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

Archive for the ‘Birthday parties’ 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!

 

 

This has a foot in both camps of my life.

Diane Goldie Artist

 

It’s been an interesting few days, full of coincidences and chance meetings.

I’m the sort of person who believes that if you are on the right path, then things go right and coincidences happen as part of that confirmation.

( Just as I wrote that line, Dynamo the magician playing on the telly in the background said : My grandfather always told me that there was no such thing as coincidences, just things that were waiting to happen… )

Spooky that.
Well back to my true story.

Last time I held my market stall in Brixton Station Road

( a very seldom affair) , a very lovely man spent an awful long time pouring over my stock , clearly deep in thought. I’m quite a shy sort, and I’m not quick to offer help so waited for the inevitable inquiry.

” Could you make a dog to order? I’ve…

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The Power of Puppets : See you Later Alligator!

Yesterday was a very special day. In my previous post I shared with you my granddaughter’s very special second birthday moment.

But what was I doing earlier on in the day?

Well, I was helping a very lovely client find closure for her daughter through the power and play of puppets.

Like a few of my clients, this lovely lady and her family had decided to uproot and move her family to Switzerland. She had called me and asked me to perform a puppet show for a goodbye party where her daughter had the opportunity to say goodbye to her school friends and have fun at the same time. Could I perhaps include references to saying Goodbye in my show?

I considered it for a brief second and my answer was ‘of course!’

With my 20 years of working with children as a children’s entertainer, I’ve encountered many a child who has trouble with saying goodbye. Goodbye  is hard for the adults, so why shouldn’t we expect children to be upset at the prospect of saying farewell?

I’ve had my fair share of tears after a puppet show where children have burst into tears the minute a puppet show has ended .

The reason? They didn’t want me to go, they didn’t want the fun to end and most importantly, they didn’t want to say goodbye.

My own way of dealing with this outburst is to gently reassure the distressed child that you have to say goodbye otherwise you can’t say hello another time, and hello is the most wonderful, exciting thing to say!

Ending with a ‘ See you later Alligator , in a while Crocodile , (Bye Bye Apple Pie!) ( Fifi the Fairy’s own invention) is a sure fire way of using the power of silly to put the smile back on those tear stained faces too.

Snap! Snap!

So I tootled off to Belsize Park yesterday and set up my puppet theatre outside in the very welcome sunshine. ( It made a brief appearance yesterday, we just had to make the most of it before it rains again).

Bobby Bunny was sad that  Tabitha cat was going to Australia and had lost his will to hop. The children were encouraging him to hop and have fun and reassured him that Tabitha would still be his friend even though she was going to Australia.

In between the silly behind-you’s and the silly slapstick humour and chases, I inserted lots of chat and references about using Mummy and Daddy’s  Internet to keep in touch and spoke about having friends to visit. Rather than focusing on the leaving aspect, I stressed the new adventures ahead. Tabitha cat was excited to be going, it was her friend that was sad. This allowed the little girl in question to be able to chat to the rabbit about her leaving in a safe and reassuring way; indeed it was a little bit of a therapy session without anyone even knowing it! Lots of hugs were given to the girl in question from the puppets and she said goodbye with a smile on her face- which was painted just like my lovely puppy puppet Toby

Traditional Toby dog to start the show

So bye bye lovely Taya, we will miss you here at Diane’s Puppets. Don’t forget to send us a postcard from Zurich ( some chocolate would be nice too! ) Only joking. Silly Sausage.

Let’s hope that fun and laughter and puppets have eased the pain of farewell.

The power of puppets never cease to amaze me.

 

Related posts:

The Power of Puppets for Change

Silly is a Serious Business

Puppets: An Emotional Connection

 

A very Special Birthday : A picture story.

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: i.am.rebecca)

Today was a very special day.

My Granddaughter turned 2.

Her favourite tv show in the world  is Luxury Comedy, well, Grandma is an artist so has alternative tastes It  is a strange world of comedy invented by Noel Fielding ( of Mighty Boosh fame) that is weird and colourful and quite bonkers. Despite the odd rude word (which we overlook) it quite captured my little granddaughters imagination. She calls it Boom Boom ( referring to the theme tune).

