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

Archive for the ‘2-5 years’ Category

Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring!

If you can hear those words in your head uttered by the lovely Clive Dunn from the 70’s sit com Dad’s Army, then you’re probably of my generation or maybe you watch TV programs from yesteryear.

Either way, they encapsulate something I’d like to say to you lovely parents when hosting a party for lots of little strangers and their parents.

Don’t panic! It will all be fine.

Sometimes when faced with a big space like a church hall, children will feel the urge to run about. Some will even do that lovely slidey knee thing. ( I wish I could do that and get away with it, but I fear I may never get up again if I tried!)

If they do start to run about, it’s not the end of the world.

Don’t panic!

Your energy will translate to the children , they can smell the anxiety , just like dogs and they will sense it as fear. That makes it hard for you to take charge and remedy the situation ( if you don’t like the running about, some do!)

 

So what do you do if you feel that your party is starting to tip into chaos?

  • First take a deep breath. Remember your energy is paramount. Calm your breathing down.
  • Ask the grown-ups ( or get another adult to help with this) to quieten down. (You’ll be amazed at how much adult noise affects behaviour of children in a party situation)
  • If you have an entertainer and they are able to help, ask them to start an activity. The children will listen to a stranger.
  • Gain the attention of the children by making a sound that they won’t expect : blow a whistle, bang a tambourine or get a bloke to shout ATTENTION!
  • Once the attention is gained, harness the enthusiasm and energy of the children and announce a  game  in a good confident , projected voice.
  • Don’t ask who wants to play … just say WE ARE GOING TO PLAY…Give the children a choice and many will choose to keep on with their own invented/slightly dangerous(?) game.

Play games that involve non competition and action. Try the Hokey Cokey ( Get the grown-ups going too, they’ll enjoy this one especially if they’ve had a glass or two…) Go on a Bear Hunt , Be the Grand Old Duke of York ( or get a suitable bloke to be Sergeant Major and play a version of “Simon Says.” Kids love following instructions! Play Ring a Ring a Rosies with smaller children.

 

I can’t stress enough how your energy and that of the other grown-ups will affect the behaviour of the children.

Just because they’re running around doesn’t mean they’re being naughty. They’re using their imaginations to fill in the gaps. They’d much rather the adults join in with them and have fun all together.

So Grown-ups , are you ready for the challenge?

 

YOU Put your Right Foot IN

Your right foot OUT

 

So next time, don’t panic!

Get Involved!

 

 

Attention! It’s not so hard.

Attention!

My crocheted fingerpuppet soldier standing to attention.

One of the biggest areas of debate  I face when clients call me  is that concerning  attention span. More often than not, when clients see that I offer a minimum time session of 45 minutes to an hour they will say that their child definitely will not sit for that length of time. Even though I respect that my clients know their own children best of all, I always ask my clients to keep an open mind when it comes to puppet entertainment , that it may be that their child may react in a different way altogether when faced with live entertainment and personal interaction , focus and involvement. Modern studies suggest that due to new technologies, our attention spans are growing shorter and shorter , requiring more and more stimuli to keep us entertained. I challenge  this study.  Why should we now believe that our children can’t concentrate on anything  just because they won’t sit for long in front of a screen?

When it comes to human interaction , children are able to concentrate for great lengths of time.

My experience over 20 years of working in the field of children’s entertainment suggests that all children , even the youngest , are able to maintain focus if you involve them with eye contact, ‘mugging’

Silly sausage me.

( exaggerated facial expressions and grand gestures) and changes in pace and volume. Even adults are easily bored if things are monotonous. Add familiarity and ownership to the mix and you are on to an absolute sure fire winner.

What do I mean by ownership? Well, in my routines , I make sure that I play the silly billy. I’m the adult that can’t get things right. I’m very careful not to do this in a patronising way as that can be very easily sniffed out as disingenuous by savvy kids , but use a big dollop of tongue in cheek humour to keep just this side of silly. In this role I’m not the teacher , I’m the pupil in the world of the child. I get things wrong so they , my young audience, can teach me ( or my puppet) how to do things. ( Although at a recent party at a Nursery , Valentina ( 4years old) stood up and announced in a very big voice that I was the ‘bestest teacher in the world’. Thanks Valentina. <3)

That’s the theory anyway. It’s proven to be a winner for me over the years. I can honestly say I’ve managed to maintain rapt attention for at least 45 minutes for all of my audiences , be they 2 years old or a little older.

