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

Posts tagged ‘children’

Children’s birthday parties: A Lesson in Trust Building

As a children’s entertainer, I have a unique job requirement: I have to walk into a room full of  small children, none of whom know me, and instantly establish trust and rapport. There is no time to mess around and get it wrong, I’m only at a party for a very limited time. Creating this instant rapport isn’t easy. Children are the worlds best or worst audiences, depending on how you look at it. If you are an optimist like myself, you may agree with me that they are the best audiences as they are unflinchingly honest. They ‘smell’ fear and lack of integrity and will quickly walk away and do something else if you don’t immediately capture their attention. Unlike adult audiences who may politely clap even though they may inwardly criticize, the average 2 or 3 year old audience member will just simply walk off and find something to play with or even worse, cry. I can hear you saying ‘How is that positive?’ . Well, the flip side of that  brutal honest appraisal is that if children like you, they LIKE you. If you manage to capture an audience of young children, it is the most gratifying and satisfying audience to play to /( and in my case)play alongside.

I use many strategies to make my tiny audience members feel at ease. On the surface you will see a grown up woman acting silly. But behind this silliness is a very serious study of how children think and establish trust. It’s all about empathy, I have to put myself in their shoes and try and anticipate how they are feeling and how I would react if I were in their shoes. I ask myself, what would make the three year old me feel comfortable? Then I use that feeling to feed back to the children. It is never the same strategy, all children are different . One thing remains constant though: I will always play alongside the children rather than try and entertain them.

A puppet party

Establishing trust with Fifi the Fairy

Note in this picture I’ve created  a semi circle of chairs for the children to sit on or sit in front of. This creates a cozier setting in  a large space and determines the focus of where to sit/interact. If you like, this is one step of creating a boundary.( The link takes you to my previous post where I talk about how boundaries make small children feel safe). I try and position my chair a good way back from the children to allow them a safe space  and will only approach once I can feel the children relaxing  or if they approach me . This is a clear signal that they are feeling comfortable and are ready to play. The chairs also form a place where mummies and daddies can sit if they want to join in. ( It’s great when you do, believe me!) Sometimes the chairs are used for those children who are really nervous and they produce a space to hang behind. They can get closer if and when they feel more comfortable.

Once trust is established then it is time to play, in this case Sleeping Bunnies.

playing games at a puppet party

See the little bunnies sleeping...

You’ll have to look close to see those lovely bunnies playing the game, they’re all lying down and sleeping with the puppet bunny getting ready to jump up and hop. One little bunny was happy to watch. I would never force any child to do anything against their will, it’s all for fun after all! I find pushing a child to join in really doesn’t help. They will join in in their own good time or like this bunny here, just be perfectly happy watching others play. She did have a cuddle from the puppet bunny afterwards though! It’s the same situation for face-painting: I never pressurise a child to have their face painted, in fact I am very quick to reassure those children who clearly are not comfortable with face painting that I’m not going to ask them because I know they don’t like it.

So the next time you see this silly lady being silly at a party, try and spot the method in the madness. It’s there somewhere!

Thank you to my lovely client Hana for sending me these sweet pictures.

Just to reassure all my clients and future clients out there, I have been police checked and have an advanced CRB through Kids Company and have full Public Liability Insurance.

I discuss trust building in this blog post also: From Freak to Friend in Forty Minutes

A Cuddle from a Tiger Who came to Tea : A Real Life Fairy story

A true fairy story

Once upon a time there was a lady who brought fun and silly antics with her whenever she went out to work. Children's entertainer and puppeteer Diane

Like the seven dwarves in another fairy story she loved her job and would sing and whistle while she worked.

She loved bright colours and would tie a rainbow of ribbons and clip crocheted daisies in her hair. She really was a very happy lady.

One day she left her colourful house, with its angels who lived on the kitchen ceiling

Painted kitchen ceiling Madonna and Angels

The lady's kitchen ceiling

and pink leopards on the walls,

Pink leopard painted walls

Pink leopard walls in the lady's kitchen

and pretty magical mosaic fireplace

colourful mosaic fireplace

Magical fires burned here

stepping out into the cold air with a song in her heart and a bag of face -paints on her shoulder, dragging a pink suitcase full of funny puppets and cheeky characters behind her. The puppets grumbled as they rumbled across the cracked paving, bumpety, bumpety bump. The lady blew magical cold air smoke from her mouth as she ran for the big red bus. Rarrrr! She was breathing fire like a dragon.

Fire breathing dragon puppet

Rarrrrrrr!

The big red bus took her to a nearby land called Clapham . There was a big green park in the centre of this land and in the centre of the park there was a pond. It was so cold that the  ducks were skating on the frozen water. Brrr, their bottoms must’ve been so cold.

The lady trundled her grumbling puppets in her pink suitcase until she came to a door with a magical number painted on it. Bright bouncy balloons bobbed as she knocked on the door.

Ten little children and a  birthday boy called Rory were gathered in the house. Rory was three, what a big boy!

Grumbling no more, the puppets popped out of the pink suitcase one by one and made friends with the little boys and girls and big boy Rory. The funny rabbit Bobby Bunny made everyone giggle with his naughty snoring when he was supposed to be sleeping. He loved giggling with the boys and girls as they hopped together.

White rabbit puppet

Sleeping Bunny Bobby

A funny clucking hen and a mooing cow played a Dingly Dangly game and the lady kicked up her legs and did the Can Can which made the children giggle. A naughty monkey called Twinkle

Cheeky monkey puppet

Twinkle, my very cheeky baby monkey. A dear friend.

played Happy Birthday on the banana to Rory and learned how to say please. A fairy came to visit and sang Happy Birthday to Rory and sprinkled magic wishes on his toes.

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

Then tummies rumbled and it was time for tea.

In the kitchen the lady had laid out all her beautiful colours ready to paint the children’s faces. She painted princesses with golden tiaras, flowers and pink and tigers with terrible teeth and wiggly black stripes , all with very sparkly noses .

Tiger face painting

Diane says Rarrrrr!

Batman made sure everyone was safe. All parties need a Superhero, just in case, you never know.

Rory was painted as a tiger and had tiger paws to match. Now his face matched his very lovely name. Rory could roar with the best of tigers. RoAAAAAAR!

After a nice cup of tea the lady felt very happy. She really did love her job. Children around her were smiling and playing and pretending to be tigers and princesses.

Feeling satisfied , the lady went to pack away her cheeky puppets since they had all collapsed in a big exhausted heap after all the excitement of the party.

Rory the tiger came to help.

As the lady put the lion back in the pink suitcase, Rory said: I’d like a cuddle.

The lady asked : A cuddle from whom?

” The lion” answered Rory, who was feeling very brave now he was a 3 year old tiger.

So Rory had a cuddle from a sleeping lion.

The lady went to put back the chicken. She had stopped clucking and her feathers were ruffled and ready for bed.

“I’d like a cuddle” said Rory.

‘From the chicken? ‘asked the lady.

“Yes.”

So Rory cuddled the chicken.

The lady zipped up the suitcase , the puppets had all gone to bed.  Rory the terrible tiger stood still.

” I’d like a cuddle” said Rory the tiger.

” But they’ve all gone to bed! ” said the lady.

” Who do you want a cuddle from?”she asked.

“YOU!” said Rory the tiger.

So the lady went home, skipping and hopping, happy to have been cuddled by a tiger.

As she stepped down from the bus, powdery snow started to fall from the sky.

The lady sighed.

It had been a perfect day.

She unlocked her door and went into her colourful cosy  house to eat a slice of lemon drizzle cake and have a nice cup of tea.

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