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

Posts tagged ‘Child psychology’

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.)

 

 

Bring back the Bad Guy!

Puppeteer Diane and the Big Bad Wolf puppet

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

 

I have been entertaining children for over 17 years and I have noticed a very interesting thing: children have often been denied the delicious safe scare that the bad guy in fairy stories brings. Today’s very well meaning parents have not wanted to expose their little ones to the Big Bad Wolf or the Wicked Witch because they don’t want their child to be frightened or traumatised. Up to the age of 2, I recommend staying safe and sticking to a non scary show such as my Bobby Bunny Show which is specifically designed for the very young realists that are the under 2’s, as an eminent American child specialist, Dr Robert Needlman explains:
Even though the roots of fantasy stretch back into early childhood, children begin life as realists. Infants only view objects for what they are: a block is a block, a stick is a stick. Give a one-year-old a telephone and he might babble into it, but he won’t talk into a toy car or a shoe. It’s only later, between about 18 and 24 months that children start to understand symbolism–that is, that one thing can stand for something else. Symbolic thinking sparks an explosion of language development as children realize that every object and action is connected to a word or phrase. Robert Needlman M.D  F. A . A. P

For confident children of two and above, traditional fairy tales can bring a wealth of wonder , providing a rich source of fantasy, spectacular visual imagery and a less obvious and fairly serious bonus.  I offer  story telling sessions with puppets and props from my story telling apron series, including such tales as Thumbelina ( the joy of the teeny tiny) and the dysfunctional family yarn that is Cinderella amongst others.
Children’s literature has been largely sanitised (with the notable exception of the ever popular Harry Potter) to reflect the real world around us rather than the fantasy presented in traditional tales. As interesting as real life can be, it can also be very cruel and unforgiving.

How do we prepare our children for the harshness of real life experiences that they are bound one day to face in a manner that they can digest and assimilate?
The telling of fairy tales, complete with heroes, villains and ‘happy ever after’s’ can provide children with a framework of preparedness in symbolic form.
Consider the story of Hansel and Gretel where a small boy and his sister are abandoned by their mother and father. The children use their resourcefulness to outwit an old hag and find their way back to the father and restore the relationship to a happy ever after. This story reflects the struggle that all children face, to feel powerful in a big, often scary world. So, fantasy speaks to us on a very basic level, about what it means to become powerful, that is, to grow up.

Freudian Psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim in his book, Uses of Enchantment ( 1977) states:
Contrary to the ancient myth, wisdom does not burst forth fully developed like Athena out of Zeus’s head; it is built up, small step by small step, from most irrational beginnings.  Only in adulthood can an intelligent understanding of the meaning of one’s existence in this world be gained from one’s experiences in it.  Unfortunately, too many parents want their children’s minds to function as their own do—as if mature understanding of ourselves and the world, and our ideas about the meaning of life, did not have to develop as slowly as our bodies and minds.

….. Just because his life is often bewildering to him, the child needs even more to be given the chance to understand himself in this complex world with which he must learn to cope. To be able to do so, the child must be helped to make some coherent sense out of the turmoil of his feelings.  He needs ideas on how to bring his inner house into order, and on that basis be able to create order in his life.  He needs—and this hardly requires
emphasis at this moment in our history—a moral education which subtly, and by implication only, conveys to him the advantages of moral behavior, not through abstract ethical concepts but through that which seems tangibly right and therefore meaningful to him.

The child finds this kind of meaning through fairy tales…

I strongly believe we need to bring the Bad Guy back to childhood.
If you feel the same way, I have a few traditional ( and sometimes scary thrilling) tales to offer at Diane’s Puppets.

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