Today though was rather special.

But let me set the scene:

Rain Rain go away , come again another day.

If anyone knows anything about the weather in the UK recently, it has not stopped raining for months now. Everywhere is soggy. Our Summer has been washed out.

Despite this weather, I had been booked to do an outdoor session in a park for a class of 5 year old children as a special treat. We were lucky enough to get a brief spell of sunshine early on in the day but the ground was still seriously sodden, in fact in areas the grass was covered in puddle.

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun said Noel Coward. Well this mad dog and English woman joined the children and made the best of the soggy grass ( we had brought waterproof backed rugs in preparation) and we settled down for 90 minutes of puppets ,songs and puppet illustrated storytelling.

We giggled with Twinkle the baby monkey as he refused to say helloand deliberately wouldn’t say please.  We sang and quacked with Mummy Duck and her babies

Five little ducks crochet puppets

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack

and went for a visit to Old Macdonald’s farm where all the animals seemed to be dogs?

We played Sleeping Bunnies

s,ee

See the little bunnies sleeping

( very squished up as the ground was sodden) and hopped and laughed and had lots of bunny cuddles. ( Yes even/especially the boys!) We laughed at silly Fifi the Fairy

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

who was very proud of her crocheted ringlets and who tried to ‘Whip her hair back and forth”

until I got her to sing Twinkle Twinkle  instead.

Then I got out my thunder machine and prepared the mood to tell the story of the Stomping Elephant

My elephant puppet

on my beautiful African printed fabric. We roared with the naughty Lion, squeaked with the tiny mouse and buzzed with the wasp with the very pointy stingy bottom.

” That was a good story” said one little contented child at the conclusion of that tale.

Then we jumped on the bed with Jaffa the monkey and burped with the naughty crocodile who had identity issues and a dental problem. Then it was See you later Alligator, in a while crocodile

Snap! Snap!

as the hour and a half had quickly drawn to a very happy end.

This bunch of 30 5 year old’s had given me total focus and concentration and lots and lots of giggles and interaction all the way through the 90 minutes in a public park on soggy grass, bunched up together . Not the most ideal conditions you might think.

” Can you come again?” piped up one little boy.

Clearly 90 minutes wasn’t enough for this young fellow.

We ended with a big round of applause for the clever children and pats on the back for being a brilliant audience.

I told them that they had just done something most adults couldn’t do: pay close attention for an hour and a half.

Ya boo sucks statistics.

I know what I see and I see ATTENTION!

So next time you doubt your child’s attention span, think  again. You may be surprised!

Are you on Facebook? Please like my Diane’s Puppets Facebook page.

Thanks!

Mummy Duck Returns

Making more puppets at Diane’s Puppets

I pride myself on making my own puppets here at Diane’s Puppets. I like to think that anyone who books a Diane’s Puppets party is getting a very unique experience both visually and on a performance level. No one else will have puppets like mine.

One of my favourite puppets that I have used over the years was Mummy Duck. She was a white fluffy knitted duck who flew off my knitting needles one day. She was soft and cuddly but very very bossy and loud and rather silly. She was always losing her five baby ducks when they went swimming over the hills and far away. Silly Mummy Duck would constantly suggest they were in the dustbin when I enquired where she thought they had gone. Luckily the boys and girls would always manage to call her babies back and they would get a nice cuddle from Mummy Duck before being scolded and told to go to bed.

Then Mummy Duck swam off somewhere.

I’ve looked everywhere for her, even in the dustbin. She’s just not there.

 

So I’ve been missing her sorely.

So, here is Mummy Duck the 2nd. A yellow crochet duck with 5 new babies.

Yellow crochet duck puppet

Quack Quack Quack QUACK!

Yellow crochet duck puppet

And all of her 5 little ducks came back!

Yellow crochet duck puppet

Mummy duck scolds her babies for swimming away

Five little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack Quack!

But only four little ducks came back.

 

Four little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack!

But only three little ducks came back.

 

Three little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack Quack

But only two little ducks came back.

 

Two little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack

But only one little duck came back.

 

One little duck went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mummy Duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack

But no little ducks came swimming back. 😦

 

No little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Everyone said Quack Quack Quack Quack!

