Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Archive for February, 2012

Puppets, Puppets, and more Puppets!

Leap Year: A Puppet Making Day

Today was a special day, a day that only comes around once every four years.

So did I propose marriage to my long term partner? Nah! We’re happy as we are thank you very much.

No, I did something much more special : I made 20 , yes TWENTY ‘how to’ videos for the video production company Videojug.

The lovely Duncan came round bright and early at 9am with his camera and lights and we spent the entire day filming and making puppets.

The last puppet was made at 6pm, ten hours later. Phew!

So here I am exhausted , back aching but feeling very satisfied. I’m looking forward to seeing the edited results up on Youtube in a few weeks time. As soon as they are finished I shall give you all the link. But for now, here are photographs of today’s toil.

Puppets

The result of a long but creative day of puppet making

Animal felt finger puppets

Animal felt finger puppets

Paper bag monkey puppets

Cheeky monkey paper bag puppets

Hand made puppets

Cats and dogs and birds

Junk puppet crocodile

Snap! Look what I made from rubbish.

Barn owl hand puppet

Beautiful barn owl puppet

Finger puppets on the farm

Finger puppet animals on the farm

lion puppet hand puppets

Lionel with friends

Scary monster paper plate puppets

Monsters and cats

So, would you have a go at  making a puppet now? Soon you can watch me show you how it’s done.

Advertisements

The Human Connection In a Digital Age

Image

Saturday was a special day for me.

I had just finished a puppet show at a lovely little 3 year old girl’s birthday party and was emerging from behind the puppet booth. Waiting for me was one of the older audience members, a young lady of 11 years old. I had been watching this girl  during the show , as I peeked through the black fabric from behind the puppet booth. I like to gauge my little audience members reaction during the show so I can up the pace or slow things down or throw in a good chase if needs be. I had spotted this particular young lady as she had stood out as being a great role model for the younger children, hopping alongside them with naughty Bobby Bunny and providing a nice safe lap to sit on when they were finished. She was being so kind and supportive and not at all ‘too cool for school’ that youngsters these days are supposedly expected to be.

I believe with passion that children are capable of great levels of concentration no matter how old they are. It really just depends what you expect them to concentrate on.

In this digital age we are constantly told that our children have the attention span of a gnat or a goldfish. Children’s television programming is based on this supposition, requiring lots of fast action and constant changing to keep the attention of the young audience. Cartoons are fast action and noisy , attempting to hold on to our imaginations. It must be the case that children have short attention spans then?

I don’t agree. Give a child attention of the human variety. Pay heed to their likes and tickle their funny bones and you will keep their attention for as long as you want. It is not unknown for me to have a bunch of two year old’s hanging off my every word and action for a good hour. We will play familiar games and do lots of hopping and play with words like Nincompoop and giggle till our bellies hurt.  The parents are often astonished seeing their children so engaged . Is this magic? Not at all. This is just simple human contact, a grown up who is prepared to play alongside a child , like a child, making play something special and important.

Back to my lovely 11 year old girl. She looked at me with big brown puppy dog eyes and said : ” I remember you from when I was 3! It was the same show, I can’t believe it! ”

The look of sheer wonderment and excitement in her eyes  and the clear emotional connection in her voice was both touching and validating. The continuity for me was so comforting. To know that I create  cherished memories in young peoples minds is almost overwhelming.

 

Our children are capable of much more than we know. Let’s give them a chance to live life in the slow, human lane  in this digital fast paced world of ours. For it is in that slow human lane that we find joy and make memories.

In a Videojug Puppet Making Frenzy

After having been approached by Videojug,Image the video production company to make a series of how to puppet making videos for Youtube, how could I say no? Anyone who knows me a little or indeed reads this or my Diane gets Crafty blog knows I’m an avid maker. Plus the opportunity to have 20 short professional videos made for me that I could use was just too tempting.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Me, an expert? Who'd have thunk it?

So I signed up to make a series of 20 short 3minute videos on the most Googled puppet making searches and become Videojug’s expert puppet maker. Gosh. I like that title. I set a date for filming the 20 videos ,worked out my list of makes and got all excited.

Then, like so many other people in the UK I went down with the flu.

Cue lots of days not being able to get out of bed , loss of voice , coughing, spluttering and generally not feeling very well.

Add to this scenario normal work commitments : children’s parties that were booked well in advance. I had to fulfill those despite a barely audible voice and not feeling very well at all. In fact I was faced with one of my busiest periods of booking for a long time. Yey for success, boo for illness and bad timing.

This was my nightmare scenario: having so many opportunities and struggling to live up to them. But I soldiered on. Somehow.

Then I woke up one morning to find my top lip covered in fever blisters where my skin had cracked from the flu and I was facing being filmed just a week later.

