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How Can My Child Become a Child Actor?

A child can participate in a community play.
A smiling girl.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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There are many ways for a child to become an actor. If a child simply loves acting, he or she can explore this in many communities by participating in local plays. To become a professional child actor, it's usually necessary to be in a city where movies or TV are made and to work with an agent to find roles.

Many small towns regularly have plays for which kids can audition, and lots of Park and Recreation centers offer drama classes that lead to production of a play, most often for younger kids who are not yet in middle school age range. In middle school and high school, there are often drama classes kids can take and plays or other productions that they can participate in to fuel their interest.

The above ideas work well for children interested in acting who does not want to act professionally. They help maintain an interest or hobby while the child pursues other things too. Some parents, when asking how to get their kids to become a child actor, truly mean they’d like them to professionally participate in acting venues. This typically requires more work, and some luck. For the many children who want to be an actor, only a few will find lots of opportunities to work, while most will find only occasional acting opportunities, if any.

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First, it can help to be located near a major city or one that routinely is used for filming. There are a few small towns that show up in many films, and being near one of these might help produce acting offers. A child who lives near a city where a lot of filming takes place tends to have a better shot at becoming a working actor, however, because are simply more jobs available in a very competitive field.

It then helps to find an acting agency, preferably one that specializes in representing children. Agent representation should be free, and if jobs are promised only on completion of classes or acting school tied to the agency, this is usually a scam. Agents ought to get paid when actors get work, and at no other time. Acting school or acting training can be very important, however, and larger communities have good classes or training available to kids. These can be expensive, as are other things an agent might require, like headshots of the child.

Kids should probably not sit on their hands waiting to get work. Instead, they should avail themselves of opportunities to act, even when these don’t immediately result in payment. If they can work as child actors in local theater groups, they gain valuable experience and confidence in front of an audience. While waiting for that big break, kids should be encouraged to work in theater and to avail themselves of opportunities to learn more about drama in school or in other ways.

The child should determine whether he or she wants to be an actor — not the parents. Children will perform better in this profession if they are passionate about it and are less likely to be hired if they don’t like acting. Those who seem unsure shouldn’t be urged to do more than they enjoy and might be better acting in a much more amateur way. If talent and interest both increase at a later time, acting can always be pursued. It is important for parents to remember that many of the well known child actors did not have happy childhoods, and the very significant scrutiny and rejection associated with this profession, in addition to access to easy temptations, can create challenges most children will never face.

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Discuss this Article

DramaLlama
Post 15

I'm 12 years old and I like acting very much. It is my dream to one day be an actress. I've done my research about what it takes and I think I'm ready, but the thing is, I'm not amazing at singing and I used to dance, but only ballroom/Latin and did ballet when I was very young.

I don't have much experience from acting other than going to swish the curtain for the summer last year and being Mary three times in my school's nativity play. I understand rejection and I think I have the confidence, but my mum doesn't want me to be an actress, but a doctor. She's told me that since I don't go to a drama school, I'll never pursue my dreams. But I've done a lot of research (and I mean a lot!) and I think I'm ready, I just don't know how I'm going to get my mum to help me.

I brought the subject up in a cafe once and she just laughed at me. I brought it up again later and she said I don't take acting classes so I'll never make it. How can I prove her wrong? This is my dream and my mum doesn't want to go through with it and help me in life. What can I do and/or say to make her change her mind? I understand all there is to acting and I can handle rejection.

anon346749
Post 14

My daughter, who is now 9, has been acting and modeling since she was two, but she has never earned a penny despite being on national TV. We have sometimes taken "breaks" from this, because the likelihood of going to an audition and actually getting booked is slim.

Let’s skip to 2013. We are back into it again! Many companies nowadays want to see a video slate. Luckily, we created one for an out of town audition using their script and it seems casting agents really like it! I don't even do the headshots anymore. It’s too much money and the children change their look with teeth, etc., too much.

Funny situation: we just booked a paying PSA, and even though the age range and look were not matching my child, we got the offer! Amazing! I do wonder though, how many leads like this our agent gets and we are passed up on because of it not matching. You must not rely only on your agent. You must find other places that post credible acting jobs and follow up on them. If they are suspicious, against your morals, or just plain not right, don't do it! I saw one posted the other day, some political satire commercial. Just seeing those two words meant I had no interest in having my child's face on it.

We live near a big city, but not in the big city, though ideally the best work is in New York. I did one New York audition years ago. Horrible! They are extremely competitive up there, not at all your typical crowd. They will eat you alive to get their kid in the casting role. You see boys with hair layered and sprayed to perfection, and girls in frou-frou dresses when it clearly stated plain top and pants.

For now, I can't wait for our first paying job to happen. We have two weeks notice! My agent doesn't even know! They will be quite surprised when I send them their percentage check in the mail! Maybe they'll consider us for a few more roles now. This company is paying a very good price for the shoot.

Regarding agents: ours had us pay a few fees, like an audition fee, which was a little over $100, perhaps another small fee, and then an annual fee of less than $50. I feel these fees are worth it and it shows them that we are interested and want to work. But beforehand, I went to one place promising us fame and fortune. They wanted at least $3,000 to start and then more. I never considered using them.

To all of the kids out there reading this, remember, your parents make the ultimate decision, and it does take many hours not only to audition, but to search for jobs, keep your photos updated and looking professional, and the gas and travel time do add up.

To all of the parents out there considering this, remember: realistically, only a slim number of kids are even invited to join with a legitimate agent. I saw two within a few weeks of each other. The first one told me my child was a firecracker but they wanted to wait another week. I had to pay $50 to be seen at a church and the go about 50 miles away for her to introduce herself. The next one saw us and they only give you one or two days notice. We got there, I watched in the same room as they commanded my child to do things and they were performed and they had conversations with my child. Yes we got accepted, but that still didn't mean money for my child's work, and here we are, five years later, finally getting it! I will state that the personality of a nine year old can be much more expressive than a four year old.