This is why my ‘birthday card’ to my granddaughter consisted of two paintings of two of the crazy characters from Luxury Comedy. They’re two of Erykah’s favourites:

                                                                                          Fantasy Man

and The Audience ( Fish Finger for later) .

Whilst not strictly conventional fayre for most 2 year olds, my Granddaughter absolutely LOVED these. I should have taken pictures of her reaction upon opening them… but I was enjoying the moment too much. Suffice it to say, after hanging the two pictures in her brand new big girl bedroom ( she has just moved house ) she kept excitedly pulling me by the hand to show me her new paintings when I went to visit.

 

I went over with a small stack of gifts ( mainly books) for her. I’m a terrible present wrapper. This time however, I think I managed something quite inspired . They say necessity is the mother of invention and I needed something to top my stack of gifts . I had a bunch of hair elastics that I had squirreled away for  a rainy day and these made a really sweet ( and ultimately useful) bow topping. See what you think.

A stack of gifts topped with hair elastics.

pretty and practical

When I got to my granddaughters new house , she was fast asleep. She looked like Sleeping Beauty, butter wouldn’t melt. It’s great isn’t it how we forget the tantrums when they’re sleeping?

She’s so beautiful, it almost takes my breath away.

 

I woke her up and we went to sing happy birthday with her cake. It’s one of two, as I was so busy recently, I cheated and bought one from the supermarket and I intend to make a very special one tomorrow that we can all enjoy .

I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

I’m two. Two candles on my cake.

Blow….

Blow, not spit!

Fffffffffffffff phhhhhphhhhhhhhhffffffffffffff

Yeyy! They’re out. Check out the smoke.

Yum. I’m a big girl now so I’ll do it by myself thank you.

 

Because Grandma was so busy on this special day, we’re going to celebrate tomorrow as well. We’re off to the Rainforest Cafe for a very special dinner tomorrow with Aunty Imogen, Mummy, Aunty Riri and Maa and Dandaa.

 

Sigh.

I love being Maa.

 

 

 

 

 

Puppets: An emotional connection

Kevin Clash and Elmo, 92YTribeca 8/18/11

Kevin Clash and Elmo, 92YTribeca 8/18/11 (Photo credit: 92YTribeca)

Being Elmo : an inspirational film

Last night I went to see the wonderful documentary Being Elmo at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. I had booked a ticket to go and see this film ( and Q & A session ) a week previously and I had been eagerly anticipating this event. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

I laughed, I connected emotionally with the puppeteer and star of the documentary Kevin Clash  and yes, I cried but not from sadness but from sheer joy.  It was a truly marvellous film.I wasn’t alone, the cinema was packed and everyone there was clearly feeling the love.

To witness a film respecting the silly, regarding the seriousness of the craft and paying tribute to the massively important role that puppets and a good puppeteer can play in imparting a basic human connection ( in Elmo’s case giving out hugs) was genuinely moving for me. So moving in fact, that when it came to the Q & A session with the wonderfully human and totally charming  director Constance Marks and her husband/ partner in crime and Cinematographer James Miller, I could barely get out my compliments without bursting into tears. In any other environment that would have been rather embarrassing but after viewing this very human movie, no-one was surprised at this reaction. In fact the director  related how they had received Twitter messages from Hells Angels who had confessed to ‘blubbing like a baby’ when viewing the film. So I clearly was not alone in my emotional outburst. Phew!

Here is the James Miller, the cinematographer talking about making the film:

Here is the trailer to the film. Go and see it. You won’t be disappointed. You may even cry, but in a good way!

Again, Again! Or why young children love repetition

Can you do something different?

I hear this request often from clients. I understand this request very well with my adult brain. If I were going to a party as an adult and the same entertainer was there , be it a stand up comic or a magician and they did the same routine , I’d probably be a little bored. So from my adult clients ( mummies and daddies) perspective, I totally get where they’re coming from.

 

Indeed, when I started out in this business of being a children’s birthday party entertainer and I thought about my routines, I thought with my adult brain and I tried to make sure that I varied my routines as much as possible.  I wondered why my little clients ( boys and girls) kept asking me when I was going to do the monkey puppet? When was I going to do the fairy puppet?

Fairy puppet Fifi

Look at her pretty hair!

when was I going to do Old Macdonald? ie the old routines.

