“Story Pirates” Launches Immersive “Sleep Squad” Theater Experience to Help with Bedtime, Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

Sleep Squad/Story Pirates

Lilli Cooper as Captain Siesta Shut-eye in Sleep Squad. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Producers of Sleep Squad.

I’m always excited to tell you about fun new things you can try with your children—especially at this time when fun new things seem in short supply. But, I’m especially excited to tell you about “Story Pirates” and their new creative endeavor: “Sleep Squad,” as it touches on something very close to my heart. When I’m not writing for Motherhood Later, I’m lucky enough to teach creative writing to children. My students and their stories have enriched my life—immeasurably. The imaginative stories of children are also what makes up the very heart of “Story Pirates”.

I first heard of “Story Pirates” when my youngest son was in elementary school and they visited as an assembly program. If you don’t know “Story Pirates”, they are a nationally-renowned group of top comedians, musicians, authors and incredible teachers who create content that celebrates the imagination of kids. They have school literacy programs, which use kid-created content as the seeds of inspiration. They now have a very popular podcast (the winner of the 2020 iHeartRadio award for Best Kids and Family Podcast), which has been downloaded more than 25 million times. The podcast features songs and sketches based on stories written by kids, so you know there’s always going to be something original (and most likely funny) at the ready.

At the time of their highly-praised assembly program, I made a mental note to keep them on my radar. We approach children’s literacy, using similar tools: I’m working on inspiring children to enjoy writing by employing creative elements (often using props and costumes), whereas “Story Pirates” is taking the stories children have already written and using theater, or podcasts, as an outlet to perform those stories and share them with others.

“Story Pirates” has been very successful, so, when I heard about their new venture: “Sleep Squad,” I was very intrigued. The idea of taking what they already do, and combining it with that age-old problem of how to get children to sleep (and sleep peacefully through the night)–especially now in these times of increased anxiety–seemed like a brilliant idea to me. (Honestly, I was actually wondering if it could help me sleep, too!) And, happily, I was not disappointed, and neither was my discerning 10-year-old son. (“Sleep Squad” is recommended for children ages 4 to 12.)

Sleep Squad experience

My son with his “co-pilot” about to enjoy Sleep Squad.

When you order your ticket for “Sleep Squad” your child will get a “Dreamtime Travel Kit” in the mail: a silky sleep mask (they call these “Sleep Goggles”), “Sleep Squad” stickers (for your child and their “co-pilot stuffed animal”), a “Star Master” light machine that shines stars onto the walls of his/her bedroom, and a dream journal. (The items are designed with pleasing graphics. My son wanted a “Sleep Squad” pencil for the journal, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker that one wasn’t included.) Important Note: The instructions that are emailed with the ticket link suggest parents keep the contents of the kit a surprise. I would agree, and suggest you don’t immediately share the contents with your child (as I did, having received my review kit before the email). It would have been extra fun to surprise my son during the experience. You will be prompted as to when to use the items in the kit (so the kit is important, and it was enjoyable—especially the star light).

So, what was the experience like? Well, it has long been proven by sleep experts that a bedtime ritual is important for children. A ritual will ease the process of getting ready for bed and for falling asleep. And we all know how critical good sleep is. “Sleep Squad” offers a new bedtime ritual. Right from the outset, my son and I were “hooked”. The magical journey begins with your Dream Queen host—the fabulous Lilli Cooper (SpongeBob SquarePants, Tootsie) as Captain Siesta Shut-eye. Siesta Shut-eye led us in some deep-breathing exercises, and then the real magic, (in my opinion), my son was instructed to “put his sleep goggles on”—and to sit back, close his eyes and listen to dream-sequence stories that were told by various actors (voice work only, the video is a screen of stars or an image of the sleep goggles at this point).These dream-sequence stories are brand-new kid-driven storytelling, acted out with brilliant voice-work, by a few different performers (all unseen). There is accompanying music and in one sequence, singing. The music was soothing, the songs were upbeat and fun. At one point, I thought my son (who is notoriously difficult to get to sleep) had drifted off, but he was just very close.

Sleep Squad

My son enjoying the Sleep Squad experience.

The only thing you should note ahead, you will need 45 mins – 1 hour to listen to, and interact with, the entire experience. Also, I was wondering if some screen time right before bed would stimulate my child. This was not our experience, but if you know your child could react this way, you may want to schedule this experience a bit more ahead of an actual bedtime, or, your child should make sure to wear the sleep mask, and not engage with the screen at all. This would work as most of the experience is audio. The experience ends with soothing music, and I imagine some children would easily fall asleep to the music. (My son prefers his white-noise machine, but I’m sure the end music would put children to sleep.)

The best part, though, was watching the smile on my son’s face as he listened to the stories, paused to write in his sleep journal, and watched the stars dancing on the walls of his room (again, surprise your child with this, if possible). Overall, it was a really fun shared experience for the both of us and he did drift off easily that night.

Was he up in the middle of the night asking for water? Yes, he was. But, perhaps with a few more sessions of “Sleep Squad” that can be a thing of the past? The experience was so enjoyable, I would be willing to give that a try.

When you order your ticket, you can select your personal start date and then you have 10 days to experience the show. For more information and tickets to your own on-demand performance: https://www.storypiratessleepsquad.com/.

Sleep Squad Dream Light

Our Dream Light.

Producers: Tony Award winner Eva Price (Oklahoma!, Jagged Little Pill) and the critically-acclaimed 2020 Webby Award-winning “Story Pirates”.

Director: Olivier Award nominee Jennifer Weber (& Juliet)

Starring: Tony Award Nominee: Lilli Cooper (SpongeBob SquarePants, Tootsie) as the Dream Queen

For more about “Story Pirates”: www.storypirates.com

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