If you really want this, you must keep trying, because it is a never ending situation unless you luck out like Brooke Shields, and I am sure her mother had lots of contacts to get her where she did with Calvin Klein and the rest.

anon321719
Post 12

As a pre-teen soon-to-be teen, I appreciate the concerns raised in the comments. I understand that some parents are concerned about their son's or daughter's education, as well as rushing into "adulthood". However, I must say that in my school, students miss school due to sport teams tournaments, acting festivals, etc., which the school participates in. And I believe all teachers insist that assignments be handed in before the due date, if the due date is when they are going to be away. And, if someone makes the team, don't they probably have potential?

I believe many child actors are home-schooled. Or if you live near and require some flexibility, due to your child preparing for a career in the arts or sports, check out Professional Children's School, a school designed for those students.

Where I live, even 2-3 year old kindergarten students have homework (yes, I mean "real" homework, not drawing or coloring). And although kindergarten is not compulsory, most of the children here attend, which makes it easier to transition to Primary when they are 5-6. I have seen Primary students having three hours of homework per night (if they do it quickly - if not, even more). In fact, it is fairly normal. So in a way, they will be rushed into "adulthood" sooner or later, and I have never gone to a local school, but I believe they do not truly build life skills. I do understand the importance of academics, however that much homework leaves them little time for anything else and could affect how active they are, and if they get enough sleep.

I am am slightly offended by someone mentioning that children don't understand that rejection is part of life. Even at 2 years old, they possibly can understand. This is just an opinion, but many children and pre-teens can feel belittled, especially the 8+ age group, but possibly even younger. The only way to truly understand this, in my opinion, is to experience it.

Where I live, it is difficult to get accepted into most schools, even kindergartens and yet, homeschooling is illegal. Top students in primary may not necessarily get into secondary schools, especially top ones. It may not be necessary to go to a top school to go to college, however, if you don't face the possibility of rejection even in kindergarten, you will likely be disappointed.

In some schools here, there is a "trial" period - if you get in, they will assess you for, say, the first six months and see if you are good enough or suited for their school. If not, they will ask you to leave. So not facing rejection is not an option, unless you want to live in the perfect world where everything is perfect.

anon311712
Post 10

My one most important dream is to be an actress! I just love acting so much. It just gets me in the mood and happy. I would love to be on tv. My mum said yes but I'm just not sure how to start my career. I'm 12 and I want to start it early so I have a head start in life!

anon263283
Post 9

Very nice article. I'm 11 and I've always wanted to be an actor. For those that think that if children miss certain stages in life and become messed up, that only happens when the parents want the kids to become actors and the children don't.

I always ask my mother to get me an agent but she always says no. I wish I was an actor.

doglover139
Post 8

I've always wanted to be on TV, but it's always been my dream to publish my first book. I'm 11, and I've already published many books in libraries, and it's made me very proud. I want to be a vet when I grow up, but I still can't shake the dream of being an actor out of my head.

anon190752
Post 7

This was a really interesting article. I have a gorgeous 7 year old daughter who has been with an acting/modeling agency since the age of 4. Admittedly, it was our idea to get her into acting/modeling - she has such a very witty, funny and generally huge personality it's unbelievable, and she has since a very young age.

However, if she didn't really love it as much as she does, we would not allow her to do it any more. At all. She hasn't done anything major. She's played the voice of a semi-main character in a Disney film, and been in several commercials, as well as a few jobs as an extra.

To be honest, I'm not even sure how I would feel about her being in anything more. I certainly wouldn't want her to miss anything education wise, or be incredibly famous for that matter.

anon127345
Post 6

iwant answer my child is of10 months can he can become child actotor or for a adds

anon116019
Post 5

One of the greatest ways for a child to get started in acting is by providing them with acting classes. Nothing can replace a great education. I sent my children (who both appear in commercials and are represented by a great NYC agency) to A Class Act NY. At A Class Act NY, they took workshops with Broadway actors, casting directors and agents.

anon101313
Post 4

Yes I understand all you said. I am one of the parents who didn't want my son to act, but that's what my son want to do.

I told him we will try one year and the next he will play sports. My son told me that he will do anything to get back in to acting, even keep his grades up. Well he did and loves it. He even told me that if he doesn't get a part he knows something better will come along. It doesn't stop him.

I am the one who is just scared of this but I have to support my son.

anon94353
Post 3

I think this article is great and very informative but sometimes you have to look at it from a different point of view.

As a pre teen i can understand both sides of this. The child may want it really badly but the parent may not think it a good idea. I really want to be an actor and i understand how hard it is. The rejections can be painful but people say to me: you have got an amazing talent, use it. This makes me want it even more but i know that I'll have to suffer and face rejects and numerous callbacks!

I also think it depends on the age of the child and the talent! Thank you again for the article!

oasis11
Post 2

Sunny27- I agree with you. While it is up to each parent to raise their child as they please and can’t help but wonder if there is a link to the high incidence of adult drug abuse and childhood actors.

I think that it is too much pressure for a young child, because the child gets pressured from the parents as well as the place of employment.

Also what happens to their schooling and friends? Children that miss certain development stages in their childhood really grow up troubled.

Sunny27
Post 1

Great article. I just have to wonder how many children actually want to have careers in the acting profession.

I think that most of the time these children are forced into this rejection-filled field because the parent is living vicariously through the child. As a parent, I personally would not want to subject my children to such rejection.

Children are not adults and don’t understand why they were not chosen for a project. An adult understands that rejection is part of life, but a child does not. I think that my child will experience enough rejection when they grow up, but for now I want them to enjoy their childhood.

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