They looked disappointed.

What was going wrong here?

There exists a discrepancy between my two clients and their expectations. Two clients? What do I mean?

In this job as a kids entertainer, I have two client bases: one the adult clients ( the ones who book and pay me, ergo the very important ones)  and two the children who receive my services directly ( the ones who can make or break my reputation if they don’t like what I do; ergo the even more important ones. Also the ones who exert massive pester power )

Both clients need to be satisfied.

I decided to make an executive decision: I was going to stick to the routine and give my little clients what they wanted. After all, as adults we all get told how much young children need routine? Or was I pushing it?

So to this day, I’m still making sure that the old favourites are still firmly in place. If children are still laughing and joining in even after seeing me at countless parties, I’m not going to spoil their fun by changing it. If it aint broke don’t fix it they say.

 

I’ve been thinking about why children seem to enjoy repeating the same things and still get so much joy each time. I came up with a simple comparison : music.

When children watch me perform with my puppets at birthday parties or other celebratory events, they clearly give me an emotional response; the sort of response that is felt when listening to music. The joy on their faces is evident when watching the puppets antics.

We do not question that someone would listen to a piece of music that gives them joy over and over again, do we? In fact that is something that we take for granted. We don’t get bored of a piece of music that gives us pleasure, in fact repeating the experience often brings back emotions and memories all over again. This analogy seems to fit what I am witnessing with my small clients as they watch the same puppet routine over and over again.

Add to this  the fact that there is security in knowing what comes next, there is power involved in being able to participate in a familiar experience. For little children who are generally not able to exert any sort of power in a very adult world, this must feel very thrilling.

So parents, I am going to respectfully overlook your request to change things up and go with the needs and wants of your children.

( I shall add a few subtle changes along the way and introduce new characters gently  but shhhh! don’t tell the kids. It shall remain our little adult secret.)

 

 

Partying with the Big Bad Wolf

I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your candles out!

London children's entertainer and puppet show provider holds her Big Bad Wolf puppet

Gosh you are big!

Hello, Big Bad Wolf here.

Yeah , you know me, that much maligned and feared character from fairy stories , well don’t believe all you read in the papers or see on the television. I’m actually not asthmatic ( thanks for that rumour Guardian newspaper) and quite capable of a good huff and puff. Blowing down houses? Well maybe not . Not unless they were actually made of straw or paper. Mind you , most people would be capable of that really, you don’t need to be big and bad like me to do that. I’d probably be quite good at playing the trumpet if I put my mind to it.

A trumpet playing wolf, now that is an image to conjure up to the imagination. Mind you, in the world of Diane’s Puppets it’s not unusual to find a monkey playing a banana like a trumpet. I may just give it a go.

I should have beaten Harriet to blowing out her candles today. You should have seen her cake. It was me, dear friends, dressed up as Grandma in bed. It was quite the cake. The firework on the top scared me a little, but it looked pretty.

It was fun at work today, even though Diane had me playing to type. I was made to scare all the boys and girls again, typical scary wolf role but I must admit it was fun. My little brother really had them going . Silly boys and girls really believed that he was the  Big Bad Wolf, as if?! He was teasing them as they were screeching to that silly Red Riding Hood , telling her to be careful of the Big Bad Wolf, he told them he was the little friendly wolf. Was he telling porky pies? Of course not! He IS the little friendly wolf.

There is only one Big Bad Wolf and that , dear friends, is me.

You should have seen their faces when he introduced me, his big brother to them. Oh boy… you should have heard those big boys and girls scream. It made it all worthwhile. There’s nothing quite like getting into role as the baddy, the antihero. There’s just so much to get your teeth into ( pun intended). I threatened to eat them all later.

Diane had to pop up in the show to calm everyone down and reassure them that I was just a puppet: such is the power of my acting skills.

I need to talk to Diane about maybe writing a different sort of role for me. I’d like to branch out lovies. I’d appreciate an acting challenge. Maybe romantic lead?

Suggestions on a postcard please. What would you like to see the Big Bad Wolf playing next. I’m so over playing villain ( although I must say I do do it rather well.)

Plus I am very tired of the indignity of having my tail chopped off each time by that woodcutter.

How VERY dare he.

 

 

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

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!

 

 

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