I rescheduled and pushed back the filming a week. It’s now due in just a few days time and I’m on my last few puppets. I can’t make most of them completely as it is for demonstration purposes, so I’m in a situation of having to make multiple stages of each puppet so I can do a Blue Peter style ‘here’s one I made earlier’ moment. There are so many restrictions when trying to fit everything into a 3 minute video.

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

Here's some I made earlier , 20 years ago in fact.

So I’m almost there.

Did I mention getting some terrible 24 hour gastric bug as well ? Oh I forgot that one. My lip is now healed. I’ve stopped being ill and I’ve almost got my voice back, and I’ve four parties to complete before finishing the final 6 makes.

Time is ticking , so what am I doing writing blog posts?

Here is a quick preview of some of my makes:Cat hand puppet made by Diane's Puppets

Dog sock puppet made by Diane's Puppets

Silly sock dog puppet

Mr Punch paper puppet

Mr Punch paper puppet in progress

Judy paper puppet made by Diane's puppets

Judy all finished

Felt finger puppets pig cow

Felt farm fingers

Ballerina finger puppet

Paper ballerina finger puppet

Mouse paper finger puppet

Cute mouse finger puppet

making papier mache puppet heads

The stages in making papier mache puppet heads

Well those are just a taster. Many of the puppets have to be made on camera. So, if you’re looking for a place to find out how to make simple puppets for and with your children or just for you ( puppets are for everyone!) then do come back and see my videos on Videojug.

Coming soon, just for you.

In a Videojug Puppet Making Frenzy

After having been approached by Videojug,Image the video production company to make a series of how to puppet making videos for Youtube, how could I say no? Anyone who knows me a little or indeed reads this or my Diane gets Crafty blog knows I’m an avid maker. Plus the opportunity to have 20 short professional videos made for me that I could use was just too tempting.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Me, an expert? Who'd have thunk it?

So I signed up to make a series of 20 short 3minute videos on the most Googled puppet making searches and become Videojug’s expert puppet maker. Gosh. I like that title. I set a date for filming the 20 videos ,worked out my list of makes and got all excited.

Then, like so many other people in the UK I went down with the flu.

Cue lots of days not being able to get out of bed , loss of voice , coughing, spluttering and generally not feeling very well.

Add to this scenario normal work commitments : children’s parties that were booked well in advance. I had to fulfill those despite a barely audible voice and not feeling very well at all. In fact I was faced with one of my busiest periods of booking for a long time. Yey for success, boo for illness and bad timing.

This was my nightmare scenario: having so many opportunities and struggling to live up to them. But I soldiered on. Somehow.

Then I woke up one morning to find my top lip covered in fever blisters where my skin had cracked from the flu and I was facing being filmed just a week later.

I rescheduled and pushed back the filming a week. It’s now due in just a few days time and I’m on my last few puppets. I can’t make most of them completely as it is for demonstration purposes, so I’m in a situation of having to make multiple stages of each puppet so I can do a Blue Peter style ‘here’s one I made earlier’ moment. There are so many restrictions when trying to fit everything into a 3 minute video.

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

Here's some I made earlier , 20 years ago in fact.

So I’m almost there.

Did I mention getting some terrible 24 hour gastric bug as well ? Oh I forgot that one. My lip is now healed. I’ve stopped being ill and I’ve almost got my voice back, and I’ve four parties to complete before finishing the final 6 makes.

Time is ticking , so what am I doing writing blog posts?

 

Here is a quick preview of some of my makes:

Cat hand puppet made by Diane's Puppets

Cute kitty easy hand puppet

Dog sock puppet made by Diane's Puppets

Silly sock dog puppet

Mr Punch paper puppet

Mr Punch paper puppet in progress

Judy paper puppet made by Diane's puppets

Judy all finished

Felt finger puppets pig cow

Felt farm fingers

Ballerina finger puppet

Paper ballerina finger puppet

Mouse paper finger puppet

Cute mouse finger puppet

making papier mache puppet heads

The stages in making papier mache puppet heads

Well those are just a taster. Many of the puppets have to be made on camera. So, if you’re looking for a place to find out how to make simple puppets for and with your children or just for you ( puppets are for everyone!) then do come back and see my videos on Videojug.

Coming soon, just for you.

Parties for the Very Young

Celebrating those first few milestones

My darling granddaughter on her first birthday.

Birthday parties for children are important and especially important to the very young. Those first few milestones are significant. It’s all about becoming a ‘big boy’ or a ‘big girl’ until you actually are a big boy or girl, then only certain birthday milestones become important like 16, 21 , ( then I daren’t mention the rest , but you get my drift)

At 47, I really couldn’t be bothered if I never saw another birthday again, and I know there are quite a few of you reading this out there who can empathise with that last statement, but don’t let your adult disinterest in birthdays mask  the massive significance our children place on these days.

So when should we start celebrating birthdays? When is the right time to host a birthday party?

