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

Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Best shop in the world chooses Diane’s Puppets

It’s official, Diane’s Puppets has come of age!

The best shop in the world voted by the Global Department Store Summit in Paris  is Selfridges.

And lovely , lovely Selfridges have asked Diane’s Puppets to appear in their Xmas shop from early November to late December on Sunday afternoons.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

I’ve already spent the day at their Press show, showcasing my Xmas puppet show to a whole lot of journalists, a challenge to say the least. Important grown-ups really don’t know how to respond to such a child centred thing as a Diane’s Puppet show. But I’m really, really glad that the wonderful Harvey and Katie of Selfridges London office recognised the value and charm in what I offer and have totally understood the Diane’s Puppets ethos.

Quirky, very English in its charm , a little shabby , old fashioned but with a modern twist, with a genuine concern to bring the best experience possible for  its’ customers and just a little bit bonkers. That’s the Diane’s Puppets way.

It could also be argued that that is the Selfridges way too.

So Diane’s Puppets , in a Selfridges Xmas shop near you ( as long as that is in Oxford Street, London. )

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!

 

 

Diamond Jubilee : My tribute to HRH

It’s Ma’am like spam

I’m  not much of a Royalist to be fair, but I do enjoy the pomp and circumstance that goes with the British Monarchy. As a very proud Londoner, I couldn’t imagine  not seeing the Horseguards with their big bearskins guarding St James’s palace, or witness the changing of the guard. I do enjoy a Royal Wedding too, I must admit.

So, this year we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen. Whilst I am sick to the back teeth of all the Union Jack stuff everywhere, ( talk about overkill) I’m not going to be a total killjoy when it comes to the Jubilee celebrations. I’m going to be really busy this June 4th, with a street party plus a stint at a really lovely local pub that are putting on a mini beer festival and including a puppet show and facepainting. (that would be me).

Tiger Facepainting Diane's Puppets

Rarrrrrr!

London Children's Entertainer

Diane, the London Children’s Entertainer

Years ago, I’m talking probably 25 … I made a bunch of Marionettes. Here is my tribute to HRH, my puppet of the Queen.

Queen Marionette puppet

HRH waves at you

Queen puppet

One is having a lie down.

Does one like one’s crown?

Close up of Queen

One has very lovely clothes and shoes

Just to end this on a balanced note, here is my tribute to God Save the Queen ( and her fascist regime) I loved the Sex Pistols.

Portrait of a Punk Puppet, check out that bobble nose!

He looks so camp. I like that!

Check out the hairy armpit!

Both puppets are working marionettes, but need restringing and a control. They are old, so they have some wear and tear, but I think this adds to their character. They are both for sale and cost £60 each. Both characters stand a full 70 cm tall and feature hand carved wooden hands and feet and the heads are made from sewn and painted fabric.

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!

 

 

A Birthday Party away from Home : Checklist

So you are having a birthday party at a venue. There was just not enough space at home or the thought of having a bunch of marauding kids and accompanying parents in your home was just too much to bear. Fair enough.

So you’ve booked a venue and have loaded up the car ready to drive off for your party.

 

STOP!

 

Before you put that key in the ignition and drive away make sure you have the following things:

 

  • Matches or lighter ( I can’t count how many times I’ve witnessed blind panic as parents realise they’ve nothing to light the birthday cake with. Not many people smoke these days, so do come prepared)
  • The venue’s caretaker’s contact number ( in case of problems accessing the venue)
  • Your door keys ( Easy to forget in the fuss to pack stuff for the party. It’s all good until you can’t get back in the house… )
  • A list of guests and contact phone numbers of the parents in case of emergencies
  • Your phone ( fully charged)
  • Batteries for any camera/phone/ camcorder
  • Entertainer‘s mobile phone number ( if using entertainment services)
  • Checkbook or cash to pay the entertainer ( if using entertainment services)
  • Tablewear ( plenty of cups /plates/ paper napkins/ tablecloths)
  • Decorations (banners/bunting/balloons) and sticky tape or blue tack
  • Party bags or going away gifts
  • Food and drink for the guests
  • Drink for the parents ( if you are serving wine, don’t forget the corkscrew!)
  • Music player
  • If organising your own games, sweets for prizes.
  • The Birthday Cake with candles
  • Black rubbish bags for clearing up
  • A small first aid kit just in case ( try packing some arnica cream for bumps, plasters, cotton wool and antiseptic, maybe some sting relief for outdoor parties)
  • A toilet roll ( just in case!)
  • Pass the parcel ( if you are playing it)

So, it’s all packed,  now off you go! Have fun like these children did !

