Toss a ping pong ball anywhere in the Washington Metro area this Summer, and it will land with a splash in some fishbowl of all-ages performing arts fun–from a puppet-populated make-believe forest, to your air guitar champion’s first concert experience with a group called Lard Dog and the Band of Shy. Vacation plans and camp adventures are right around the corner, but don’t ride into the sunset this season without checking out our picks for the best area family shows, May through August.

Photo: Imagination Stage

May

The Jungle Book at Imagination Stage (Through May 28)
If actor training includes a class on animal sounds, the five person cast of the Jungle Book all aced the exam. Howling, prancing and pouncing their way across the stage in their roles as parents, friend, and foe to the man-cub Mowgli, these performers bring to life this classic, nicely adapted for the youngest of audience members.

Recommended for kids ages 5 & up
Online: imaginationstage.org

Shakespeare for the Very Young: Midsummer Magic at Atlas Center for the Performing Arts (May 17-21)
This interactive puppet show based on the Shakespearean Comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, features four of the Bard’s fantastical forest characters to start children on a gentle journey into the rich imagination of one of the most prolific playwrights in history.

Recommended for kids ages 8 & under
Online: atlasarts.org

June

Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook at Adventure Theatre (June 23-Aug. 14)
Fans of first grader Junie B., and her series of kid adventures chronicled by the author Barbara Parks, will not want to miss this dramatization of a story where everyone’s little heroine gets a lesson in encouraging others to do the right thing, by acknowledging her own mistakes too.

Recommended for kids ages 8 & under
Online:
adventuretheatre-mtc.org

Red Yarn Born in the Deep Woods at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods June 27
Sit back and relax on the proverbial front porch at Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, with multi-instrumentalist and puppeteer Andy Furgeson of family band Red Yarn. Traveling via Texas, and from Portland Oregon to our area, Red Yarn performs Born in the Deep Woods, based on the kids folk music album of the same name. Third in a trilogy, Born in the Deep Woods tells an epic tale of family and self-discovery in the American wilderness, told through a mix of traditional and original animal-themed folksongs.

Recommended for all ages
Online: wolftrap.org

July

The Beast in the Bayou at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods (July 6 and 7)
The popular debut of the live action film this year, makes this twist on a favorite fairytale of special interest not just for Beauty and the Beast fans, but also for the young stewards of wildlife among us to whom this story pays important respect, celebrating a brave girl, a mysterious beast, and the diversity of the animals of the Louisiana Bayou.

Recommended for kids ages 4 & up
Online: wolftrap.org

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights at Strathmore Backyard Theatre (July 27)
Joanie Leeds new kids music album, reflecting on life in arguably the most famous of New York City buroughs, Brooklyn Baby, may be all about city living, but on her trip this summer to one of the D.C. area’s most popular music venues, she’ll be rocking the ‘burbs with songs that appeal to the inner kid in all of us.

Recommended for all ages
Online: strathmore.org

August

Lard Dog and the Band of Shy at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods (Aug. 1)
Get past the odd name and embrace the absurdity of Parents’ Choice Award winners New York-based Lard Dog and the Band of Shy. With crazy props and multi-media graphics, Lard Dog is a performer with a message about living your best life–or as they encourage their followers, to “slurp the noodle of life!” For what to expect, check out this sample of the band’s unbridled silliness here.

Recommended for kids ages 5 & up
Online: wolftrap.org

Yards Park Friday Night Concert Series May 26 -Sept. 1
Running every Friday night from Memorial Day weekend right through Labor Day, this free music series on the Yards Park boardwalk–with family-friendly lyrics, and plenty of green space–is the ultimate night out for your mixed-age crowd. Throw in a trip to the Dancing Fountains when the hot August night demands it, and everybody’s happy!

Recommended for all ages
Online: capitolriverpark.org

Which show are you most looking forward to checking out with your sidekick? Tell us in the comments below. 

–Carolyn Ross