This really is down to the individual.

As a children’s entertainer, I have been booked on many occasion to entertain at a one year old birthday party. I’m one of the few entertainers who will take on board the challenge of a baby party.

I know that there are many of you out there who will consider this a waste of time and money. How can anyone possibly expect to entertain a one year old? They are babies , right?

Yes indeed, they are babies, but if you see the reaction those same babies have to puppets , especially if their parents or carers are actively involved in the singing and actions with the puppets, you’d understand why I keep being called back to entertain for  one year old parties.

Those first birthday parties are largely family affairs, and often consist of a mixed age audience. Very seldom do I attend a first year old baby party and it is solely babies. This mixed age family atmosphere makes first birthday parties really special. Tapping into that warm , supportive energy that close family members bring is a wonderful ingredient to a successful first birthday party. I often see older siblings , cousins ( sometimes even grandparents!) joining in with the actions and hopping  with the bunny or helping the birthday child row the boat. It is a special intimate moment to witness. One such party was for lovely Natasha Kaplinksy who booked me to help celebrate her daughter’s first birthday party last year.

So what themes are suitable for first birthdays?

I’ll be honest, I’m not the worlds biggest fan of themes when it comes to birthday parties for very young children. They work great for older children when you can do activity based stuff, like games and competitions , then the capacity to run with a theme is endless. When working with very young children you really have to work with what they are familiar with . So an obvious theme could be animals ( plenty of songs about animals ) or nursery rhymes .

Do be careful that you don’t get carried away with the theme and then throw out opportunity of including all your baby’s favourite songs and activities because they don’t fit within the theme. Most experienced entertainers will work out a way to adapt their routines to fit most popular themes but when working with very young children, flexibility is key. If you don’t go with the flow you may get swept away with the tide!

So to sum up, if you feel like throwing a party for your baby on their first birthday, go ahead! This day is as much about celebrating your first year of being a parent to this child as well as the child’s first milestone. Why not enjoy it together?

Sometimes even babies like their faces painted!

 

 

Children’s birthday parties: A Lesson in Trust Building

As a children’s entertainer, I have a unique job requirement: I have to walk into a room full of  small children, none of whom know me, and instantly establish trust and rapport. There is no time to mess around and get it wrong, I’m only at a party for a very limited time. Creating this instant rapport isn’t easy. Children are the worlds best or worst audiences, depending on how you look at it. If you are an optimist like myself, you may agree with me that they are the best audiences as they are unflinchingly honest. They ‘smell’ fear and lack of integrity and will quickly walk away and do something else if you don’t immediately capture their attention. Unlike adult audiences who may politely clap even though they may inwardly criticize, the average 2 or 3 year old audience member will just simply walk off and find something to play with or even worse, cry. I can hear you saying ‘How is that positive?’ . Well, the flip side of that  brutal honest appraisal is that if children like you, they LIKE you. If you manage to capture an audience of young children, it is the most gratifying and satisfying audience to play to /( and in my case)play alongside.

I use many strategies to make my tiny audience members feel at ease. On the surface you will see a grown up woman acting silly. But behind this silliness is a very serious study of how children think and establish trust. It’s all about empathy, I have to put myself in their shoes and try and anticipate how they are feeling and how I would react if I were in their shoes. I ask myself, what would make the three year old me feel comfortable? Then I use that feeling to feed back to the children. It is never the same strategy, all children are different . One thing remains constant though: I will always play alongside the children rather than try and entertain them.

A puppet party

Establishing trust with Fifi the Fairy

Note in this picture I’ve created  a semi circle of chairs for the children to sit on or sit in front of. This creates a cozier setting in  a large space and determines the focus of where to sit/interact. If you like, this is one step of creating a boundary.( The link takes you to my previous post where I talk about how boundaries make small children feel safe). I try and position my chair a good way back from the children to allow them a safe space  and will only approach once I can feel the children relaxing  or if they approach me . This is a clear signal that they are feeling comfortable and are ready to play. The chairs also form a place where mummies and daddies can sit if they want to join in. ( It’s great when you do, believe me!) Sometimes the chairs are used for those children who are really nervous and they produce a space to hang behind. They can get closer if and when they feel more comfortable.

Once trust is established then it is time to play, in this case Sleeping Bunnies.

playing games at a puppet party

See the little bunnies sleeping...

You’ll have to look close to see those lovely bunnies playing the game, they’re all lying down and sleeping with the puppet bunny getting ready to jump up and hop. One little bunny was happy to watch. I would never force any child to do anything against their will, it’s all for fun after all! I find pushing a child to join in really doesn’t help. They will join in in their own good time or like this bunny here, just be perfectly happy watching others play. She did have a cuddle from the puppet bunny afterwards though! It’s the same situation for face-painting: I never pressurise a child to have their face painted, in fact I am very quick to reassure those children who clearly are not comfortable with face painting that I’m not going to ask them because I know they don’t like it.