 

Happy children at a birthday party

Diane's Puppets meets Waybaloo

The Year of the Dragon

It’s my year, the year of the Dragon!

My Chinese dragon puppet, the beautiful Pearl Dragon.

 

Happy Chinese New Year! I researched how to say this in Chinese and realised it wasn’t as straightforward as the one response. So for accuracies sake , here are the variations in the different Chinese languages;

Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐
Standard Mandarin (the most widely used Chinese)

Gong Hei Fard Choy, 恭喜发财
Cantonese (Mainly Hong Kong and Macau)

Xing Ni Ju Yi, 新年如意
Teochew/ Hokkien (Mainly in South East Asia and Taiwan)

The safest bet is “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. Even Tibetan understands this.

 

I am very fond of dragons. They’re beautiful, fierce and magical creatures. They’re also a little showy, the natural performers of the mythological world. I’m very proud to be born in the year of the Dragon : 1964. My eldest daughter, also fortuitously was also born in the year of the Dragon 1988. We’re both fairly similar creatures, initially shy in crowds but will dress up ostentatiously and fearlessly and once dressed in our magnificence, we exude confidence and breathe fire.At least that’s how I see it! Who else would have the guts to wear the clothes I wear to work out in public  if not a Dragon?

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

 

I’ve been painting lots of dragons on people’s arms recently as part of what I do as a face and arm painter as part of my kids entertainment services. It’s almost as if I knew my year was coming up ( I didn’t!)

Fire breathing dragon coming to life

I’ve recently remade my skirt for work and the first applique I sewed on was that of a fire breathing dragon.

My fire breathing dragon adorning my skirt.

One of my original puppet shows for children’s parties centres around  a bird’s quest to grow his wings quickly so he can escape his cage. The story takes him all the way to the golden moon where he has to find a pearl to give to the wonderful and awesome Pearl Dragon. I really enjoyed making this fabulous puppet, with her red satin chinese fabric body  and her papier mache horns and wings. She breathes fire like all self-respecting dragons and is strong and fierce but essentially kind and helpful. ( All characteristics that I value in any strong woman!) This visually stunning show also features a golden moon tiger  and a magic singing tree, the sort of story that fires up imaginations like the breath of the dragon herself.

To see further pictures of my show click here.

 

So I wish you all a very Happy New Year , especially to all my fellow dragons out there. Let’s go and breathe our magnificent fire of creativity and make the world a more vibrant and exciting place!

 

 

A New Skirt for the Kids Entertainer and Puppeteer, Diane

2012 and it’s back to business, back to being a London Children’s Entertainer and puppet lady extraordinaire…

Time to brush off the cobwebs of 2011, throw out the old and bring in the new.

I’ve just taken down my Christmas tree, well better late than never. I was loathe to take it down this year as my darling granddaughter Erykah-Rose was totally fascinated by it and did the most marvellous Donald Duck impressions upon spotting the robins that nestled within its’ branches. I put it up rather late too as the life of a Children’s Entertainer in the Festive Season is rather a busy one and your own celebrations tend to have to wait. So the tree overstayed it’s welcome with permission.

Such a cutie!

So that was the old out.  Or was it?

I looked at my skirt that was hanging up, waiting for the next outing at a Children’s birthday party and I saw it with fresh eyes, horrified fresh eyes! My goodness, all my hard work of being a puppeteer/ children’s entertainer and face painter  in 2011 showed in that skirt. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Evidence of the wear and tear of life as a kids entertainer

Still can’t see it? Let me zoom in for you.

The scars of hard work.

See the patches and tears? That comes from kneeling on the floor.  I do that rather a lot when behind a puppet booth when I’m performing a puppet show at a child’s birthday party. Even before the show starts, I do like to sit on the children’s level, it goes with my child-centred philosophy of playing with children rather than merely performing at children. But all this getting down to floor level  does take its’ toll on my clothes: my shoes have dents in the toes. Strange side effects from my job!

