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

Posts tagged ‘attention span’

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!

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Thanks!

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.

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