and walk away with them into the casting room and shut the door. The child is then out of the sight of her parents. If the baby bursts into tears, you will quickly be handed your child back. Test your baby out. See how she reacts to a stranger carrying her away. Some kids will be unfazed and continue smiling, while others will melt down faster an ice cream cone on a hot day. We can’t completely alleviate separation anxiety in some kids, but doing this can sure help. Practice having many people hold and talk to your child. People that your kids are not used to. This doesn’t mean hand her over to the deli guy at your local grocery store and disappear, but have cousins, aunts, uncles, and trusted friends (whom the child doesn’t see on a regular basis) interact with her.

2. Check out that face. Teach your child various facial expressions that he can do on cue. Let me see a happy face! A sad face! A mad face! A surprised face! A silly face! A scary face!

Perfecting great faces will be a secret weapon when your toddler auditions. At least 80 percent of the competition won’t be able to do it. Show the child your version of these faces and see if she can mimic you.

3. Turn on the charm. Be friendly to strangers yourself. Smile at every person walking by you, or in line with you, or in the elevator and say hi! Have your baby wave and say hi, have your toddler say hi and say his name. Act like every person you see is a long lost friend. In addition to making your child comfortable and friendly, you will feel really good about yourself.

4. Audition preparation. All actors need to prepare for auditions. In this case, this is where the parents come in. If you do this right, your child will be ready to practice the steps above to deliver a winning performance!

Make sure your child is well rested and properly fed, that clothing is comfortable and that she isn’t too hot or cold. It may be what puts your child in a good mood is the music you play on your way to the audition. Be careful with toys you give her, as she may not be willing to give them up when you get there.

If you are auditioning for a diaper or toy advertisement, if possible you may want to try that diaper on beforehand, or expose them to the toy before the audition.

You may have noticed I have not talked about babies/toddlers in film. The same rules apply. It is just that you will see much more commercial work.

Congratulations! Here is your diploma. Make me proud!

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Want more tips for child actors? Watch here:

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.

Jackie Reid
Jackie Reid owns and operates L’il Angels Unlimited, a talent management company, which specializes in placing young actors in films, theater productions, commercials, print media, on television, and with voiceover work. Reid works extensively with agents in New York and L.A.