Anyway I digress. It was time to use the lovely sewing machine that  Santa ( well, my lovely partner) had bought me for Christmas. Out with the old skirt, in with the new and improved puppeteer /entertainer skirt.

Ta Da!

So here it is.

As you can see, I’m rather partial to a bit of applique ( who wouldn’t want a fire breathing dragon on their skirt? )

I’m sure over the course of 2012, the skirt will evolve. I’ll add bits and pieces to it, inevitably given my obsession with all things crochet, it will acquire a crochet embellishment or two, but this is the start of the new skirt.

I think it’s rather splendid, don’t you? It sure beats having to power dress for the office! This is my sort of power dressing: dressing with imaginative power, the super power to charge little minds with creative visions and fantastical imaginings.

The skirt is on its’ maiden journey today. I’m off this afternoon to entertain , paint faces and do a puppet show in a traditional style puppet booth for a lovely 4 year old girl’s birthday.  I shall wear my skirt with immense pride!

 

Here’s to a splendidly creative 2012. I’m off to breathe fire into the New Year.

Toodle pip.

 

 

A tale of two Christmasses

So 2011 is drawing to a close. I’ve sung my last Jingle Bells for the year.

The Festive Season for a jobbing Children’s Entertainer can be a very busy time and Xmas usually starts earlier for us than most people. For me it started on the 3rd of December with my very first Nursery Christmas party. About a hundred verses of Jingle Bells later, I’m now packing up my Father Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer puppet  with the tinsel and the Xmas props. By the time proper Christmas starts it can feel rather rehearsed. I had a few days to prepare my own Xmas, buy presents and put up a tree. I did it in the (St) Nick of time. Christmas this year was pretty special as my darling granddaughter has just turned 18 months and her Christmas experience was wonderful to behold. From her saucer eyes and Donald Duck impressions as she spotted the robins on my Christmas tree to her clear excitement upon opening her presents, her joy was infectious. Christmas really is all about children.

I wish some of  my last clients had signed up for that theory.

My last Christmas party of the year was in Canary Wharf for a very large group of Investment Bankers and their families. For me it was a surreal affair. To be perfectly honest, Canary Wharf gave me goosebumps and not in a good way. It doesn’t feel human.  I’m not really a corporate animal, I’m much more Brighton in spirit than what is expected of someone in Canary wharf and it showed. I almost caused the security to have a heart attack at my raggedy pile of puppet stuff that I brought through the ludicrous glass revolving doors  in shifts ( I have a lot of stuff). Maybe they thought I was an anti capitalist protester ( my ribbons and bright clothes would fit the profile). I hated to disappoint them, but I was simply the Christmas Kids entertainment. No Flying Squad required.

After being asked for ID and being issued with an ID badge, I was shown into the place where I was to perform. I bumbled in with my various bits of wooden stage and equipment, ‘Merry Christmassing’ as I went along. I walked into a room full of children and a magician making balloon animals.  One man was introduced to me as the ‘Santa’ for the day. He was nervous about his impending performance. I  took note of his pink shirt and decided that he would be fine once he got into character. I reassured him that Fifi the Fairy would make sure his entry and time with the children would run smoothly and indeed it did. Fifi the Fairy charmed the children in her inimitable style and had her picture snapped as she chatted with children for quite some time. A good two hours of entertainment  was had by all including a very funny Christmas themed show where Fifi gets to be naughty and steal the star from the top of the tree.

Fifi in her new found freshness

Happy Christmas!

As I packed up , feeling satisfied at the very positive reaction from the children and their parents, one of the female staff said to me:

“Oh thank god you’ve stopped that fairy. Her voice was so annoying. I was about to come and throttle her if she had carried on any more. ”

Merry Christmas.

I smiled . What else could I do? I think that lady banker and I lived on different planets , there was no point in joining in with her debate.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. As I waited for my cab, I watched the ice skating on the open air rink . It should’ve been festive what with all the Christmas music , fairy lights and Santa hats but there was something missing.

That something I found in bucketloads a few days later in Brixton. It was emotion.

I ran my very first Crochet stall at Brixton Makers Market on Xmas Eve. It was a very lovely experience, albeit a cold one ( in temperature). What the temperature lacked in degrees was more than made up by the warmth of human spirit that I witnessed from my fellow stall holders, the lovely Lisa and Tony who ran the market and the every day Brixton people who embraced my new stall with enthusiasm and pure delight.

