Deciding what to see at a children's arts festival can be a real challenge for parents. This year's International Arts Carnival (July 9 to August 15), for instance, offers 18 local and overseas programmes ranging from ballet to puppetry to classical and pop music that cater for toddlers to late teens. Where to start? Help is at hand as some of this city's top artists have made their picks based on research as well as parental instinct. Here are what they recommend:
Olivia Yan Wing-pui, co-founder of Pip Theatre. Her daughter, Jolie, is six.
'I like shows that stimulate the imagination or at least don't limit the imagination of the audience with straightforward narratives. So the first programme I choose is Gulliver [by the Obraztsov Puppet Theatre in Moscow]. I like puppetry because it is through one's imagination that these objects come to life and I think that is beautiful. And as a professional artist [Yan has directed numerous children's theatre shows including the 2006 hit Moon 7 1/2], I also research the background of the performing troupes and this one [from Moscow] looks interesting.
'The second programme is Zic Zazou's Brocante Sonore: The Mechanicians because these musicians can create tunes from any objects that they can lay their hands on, be they scrap iron or bricks. Again, they redefine and stretch the definition of objects. With their imagination, they turn them into different musical instruments.
'Theatre should be an open space, leaving the audience plenty of room to think and question. Usually I don't try to explain what's happening on stage to my daughter; she usually asks the questions and then we discuss whatever ... it's stimulating for both of us.'
Madeleine Onne, artistic director of Hong Kong Ballet. Her son, Alexander, is five.
'Unfortunately Alexander will be in Sweden until the end of July so he is going to miss my first pick: Peter Pan [by Northern Ballet Theatre from Britain]. Actually, I'll see it even if he is not here. To fly away with Peter Pan is something I've always dreamed of doing. I am looking forward to seeing what [artistic director] David Nixon has made with the story. After seeing some of his previous ballets, I am pretty sure I will have a fabulous afternoon.
'Mozart is one of my favourite composers so of course I want to share the joy by teaching my son a bit more about this genius. Luckily enough, Alexander will be back for the Hong Kong Sinfonietta's Story of Mozart. Once Alexander knows more about Mozart, I'm sure he'll enjoy the beautiful music of the Magic Flute. I have seen it many, many times and would love to share this version [a children's cartoon music theatre by Zuni Icosahedron] with him.
'I think we all need to laugh these days and the performance with Tomas Kubinek, the 'certified lunatic and master of the impossible', seems like something Alexander would have a good laugh watching. It'll be fun to see a great artist with circus skills.
'Alice and the Little Golden Book [by Hong Kong 3 Arts Musical Institute] is my final choice. With a 'local' touch that I think it is important to highlight, I can tell Alexander is going to love the music, dance and kung fu.'
Clara Cheung Ka-lai, co-founder of visual art space C&G Artpartment. Her daughter, Ning-shan, is three.
'I don't think anyone is too young for theatre. My top choice is Ping by Titeres de Maria Parrato from Spain because ... I love watching tap dancing. I'm sure my daughter will enjoy that too. What I also like about this show is that it touches on issues such as environmental protection and global warming so it promises to be entertaining and educational. The production is billed as 'visual theatre' and I think young children are fascinated by anything visual, anything that moves.
'My second choice is Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny by Canada's Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia because it is perfect for my child's age group. But again, we prefer shows that are strong on visuals, which keep the young audience engaged. This is my daughter's first theatre experience and I will take her to see more shows ... if parents don't start taking their children to theatre, we won't have an audience in the future.'
Ong Yong Lock, artistic director of Unlock Dancing Plaza. His daughter, Ineesha, is six.
'My daughter has been an International Arts Carnival regular since she was two. I wanted to expose her to the arts at a young age. We will catch Peter Pan because it's such a classic. It's also interesting to see how a story is brought to life. The show is like having a dream realised for my daughter.
'I will also take her to a youth fusion dance theatre show that I'm choreographing called Lost 'n' Found. The production is actually for teenagers but I will take her along anyway. It deals with issues that may intrigue her, like the idea of loss and why people get upset about that. I am sure she will ask a lot of questions and I think that is a good way for us to bond.
'I think children enjoy theatre because of the live action: the lighting, the sounds, the colours, they are sometimes curious about that more than the story. Theatre should be experiential.
'With this festival, it's not just entertainment. It is not simply presenting popular fairy tales. In fact, some of the previous programmes dealt with more serious topics such as war and death. I like that because they provide something that the audience can discuss afterwards. This is a festival not only for children but adults too.
Wong Chi-chung, veteran music critic. His daughter, Kalani, is three.
'We're going to the festival opening programme Peter Pan. It's a story that we know very well and love. We recently visited Disney World in Orlando and my daughter had a great time taking the Peter Pan ride.
'We'll also go to Gulliver - again, Gulliver's Travels is another familiar story and having seen the trailer, the props and costumes look amazing and the optical illusion created by the stage also looks interesting ... so I think this will be an inspiring production.
'My daughter loves sea animals so we'll be going to see Ping because of the penguins. The show also features [children's theatre performer] Lily Poon as narrator, which is another draw.'
International Arts Carnival, Jul 9 to Aug 15. Various venues. Inquiries: 2370 1044