So the next time you see this silly lady being silly at a party, try and spot the method in the madness. It’s there somewhere!

Thank you to my lovely client Hana for sending me these sweet pictures.

Just to reassure all my clients and future clients out there, I have been police checked and have an advanced CRB through Kids Company and have full Public Liability Insurance.

I discuss trust building in this blog post also: From Freak to Friend in Forty Minutes

A Cuddle from a Tiger Who came to Tea : A Real Life Fairy story

A true fairy story

Once upon a time there was a lady who brought fun and silly antics with her whenever she went out to work. Children's entertainer and puppeteer Diane

Like the seven dwarves in another fairy story she loved her job and would sing and whistle while she worked.

She loved bright colours and would tie a rainbow of ribbons and clip crocheted daisies in her hair. She really was a very happy lady.

One day she left her colourful house, with its angels who lived on the kitchen ceiling

Painted kitchen ceiling Madonna and Angels

The lady's kitchen ceiling

and pink leopards on the walls,

Pink leopard painted walls

Pink leopard walls in the lady's kitchen

and pretty magical mosaic fireplace

colourful mosaic fireplace

Magical fires burned here

stepping out into the cold air with a song in her heart and a bag of face -paints on her shoulder, dragging a pink suitcase full of funny puppets and cheeky characters behind her. The puppets grumbled as they rumbled across the cracked paving, bumpety, bumpety bump. The lady blew magical cold air smoke from her mouth as she ran for the big red bus. Rarrrr! She was breathing fire like a dragon.

Fire breathing dragon puppet

Rarrrrrrr!

The big red bus took her to a nearby land called Clapham . There was a big green park in the centre of this land and in the centre of the park there was a pond. It was so cold that the  ducks were skating on the frozen water. Brrr, their bottoms must’ve been so cold.

The lady trundled her grumbling puppets in her pink suitcase until she came to a door with a magical number painted on it. Bright bouncy balloons bobbed as she knocked on the door.

Ten little children and a  birthday boy called Rory were gathered in the house. Rory was three, what a big boy!

Grumbling no more, the puppets popped out of the pink suitcase one by one and made friends with the little boys and girls and big boy Rory. The funny rabbit Bobby Bunny made everyone giggle with his naughty snoring when he was supposed to be sleeping. He loved giggling with the boys and girls as they hopped together.

White rabbit puppet

Sleeping Bunny Bobby

A funny clucking hen and a mooing cow played a Dingly Dangly game and the lady kicked up her legs and did the Can Can which made the children giggle. A naughty monkey called Twinkle

Cheeky monkey puppet

Twinkle, my very cheeky baby monkey. A dear friend.

played Happy Birthday on the banana to Rory and learned how to say please. A fairy came to visit and sang Happy Birthday to Rory and sprinkled magic wishes on his toes.

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

Then tummies rumbled and it was time for tea.

In the kitchen the lady had laid out all her beautiful colours ready to paint the children’s faces. She painted princesses with golden tiaras, flowers and pink and tigers with terrible teeth and wiggly black stripes , all with very sparkly noses .

Tiger face painting

Diane says Rarrrrr!

Batman made sure everyone was safe. All parties need a Superhero, just in case, you never know.

Rory was painted as a tiger and had tiger paws to match. Now his face matched his very lovely name. Rory could roar with the best of tigers. RoAAAAAAR!

After a nice cup of tea the lady felt very happy. She really did love her job. Children around her were smiling and playing and pretending to be tigers and princesses.

Feeling satisfied , the lady went to pack away her cheeky puppets since they had all collapsed in a big exhausted heap after all the excitement of the party.

Rory the tiger came to help.

As the lady put the lion back in the pink suitcase, Rory said: I’d like a cuddle.

The lady asked : A cuddle from whom?

” The lion” answered Rory, who was feeling very brave now he was a 3 year old tiger.

So Rory had a cuddle from a sleeping lion.

The lady went to put back the chicken. She had stopped clucking and her feathers were ruffled and ready for bed.

“I’d like a cuddle” said Rory.

‘From the chicken? ‘asked the lady.

“Yes.”

So Rory cuddled the chicken.

The lady zipped up the suitcase , the puppets had all gone to bed.  Rory the terrible tiger stood still.

” I’d like a cuddle” said Rory the tiger.

” But they’ve all gone to bed! ” said the lady.

” Who do you want a cuddle from?”she asked.

“YOU!” said Rory the tiger.

So the lady went home, skipping and hopping, happy to have been cuddled by a tiger.

As she stepped down from the bus, powdery snow started to fall from the sky.

The lady sighed.

It had been a perfect day.

She unlocked her door and went into her colourful cosy  house to eat a slice of lemon drizzle cake and have a nice cup of tea.

Tag Cloud