When I told my 13-year old nephew that I wanted to start doing voice acting on the side, he told me he also wants to get into it. So then I wondered if kids can be voice actors. I did a bit of research and this is what I found.
Yes, kids can be voice actors and there’s a major demand in US animation and voice acting roles to use “authentic” voices for child characters when possible. Despite that, it’s still common for child characters to be voiced by adult women.
In this article, we’ll look at the specific roles that are being voiced by kid voice actors and what it takes to be successful as a child voice actor.
More and more opportunities for kids, every day
Almost 30 percent of all jobs posted to Voices.com are specifically looking for young voices. That includes child voices, teen voices and young adult voices. There’s lots of opportunity out there for the younger voice actor.
The industry seems to be going back to casting actual children to voice young characters instead of using adults who can sound younger. And the reason for that is that it sounds more authentic.
A child will speak in a way that even a well-trained adult voice actor won’t be able to perfectly copy. And with more and more children going viral on YouTube and TikTok, every day, a few things are happening.
- More and more kids are wanting to become performers and,
- Kids (and adults) are more able to spot the difference between a real child’s voice and an adult acting like a child.
What kind of voice work is available for kids?
The most common types of voiceover and voice acting work for kids are:
- TV commercials
- Radio commercials
- Video games
- Animated shows and TV series
- Foreign language dubbing
- And ADR
Sidebar: Think twice before allowing your child to do voice work for video games. Quite often it’s hard work. I wrote an article about the dangers of voice acting over here. Check it out before committing your child to anything.
Here are some roles that were voiced by real child voice actors:
- Fisher Price’s Little People
- The Backyardigans
- Disney’s Palace Pets
- The Peanuts Movie
- Peppa Pig (Peppa Pig is voiced by Harley Bird.)
Now that you know that it’s possible for a child to be a voice actor, you might be wondering what it takes?
What skills do child voice actors need?
The skills that a child voice actor would need are pretty similar to what an adult might need except that some of these skills come more naturally to adults than to children. While other skills here will come more easily to kids.
Kid voice actors should be able to:
1. Improvise on the spot. If a director needs a few different takes on a line, a kid voice actor should be able to come up with some options with very little direction.
2. Speak very well. To be a good voice actor, a child needs to be able to enunciate their words well. They should be pronouncing every consonant and be easily understandable. A child with a speech impediment or a lisp might struggle.
3. Read very well. Voice acting typically involves reading a script. While it’s possible to memorize a script, if changes are made or there’s an entire script rewrite, good reading skills will help a lot.
A good vocabulary will also help so that your child isn’t “tripped up” by the script. Most scripts written for kids will be at their reading level but some might be at a higher reading level.
4. Be able to sit still for a long time. Being physically still is important in a recording studio because the microphones are incredibly sensitive and can pick up clothing rustle. It’s also just a normal part of the job to sit (or stand) for an entire recording session. A recording session for a child might be shorter than for an adult but it’s still a long time (for the average kid) to stay still.
5. NOT be after the fame or glory. Often times there’s not much fame or glory in voice work. Some gigs won’t even result in the voice actors being credits. Even the start of an animated series might not get a name-credit. So a child voice actor has to love the work for the work’s sake. Not for the fame and glory.
6. Be super patient. There’s a whole lot of “hurry up and wait.” When it’s your time to do your job, you’ve got to hurry and perform! Until then, you sit around and wait. Voice work (and other types of acting) can be very repetitive and boring. Sound studios are often visually boring and a voice actor might have to repeat the line many times (in many very slightly different ways) before getting to something usable. It can be a drag.
7. Be able to quickly create different characters and styles. A director might ask for 3 different variations in a performance, one after the other. Which means that a child voice actor needs to be quick on their feet in creating characters for a script.
8. Take direction well. Especially audio direction. There will be times when the directory is not physically present but is patched-in to your child’s headphones. A kid wanting to be a voice actor should be able to take that direction well without any visuals or physical coaching to help guide them.
9. Be aware of (and flexible in) how fast or slow they speak. If your child is performing a line too quickly or too slowly, they may be asked to adjust their timing. This is key for commercials where 2 seconds need to be shaved off (or added on) to a performance to make it fit the spot. A slight increase or decrease in speed might be needed and that can be hard for a child to do.
10. Have a good imagination. Voice actors often record their parts separately. Which means that they have to respond to something that just isn’t there. Having a good imagination will help your child in performing their role.
11. Be easy to teach. A kid voice actor might be asked to do many different kinds of work. Being teachable will help them succeed in getting (and performing) different kinds of roles. It’s not just about how your child performs now but how well they can be taught to perform new things.
12. Handle rejection. Rejection is a natural part of being a voice actor. Your child might audition for 20 roles and only get the last one. It can be difficult for adults to handle rejection and it’s even truer for kids. Being able to handle rejection means that your child can get through those first 19 rejections to get to the 20th audition and get cast.
It could be a good idea to hire a coach who can help your child understand the process and more easily accept that rejections are part of the process.
Here are some other helpful traits that aren’t necessary but can help your child get more (and better-paying) voice work:
- Having a unique voice. Think Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from Stranger Things). He won’t get allthe roles but he’s perfect as Dustin.
- Be bilingual. It’s easier (and cheaper) to have one voice actor do 2 voices than it is to hire to voice actors. So a bilingual child has better chances of getting more work.
- Be able to sing. Some voice acting roles may include a singing part. Again, it’s easier (and cheaper) for the director to pay the same actor for both roles than it would be to find another voice actor. It also helps the singing sound more authentic when it’s done by the same person who voices the character.
- Do accents well. This again is just about flexibility. If your child can do multiple accents (and do them very well), there are just more roles available for them. But be careful here. If a director is casting a child, they’re likely after a “real child” voice. So focusing on impressions of famous people isn’t as helpful as just being able to do accents of common English dialects.
That’s a wrap
Yes, children can be voice actors. And some child voice actors grow up to become professional adult voice actors. What’s important is to treat it as a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed. If you can do that, while postitively supporting your child’s development as a voice actor, the opportunities are out there.