People would double take in front of the stall and back track to come and admire my produce. Grown ups were walking past and shouting out compliments, many bought things even though they had already done Xmas shopping but they just had to have something. I was humbled by the reaction. I was so thrilled to have followed my heart and gone with what made me feel happy: bright colours and magical things ( and dogs of course). Clearly my love resonated with others as their reaction showed.

Christmas is about children and the child within us all.

Forget that at your peril.

A Very Merry Puppet Xmas

Today Christmas started for me in earnest.

I suppose it should’ve started last Sunday as I held a craft stall at Morley College Winter Fair and face painted lots of lovely children ( and a few adults too!)

Facepainting for Morley College Winter fair

Lots of bigger boys really loved having ‘tattoos’ painted on their arms. I did a whole array of fire breathing dragons and snakes.

Fire breathing dragon coming to life

One of the highlights of my day there was face painting lots of boys as vampires. Thanks to the Twilight movies and Robert Pattinson‘s blue sparkly face, I was easily able to convince the boys to indulge in a face full of glitter.

It’s not often a young man can have a sparkly face and be deemed by other boys to be ‘awesome’. That was some magic happening there.

Big up the sparkles I say.

 

Oh did I mention that I was also concurrently running a craft stall of my crochet goods that was being very ably (wo)manned by my youngest daughter? It was wonderful to find loving homes for my crochet creations and to feel genuine enthusiasm over things that I had created with my own hands. ( Nice to make a bit of money as well). I’m looking forward to my Christmas Eve Craft stall in Station Road Brixton on the 24th.

Oh yes, back to today Christmas started in earnest. I was working for a lovely Montessori Nursery School in Little Venice. I did two sessions for their children, telling my Christmas story featuring Bobby Bunny, Tabitha Cat and of course, naughty fairy Fifi who steals the star on top of Tabitha’s Christmas tree. Of course at the end Fifi returns the star as she is worried that if she doesn’t , Santa won’t bring her presents.

Santa and Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer starred in the story and the children were delighted to meet them. We sang Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer , Jingle Bells and When Santa got stuck up the chimney , Father Christmas ( he got stuck) and even managed to squeeze in a quick game of Sleeping Bunnies with Bobby Bunny.

It was a joy to bring Christmas Spirit to these wide eyed wonderful children. It really reminded me what I believe Christmas is really about : appreciating our children. Indulge in their wonderment, enter their belief in sleigh bells and Santa and Jingle bells, life is too short to go all Ebeneezer Scrooge. For me Christmas is not about money, it’s not about things, it’s about the feeling of being loved and loving.

 

Thank you Windmill Montessori for reminding me of the true spirit of Christmas.

Tomorrow another Montessori school and another Christmas show. I’m so lucky. I get to do Christmas at least 20 times each year with those amongst us who really care about the true spirit of Christmas.

There may be a global recession right now but we are rich beyond our ken.

Children are our gifts.

 

Christmas is a coming

So Halloween and Bonfire night have flown by, the nights are drawing in and the central heating is on. It must be almost Christmas.

Santa Claus is coming to town

 

Here at Diane’s Puppets, I’m taking bookings for Christmas parties for the home, corporate parties and nurseries.

I have a wonderful Christmas puppet show that is very festive but not religious, making it ideal for celebrating the Festive Season in our multicultural and multi-faith London .

I’ve taken my most popular characters Fifi the Fairy and Bobby Bunny and his friend Tabitha the Cat and they come together for one month of the year to tell a charming tale of the night before Christmas.

Expect chases and high action, peep-bo’s and sing songs with popular Christmas songs like Jingle Bells, Christmas trees and decorations and jolly good fun. Oh and there may be a visit from a puppet with a white beard, a big round belly and his red nosed friend.

This is a perfect show for all ages up to around 8 years old bringing the Christmas Spirit in stocking loads, all performed in an old fashioned Punch and Judy style booth.

Happy Christmas!

So if you fancy a festive puppet treat, hurry and book me now! Spaces are going fast.

The Christmas Booth show costs £140 for an  hours performance including a puppet introduction. Festive face painting is an optional extra.

 

 

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