And all of the five little ducks came swimming back.

Five little ducks crochet puppets

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack

 

 

Diane’s Puppets : Original puppet shows and silly songs and fabulous face painting for the best children’s party EVER.

From Freak to Friend in Forty Minutes

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Rainbow on my head

I’m a Children’s Entertainer so my work clothes are somewhat bright. I stand out in a crowd. I love my work outfit. I wear it on my way to work . When I walk down London’s streets on my way to a birthday party I often get stared at. Sometimes I get whistled at , sometimes I raise a smile from old ladies but the most common reaction is laughter , especially from teenagers. Upon explaining that ‘ These are my work clothes’ , the derision quickly changes to interest and sometimes to admiration. Yes, folks, I get paid to play and  make people laugh at birthday parties, how cool is that?

Today I had a little birthday party for a  sweet three year old girl in Chelsea. When I walked in, there was a small boy who was sitting on his mummy’s knee who burst into tears when he saw me.

My heart sank.

Mummy explained he was a little freaked out by my hair. I can understand, it’s not everyday that you meet a lady who wears a rainbow in  her hair. When you’re three that must be a little disconcerting to discover.

I made the decision to avoid all eye contact and play to the children who were in front of me and not focus on the little boy. I made a conscious effort to comment about my silly hair and call myself a silly sausage. There’s nothing like humour to cut tension.

I kept half an eye out for the little boy in question as I continued with my routine and smiled as I saw his tears turn first to smiles and then to laughter. I didn’t quite manage to persuade him to have a cuddle from the bunny puppet like the other boys and girls but I knew I had turned his fear into interest and I didn’t want to push my luck.

He never left his mummy’s lap but I managed to turn myself from a ribbon monster to a funny lady in just forty minutes. I even had a kiss blown in my direction on departure.

THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!

London Children's entertainer and puppeteer Diane

Birthday party entertainer/face painter and puppeteer Diane of Diane's Puppets

Through a child’s eyes

Today I read a blog post that really touched me.

It was by a lovely lady called Debra.  Please read it. Pure and Simple; Train Ride.

 

This simplicity, this sense of wonderment is what fuels me to go to work every day as a Children’s Entertainer. In order to be able to connect with my little clients, the children at the  birthday parties I attend, I have to keep reconnecting with the memory and the energy of being a child.

This connection is vital for the correct energy with which to approach young children and not be seen and felt as being patronising. Without sounding a little weird, I don’t entertain as much as just play alongside the children. Their sense of humour is genuinely the same as mine. I delight in word play. I adore surrealism. Most children’s jokes consist of surrealistic concepts, the idea of things being out of context.  My funny bone tickles at the concept of putting a banana on your head. ( Come and join the Banana Head Club!) and of course, there is the belly laugh that comes from burps and silly raspberry noises. ( To put it politely).

Silly puppet

Hehehehehuhuhhhehehheheh

 

What other job is it that requires instant trust ? I have to walk into a room full of very young strangers and  gain their trust. I’m often only booked for an hour, so I have to win children over almost instantly. Children are unforgiving but honest audiences, if they don’t like you, they walk away.

What is it that creates that bond? It is energy. I have to attune my energy , find my inner child ( that’s not hard) and bring her to the fore. Young children, ( like dogs) inhabit a world of energy, where they judge the vibe . It’s that gut feeling that us grown ups often lose or stop trusting .  I’ve done some psychotherapy training and one of the core conditions of trust building is something called Congruency. This simply means that you are on the inside what you appear on the outside: genuine, no nasty surprises.  Well folks, what you see on the outside

 

Facepainter too

I'm a bunny wabbit

 

is what you get on the inside. Am I Diane , the London Children’s Entertainer or am I just

 

Silly Sausage Diane?

 

I’m both. It’s compulsory.

 

 

The Magic of the Party Entertainer: That’s the way to do it!

It’s something I hear quite often in my work as a London children’s party entertainer: ” How do you do it?” I heard it asked of me today at a lovely local party for a  sweet five year old girl, it was followed by , “Do you have magic powers or something?”.

Magic powers? Maybe, if you consider energy to be magic powers.

Let me explain.

The mummy in question was intrigued at how I managed to have a bunch of five year old boys and girls sitting patiently waiting for a puppet show. There was no fighting, no screaming, no chaos, just calm anticipation and a big buzz of excitement going around the room too.

