Even the smallest members of the family enjoy the odd stage show. Here are the Time Out theatre team's recommendations for kids' theatre and which performances will suit the very little ones, the nearly big ones, and the grown ups too. If you're planning ahead for the school holidays, check out top 10 children's theatre shows this half-term and our 101 things to do in London with kids. Or for treats the whole family can enjoy, have a look at our favourite West End theatre shows.
Theatre for children (5+)
Taller than a house and ten times more fearsome, the Iron Man is a monster who eats every scrap of metal he can sink his teeth into. Ted Hughes' sci-fi novel is a kids' classic, showing the surprising friendship between a metal robot and a boy who learns to tame him. In the Unicorn Theatre's production, Matthew Robins will use an ingenious mix of paper silhouettes, stop motion animation and puppetry to bring him to life. Ages eight-plus.
Once upon a time, a prince and a cleaner got married. But did they really live happily ever after? Unicorn Theatre's artistic director Purni Morell is at the helm of this twisted love story, which she's translated from Belgian playwright Ignace Cornelissen's original. Aimed at tweens and teenagers aged 11-plus, 'The Hunting Lodge' is a playful riff on ideas of celebrity and romance.
Fairytale's most famous fibber, Pinocchio, comes to life in this storytelling performance featuring Cbeebies star Patrick Lynch. Marcello Chiarenza's new approach to the story uses quirky props and simple staging to entrall kids with Pinocchio's curious adventures. Ages four-plus.
Do aliens really exist? Ripstop Theatre help kids find out, in the thrilling space show 'A Real Alien Adventure'. Miss Amelia Buttersnap and her amazing array of gadgets will set out with her cat Tibbles on a mission to prove that there really is someone out there. Ages three to nine.
Two elderly neighbours in a tiny fishing village go on an adventure in this daytime kids' show, which is pitching up at The Old Vic over the Easter hols. Created by Mark Arends for Make Mend and Do, 'The Missing Light' uses puppetry and film to tell the story using quirky live animation. Ages seven-plus.
There's song, silliness and magic tricks galore in this family retelling of 'The Elves and the Shoemaker' by Full House Theatre. A three-strong cast clown their way through the story of a shoemaker who needs help finishing his wonderful stock of sparkly footwear.
Theatre for young children (0-4)
Iris has a brand new friend, but she knows her family and friends won't love him quite as much as she does. This story of a girl trying to hide a lion in all sorts of devious ways is adapted by Peter Glanville from Helen Stephen's children's story, and will feature songs by singer-songwriter Barb Jungr. There are two versions: one for todders ages 1-2, and another for kids ages 3-6. Check the Polka Theatre website for full details.
CBeebies stars 'Sarah & Duck' hit the stage for the first time at Wimbledon's Polka Theatre. They're holding a big top birthday party for the scarf lady who lives in the garden, in a giggle-worthy adventure with puppets, stories and songs. Aimed at ages three to six, all ages welcome.
Theatre for all the family
'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loathsom
They may share a name, but Ted Hughes’s Iron Man is about as far from Marvel’s as you can get. Whereas Tony Stark is all about money and snide humour, Hughes’s 1968 story veils its anti-war message behind the story of a scrap metal-eating robot and a boy whom he befriends. In his stage adaptation, using a mixture of puppetry, silhouette and animation, Matthew Robins finds the story’s playful heart. He summons a world of imagination and play by using every trick in the book, but chief among them is the restless, shifting sense of perspective throughout. One minute the Iron Man is barely a foot tall, a collection of matchbox-sized bits of cardboard and sticky tape as if made by an imaginative child; the next he’s 13 feet, a towering, dopey-looking robot with torchlight eyes. For the first 20 minutes or so Nima Taleghani’s narration comes only in short bursts, interspersed with silent puppetry - seeing the scattered limbs of the Iron Man pull themselves into a gargantuan whole is thrilling - or crude Rorschach smudges of animation projected onto the back wall. But when the story gets into full swing and the ‘Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon’ invades Earth the show becomes completely captivating. With so many different techniques Robins risks making it too bitty, unbound by any one single approach. But by the end, as our solar system is conjured in miniature with a twinkling orrery of empty tin cans and lampshades, the thrust of Robins’s interpretation is clear. From this fable about d