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

Archive for the ‘nostalgia’ 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!

 

 

Punch and Judy: The Debate Continues

Watching Mr Punch , age 5

That's the way to do it!

My first experience of puppets was on Skegness beach.

Here I am, dolly cradled in my arm while I was transfixed by the antics of Mr Punch.

I couldn’t understand his strange squeaky voice and I never really understood the story but I was drawn in to this weird world with its shouting and slapsticks and cries of THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!

The crocodile ate the sausages and sometimes he even ate the baby. I took it all in my stride. I was a little scared of Mr Punch and never understood why he kept hitting everyone with his big stick but the fear was part of the thrill.

That was way back in 1969, I was 5 years old and England wasn’t politically correct.

Some may say those were better days, I’m not so sure. I appreciate people being sensitive to others feelings.

I grew up to be a children’s entertainer and puppeteer,  an artist and a mum of two girls and grandmother to one beautiful granddaughter who is my continuing inspiration.

Puppet lady Diane and her granddaughter

Grandma, what's that on your face?

I also grew up to be a feminist and understood  that the Punch and Judy story may not be a mythology that is terribly healthy for children in the long term.

It took time for me to get to that position though.

When I first started out on my journey as a Children’s Entertainer I thought that doing Punch and Judy was what was expected. So I made a set of characters and very handsome they were even if I say so myself. I sent away to have a swazzle made ( the secret voice changer to make Mr Punches peculiar voice) and practiced with this strange aluminium and tape contraption sitting on my tongue. I had plenty of near misses and almost swallowed the swazzle in getting my technique sussed. Still, it remained a challenge to make Mr Punch understandable and I understood only too well why I struggled as a child to understand his strange buzzy voice.

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

My Punch and Judy set, minus my very large crocodile.

Toby dog puppet by puppet show provider Diane

Traditional Toby dog to start the show

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

The very dysfunctional family

Big green crocodile puppet for birthday parties

No Punch and Judy is complete without this character

Let’s just say I made lots of very small children cry with this very first performance. They didn’t cry because the show was terrible, it was just that I scared them. Today’s children are more sensitive than the 1969 lot! Maybe that is because in today’s world , there is a lot more to be afraid of. ( There’s a debate in there somewhere)

Punch and Judy didn’t start out as a children’s show. It was the satire of the day, the Spitting Image or Rory Bremner show of its time. This is why there is parody of domestic violence, drunkenness, child abuse and features classic characters such as the Beadle  and the Hangman. In a very silly scene, Mr Punch manages to trick the hangman into putting his own head into the noose to demonstrate how it was done, and Mr Punch hangs the hangman.

The show was a  morality tale , where Mr Punch is supposed to get his comeuppance in a final battle with the Devil himself. There was such public outcry when Mr Punch lost the battle to the Devil and was dragged down to hell, that the story morphed into Mr Punch finally beating the Devil and becoming the ante hero that we all know today. The morality tale  became twisted .

So unless I get a specific request and lots of nagging to bring Mr Punch out again I shall stick to making children laugh rather than cry at birthday parties and puppet show events.

Mr Punch will remain in hibernation until further notice.

THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!

Fairy Pretty

I love fairies.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a fairy.

As a child, my favourite book was an oversized picture book ( probably about as big as the 4-year-old me) all about fairies. I would sit for hours on end, pouring over this magical book , dreaming of being a fairy.

I was never dainty. Despite this, I still had ambitions of growing up to become a fairy.

It never really came to pass. Well not exactly…

I now become a fairy through the magic of puppetry. When I take Fifi the Fairy out of her bag, she borrows my spirit and in the words of the lovely Spice Girls “Two become One”.

I did also, in a moment of post divorce/thirty somethingth madness, acquire a dodgy fairy tattoo. Children seem to love it though, but I always tell them it was a bad idea. Even though it is a fairy.

I have also crocheted two fairies. One of them I have named Fifi. I do hope the original Fifi the Fairy doesn’t mind. The other one is an amigurumi fairy, cute and dumpy ( a little like my fairy self). They’re both on sale on my new Folksy site .

Dumpy cute amigurumi fairy and her toadstool.

Isn't she pretty?

Fifi the crochet fairy in her box

Wings and curls detail

Anyone that knows me, knows I have visits from a real life fairy every day.

She is the cutest one of all.

 

 

 

The Magic of Puppets

 

I’m not a great fan of magic; unless we’re talking Dynamo ( now he is just special).

You know what I mean, that flouncy, hand wafting, mis-directional camp affair that passes for performance on the Las Vegas stage. David Blaine used to intrigue me until he locked himself in a cube and went without dinner for a while. That killed it for me.

Most birthday party entertainers do some magic.

I don’t. Why is that?

I’m a terrible liar.

Without wanting to give the game away to those who really and truly believe in magic,  magic is all about lying. It’s about illusion, convincing people that stuff that is impossible is real.

To be a convincing magician, you have to be able to look people in the eye and say ‘That’s magic’, in inimitable Paul Daniels fashion. I’m not capable of that, I’m afraid.

If I did magic, I’d just want to tell children how it is done; that would make me a bit of a killjoy. I’d rather not. I’d rather stick to puppet magic.

I can’t even mislead children when they tell me that the puppets I use aren’t real. I agree, well, in a manner of speaking. I tell them that the puppet is real,  but that the animal /character isn’t real. After all, it would be really scary if the monkey puppet I was using was a real monkey, and a talking one at that. Now that would really freak me out, let alone a bunch of children. That honest explanation seems to put children at ease, especially when I explain that the puppet has to borrow my voice to speak. I’m  not a ventriloquist, nor do I try to be. I don’t find it necessary. For me the magical aspect of puppetry is that the puppeteer brings the puppet to life through belief. If the puppeteer believes in the puppet, the puppet will animate and be believable as a character in it’s own right.

As a child, my first experience of puppets was Mr Punch on the seafront at Skegness Beach.

Watching Mr Punch , age 5

Mr Punch in turn thrilled and repelled me. I couldn’t understand his squeaky raspy voice or why he was hitting Judy with his slapstick but I didn’t really care. What I saw was strange and fascinating and other-wordly. I was hooked.

Off to the beach with mummy.

Shari Lewis‘s Lamb Chop, the gorgeous sock puppet won my heart on our black and white television. Then with the advent of colour television came Basil Brush.

Basil Brush

Image via Wikipedia

He was real to me then and still is now. I cannot imagine Basil the lovely English gentleman fox with his distinguishing laugh      ( Ha ha ha ha ha ..BOOM BOOM!)

having a person attached to him. To my child’s eyes he wasn’t a puppet, he was just Basil : the fox that spoke. There was no other explanation needed.

Then along came Thunderbirds.

That show messed with my head.

Those puppets looked so real to me . I remember having a real problem working out whether they were real ( as in real actors) or not. I saw the awkward walk ( beautifully lampooned in Team America) and doubted my convictions , then they would put in a close up of a real hand operating machinery and I would be back to my original idea that they were indeed real people. So confusing.

I see this interesting quandary echoed on my children clients faces every time I enter into the magic of puppets. I can see their eyes questioning how real the puppets are every time they engage and invest in the puppet’s personality. When it all gets to much for them then they ask the question if they are real.

My answer satisfies them enough for them to still talk to the puppet once it is off my hand and back in the suitcase, shouting their goodbyes at the empty shell of the puppet.

Now that’s  the sort of magic I love.

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