Nicholas Caramagno is stretching his legs after being curled up on a beanbag with his son, Nathan — staring at colourful 360-degree videos projected onto the dome of Montreal's Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.
Caramagno is one of many parents with children up to 18 months old, who packed into the dome theatre on Sunday to enjoy an immersive light and sound show designed just for them, called Bébé Symphonique.
"I think he really liked it," said Caramagno, holding his son. "He was really absorbed by the images."
The colourful visuals and soothing music, composed for infants by maestro Simon Leclerc and performed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, are made to stimulate toddlers' imaginations and create a moment for parents and children to connect.
"Honestly, I almost fell asleep at the end," Caramagno laughed.
He says it was great to be able to sit down and relax while still keeping his son entertained.
With changing stations and bottle heaters on hand, the bi-weekly shows put on five times a day, have proven to be popular and a needed break for parents who often have few activities to choose from to entertain their little ones.
"It's quite hard to find activities for young kids at this age, like six months, so it's nice to be able to go out ... and him to have a bit of fun, too," Caramagno said.
Vincent Bricault also attended the show Sunday with his young daughter, Béatrice.
"It was very unique and very exciting for us because our baby loves music and loves to see the stars," he said.
Bricault said the experience was a welcome change for parents, who often have to quiet down their toddlers during public activities.
"For parents, it's nice because we always feel bad if our baby makes noise or something like that," he said.
"Its nice to be able to just relax and just let them enjoy the show and be able to be themselves."
While the show is a stunning audio-visual experience, scientific animator Jihane Benbahntane says there's deeper meaning to the sounds and sights.
"You'll hear different tones throughout the experience, as well as the visuals. Sometimes it's more contemplative and then other times it's more dynamic ... It's really trying to reach the spectrum of emotions of being a baby."
Benbahntane says the theatre is "kind of like a big play room," so children are stimulated by the toys and other children around them, but also by what's above them.
"So they can socialize, they can play with what's around them ... it also encourages them to be free to be children."
Originally slated to end in late May, the show has been extended until at least October due to its popularity. During the fall, screenings will be seven times a day, three days a week.
Benbahntane says she recommends the show to all families with very young children.
"We see a lot of bonding between parents and children, which is beautiful to see."