This question is asked of me often.

It is a wonderful feeling for me to walk into a party full of excited children and have them quickly sitting down, calm and focused and eager to participate in silliness and stories.
Do I have magical powers?

Not in the Harry Potter sense, no.

What I do have to my advantage is what I call ‘Stranger Power’ plus a certain calm assertive energy that is useful for leaders and dog owners!

 

Stranger power is something I’ve observed whilst I’ve been entertaining children over the past 18 years. What do I mean by it? Well, when I walk into someone’s home, I am expected to take control of the party . I become a stranger with a position of authority over the children. They see me as fun, ( I’m often found lying down with the children playing Sleeping Bunnies

See the little bunnies sleeping

as well as hopping up and down ) but they’re not totally sure of who I am .  Therefore they regard me with caution, rather than pushing the boundaries of someone that they are familiar with. So, if I ask the children to do something in a certain assertive tone, like magic they cooperate.

Children view me with a certain positive suspicion. My attire ( ribbons in my hair and very bright sparkly clothes)

Silly ribbons but serious about partying.

suggest a fun , possibly silly person, they see Party Entertainer/ storyteller/ puppeteer when they look at me,  which gets their playful juices flowing, but then they meet my energy.  After encountering the wonderful Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan on the television ( and becoming a total disciple) I’ve worked on maintaining  a calm assertive state when attending children’s parties. This works totally in my favour as I am able to direct the proceedings of the party  in a calm but fun way.

No one needs chaos. No one likes chaos.

Today I face painted butterflies and vampires on the faces of five year old’s .

The vampires ( boys in this instance) decided to chase the butterflies ( girls). Screams ensued as well as a little bit of chasing round the garden. I continued to paint faces until I heard the tone of the screams turn from excitement and fun to hysteria, then it was time to change the energy before the fun turned to tears.

I used my calm assertive energy ( and my god-given booming voice) to gather the children to sing happy birthday and calm was restored once more without the vampires feeling they had been reined in.

The secret is keeping control without the children being aware that that is what you are doing. Walking that tightrope  between keeping things calm and becoming a party pooper can sometimes be tricky, but I think I’ve got it down to a fine art now.

If that makes me magical, then so be it!

Abracadabra!

Just a regular day at the office NOT!

Space mouse is ready to blast off

Oh how I love my work. I’ve just got back from the most inspirational day of storytelling at the very well respected children’s theatre Chicken Shed.

I was booked to do an early years Storytelling performance for this fantastic theatre company through a mutual acting friend.

I was so excited, I mean SO excited. I’ve always known about Chicken Shed and the fabulous work that they do and had admired them from afar, now was my chance to become part of them, if only for a day!

So Fifi the Baby Fairy and I set off with Space Mouse and headed off to Cockfosters, all the way to the end of the Piccadilly line. Took ages to get there, luckily the weather was fine so we didn’t have to worry about the ten minute walk from the station, even though I did get just a few stares from the Southgate locals.

My stage was prepared with gorgeous glittery curtains and a sweet sofa covered with astroturf and cherry blossom. It was a chair surely fit for a fairies bottom. I felt very privileged to sit on it.

I was to do two half hour story telling sessions and my first session got off to a cracking start, blowing bubbles and putting the audience at ease.

Fifi the fairy worked her feisty, cheeky magic and soon had the boys and girls wrapped around her little finger. She brought giggles galore before settling down on her fairy sofa for a bedtime story.  She had chosen the theme of stars, moons, a mouse and a cow. Space Mouse fitted the bill perfectly. So before I knew it, the stage manager was whispering to me that the second session was about to come in. So Space Mouse came to a hasty conclusion and Fifi was found to be fast asleep.

I got lovely feedback from the audience and a few little children requested a photo with me on the fairy sofa. I felt like a popstar!

The second session started and finished in a blink of an eye. They say time flies when you’re having fun, my goodness it went at warp speed! I then packed up and went to watch the main performance on the main stage with the full audience.

It was a rare privilege indeed to be able to join in with the Chicken Shed experience. I love how inclusive their ethos is , celebrating every child and young person no matter what their physical or mental challenges may be. The thing that pulled everyone together was just having fun. I certainly had fun and judging from the great big grins on everyone’s faces, I think fun was the order of the day.

Sigh. I love my job.

 

Tag Cloud