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

Posts tagged ‘Entertainment’

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.)

 

 

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.

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

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 brief history of Diane’s Puppets in Pictures

Puppets, puppets, puppets!

A picture is worth a thousand words , so how many words are lots of pictures worth?

Here is a collection of my puppets and I, let the pictures tell the story.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with Bobby Bunny puppet and Tabitha cat puppet

Bobby Bunny, Tabitha Cat and me, Diane.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Before the recession hit I used to have lovely Aunty Lena

London kids entertainers and puppet show providers in action

We made a great team

Kids moving at a birthday party at a Diane's Puppets party

Getting the children to stretch and wiggle

Child entranced by a puppet show at a birthday party

Bobby Bunny hopping in his show

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane in her puppet booth after a show

Now it's just me but the show must go on!

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with her face painted like a tiger

Diane can be fierce and brave like a tiger

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with her face painted like an Easter Bunny

Or gentle like a bunny

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane face painted as a butterfly

Or magical and colourful like a butterfly

London Children's entertainer Diane painting faces

What would you like to be painted as?

Child with butterfly facepainting

You're a pretty pink butterfly!

Fierce pirate face painting

Or you could be a fierce pirate oo arrgh!

Pirate captain puppet by kids entertainer and puppeteer Diane

with a pirate show to match!

Pretty mermaid puppet by puppeteer Diane

We all love a pretty mermaid, this one can fight too!

Shark puppet in pirate puppet show by Diane's Puppets

Watch out , there's a shark behind you!

Jester rod puppet

Whatever show you choose, Diane promises to keep it silly and to keep you laughing

London Children's entertainer Diane waves

Until it's time to wave goodbye!

Diane’s Puppets guarantees a fabulous time for all boys and girls at their birthday party and Diane promises to  be a silly sausage always. Hope to see you soon at a London Children’s birthday party near you!

It’s Party Time!

The Passage of Time

Image by ToniVC via Flickr

So you’ve decided to plan a birthday party for your child’s special day.

You’ve decided on the date, chosen a theme and decided how many children to invite.

Have you ever considered the importance of the time that you host the party and how it may impact on how the party is scheduled? Have you ever considered the timing of the eating session and how that impacts on the behaviour of the children at the party?

I hope to help break things down for you in this post so you can make clear informed choices for your child’s next birthday party , to make it the best party it can possibly be.

 

Traditional tea time

From 3pm up until 6pm

The traditional tea time party is usually the first choice of most people, commonly starting at 3pm and ending at 5pm or thereabouts.

If this is your first choice time slot, do remember if you are going to book an entertainer and /or a venue do book well in advance to ensure that you manage to secure that time slot. It may be the first choice of many other parents hosting a party that day too.

At a Diane’s Puppet’s party, I’ve found that the most successful schedule is to have  45 minutes to an hour’s entertainment before having tea, leaving the thirty minutes tea time at the traditional hour of 4pm. This leaves thirty minutes at the end ( I usually perform a puppet show in a booth at this point) sending the children home, happy and fully partied out at 5pm.

This timing works well on weekends or during holidays when school turnout isn’t an issue or when there aren’t too many younger siblings who rely on afternoon naps.

Midweek tea parties

Midweek parties are best held after 4pm, allowing children to get to the party immediately after school.

Do remember that the children will be coming to the party a little tired and ravenous after a long school day, so it will work best for all to feed them first. Allow 15 minutes for them to arrive / change out of school clothes and then sit them down to have something to eat. Maybe leave the cake and sweets until later on in the party to avoid the inevitable sugar rush.

At a Diane’s Puppets Party I often face paint during the eating time to avoid the boring queuing up.

Facepainter too

I'm a bunny wabbit

Weekend parties

If your first choice tea time slot has already been booked when you call up your entertainer, have you ever considered having a lunch time party?

Lunchtime Parties ( 11-1pm) ( or 10.30am-12.30)

Many of my clients have become firm fans of the lunchtime party once they have tried it. This party time slot is fantastic for those parents who are organising a party for a child with younger siblings as it doesn’t clash with nap times, allowing the younger siblings to be able to enjoy the party too. Your birthday child doesn’t have to nag you all morning about when their party is as the party begins when they are fresh and ready and full of excitement.

One of the biggest benefits of hosting a lunchtime party is that there is very little wastage when it comes to the eating time. Instead of throwing away a mountain of disregarded sandwiches after a tea party, why not prepare a simple hot dish of pasta or shepherds pie and watch the children eat it all up!

This can be very cost-effective too and is also much less labour intensive to prepare than the traditional snack foods of tea time.

Children are always hungry at lunch time , I’ve never seen food go to waste at a lunch time party.

At a Diane’s Puppets party, I usually suggest scheduling the eating time at 12 noon when the children will be good and hungry and really ready to wolf down their food like the Big Bad Wolf!

The children go home after a puppet show that finishes at 1pm leaving you with the rest of the day to put up your feet and relax.

The birthday child will appreciate having the afternoon to leisurely tear open their presents when they’re not too tired to enjoy the experience.

 

Times to avoid

There are times that clients sometimes request parties that cut right across tea and lunchtime.

Parties that are held between 1-3 pm or 2-4 pm are really awkward in so many ways.

From an entertainer’s perspective, parties held at these times limit the day to only one party as there is no leeway to be able to fit in another party in the day, given the travel and change over times needed. For an entertainer this doesn’t make good business sense nor does it help our other clients. We like to try to be available to as many clients as possible, we hate having to turn down customers  and disappoint our young clients.

From the guests perspective, these times straddle eating times, making it awkward to know when to feed children. They’re both straight after lunch but before tea , so unless you are planning having a party that doesn’t really entail feeding the children, this isn’t ideal. The eating time at a party isn’t just about feeding,  it creates a good break that punctuates the party. It is very hard to maintain concentration for two hours straight even for an adult, let alone a small excitable child.

Also remember that your guests may have other parties to go to, and if your party straddles that awkward time zone, your party may be the one that is not attended.

Ultimately, the client is king. We entertainers want to help our clients to have the best party experience they can possibly have.

I hope this information has helped you make an informed choice as to which party time would suit you and your child’s party needs the best.

Happy partying!

 

Diane

Hope to see you at a birthday party soon!

 

 

 

 

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