1. Do your research
If you’re going to spend some money on entertainment for your child’s party then you’ll also want to spend some time making sure you get the right deal. It may be obvious but think about what your child likes and what they don’t like. If your child has a phobia of clowns then you may want to steer clear of these funny folk.
It's important that you also check each entertainer's legal details such as current Working With Children Check and Public Liability Insurance.
2. Know what you’re paying for… What am I paying for?
When hiring entertainment, you are paying for more than just the hour or so that an entertainer will be at your party. The entertainer needs to cover expenses such as travel, insurance, advertising, equipment, and the time spent rehearsing to hold a group of children’s attention for an hour or so.
All of these things add up so don’t be surprised that you may spend hundreds of dollars for what looks like an hour of work.
BUT! You don’t want to be surprised by hidden charges. Some entertainers and companies will charge a one-off payment while others have a base rate and then charge extra for things like travel, amount of children, extra entertainers and any nasty damages that might occur.
Moral of the story is… Get a quote and check all the details before paying.
3. Food Glorious Food!
Everybody loves food. That’s a no brainer. And children not only love food, but if they haven’t eaten, you’ll run the risk of having a group of flaked out, irrational, miserable, party-poopers.
Plan your party around meal times and make sure that the children have eaten before trying to hand them over to a magician or pinning a tail on a donkey.
4. What’s the Time Mr Wolf?
Timing is crucial. Get it wrong and you’ll be curling into the fetal position while the tired tykes run riot. This is more important for children under the age of 6 but let’s face it, nobody functions well when tired.
The best times of day for kids are early in the morning and after food. This usually falls into the 9:30am-11:00am bracket. The next best time is around the 1:00pm mark after a nap and food.
5. Location, Location, Location
There are many factors to consider here. If you’re outside then you don’t have to vacuum the grass, unless that floats your boat of course. Or maybe you don’t want to spend hours looking at weather predictions so you’ll plan for the inside option.
Whether you choose inside or outside here a few pointers to consider for making the entertainment work.
Save a space for the entertainer. If they need to set up equipment then make sure that they can do this without being bombarded by children or tripping over scooters and knee high chairs.
If the entertainment involves speaking or music then inside will work better on most occasions. If hosting inside is not an option then try to reduce any background noise outside and hopefully the entertainer has either a loud voice or a P.A system.
The entertainer should be prepared for all scenarios but you don’t want to set them up for disaster.
6. Let the Entertainer do their job
You’re paying the entertainer to make things a bit easier for you by amusing the children and keeping them occupied. If you’ve planned well, have chosen a good time and have fed the kids then you might have some time to chat to friends or perhaps even relax and enjoy some entertainment yourself.
Also, don’t feel like you have to help the entertainer setup and pack up. Your paying them to do that so go and enjoy yourself.
7. Don’t Over Do It
Everybody wants the best for their child but children also want the best for their parents (they realise this when they’re older).
Be reasonable and don’t pack too much stuff in. A party that is short and sweet and has the kids smiling as they walk out the door is ideal. A four-hour marathon that involves several party games, face painting, trivia, jumping castle, a banquet fit for kings and queens followed by an hour of crying and fighting as kids lose the plot… is probably not ideal. But it does happen.
You’ll be exhausted after an hour or two and so will the kids, so keep it short.
And if you are having entertainment then don’t put on everything at once. You don’t want to waste your money by passing a parcel or bringing out the cake while your entertainer has just started.
8. It’s all about me!
Hopefully your entertainer will be the centre of attention at some stage. If they’re good, then they will also make the birthday girl or boy feel very special too.
Some children may not like the idea that that they are not getting all the attention and that some clown is getting all the laughs at their party. Who can blame them? Some adults don’t like that either.
This scenario is best avoided by talking to your child before the party. Let them know that they are special and loved and that someone will be coming who will be a lot of fun for everyone. Every child is different so tactics will vary but it is important that the birthday child knows that they may need to share toys, friends and stage time.
*This article was first published on a blog for Melody Shakers.
Author: David Thurlow
I’m a Model, if you know what I mean…?
How many of you now have Right Said Fred’s biggest hit playing through your head? Firstly, I apologise if you do. Secondly, I hope I’ve made a point. Actually, I’m hoping to make two points.
1st Point - Music is a sticky and powerful medium. It has the ability to stay in our minds, being preserved for decades, with the potential to be regurgitated in beautiful clarity well into our late years. There are not many things that have this powerful ability. Even in cases of severe amnesia, the human mind has the ability to draw upon musical experiences while most other memories and skills have faded away.
An amazing story that is well worth looking into is that of Clive Wearing. The two most prominent things in this man’s minute-long memory were the love for his wife and love for music. You can watch a short documentary about him here or listen to a fantastic audio presentation by Radiolab. I highly recommend doing both.
2nd Point – Modelling. I’m not talking about catwalks or clothing that looks like it has been made by a 4 year old with craft scissors and a mosquito net. I’m talking about “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, in the best sense of that phrase.
From brushing teeth to using manners, leading by example is the most important teaching method that a parent can adopt. If you want your child to appreciate music, then you should lead the way. And here are some really easy ways that you can do that.
1. Read with your child – especially poetry.
The links between language and music are extremely strong. To some degree, music and speech are the same thing. Both have elements of pitch, rhythm, articulation, phrasing and timbre (tone colour).
Not convinced? Then try this. Say out loud, with meaning, “I’m sad”. Now, say out loud, also with meaning, “I’m happy!” Did you notice that the direction of your pitch changed for each? We frequently use pitch in our speech to convey our feelings.
So here’s what to do. First of all you should be reading to your child. It’s a great way to bond and it will do wonders for their reading. Second of all, read with emotion, expression and clear articulation. The more emphases you place on your expression, the more musical your reading will be.
Poetry is perfect for this. Not only is it filled with expression but it also has strong rhythmic elements such as metre and pulse. The ability to recognise rhythm in speech is a skill that is easily transferable to rhythm in music.
In terms of what to read, most books by Dr Seuss are great.
You can find out more about the link between music and language in articles such as this or in this brilliant podcast by Radiolab (I do like Radiolab).
2. Dance with your child – Even if you can’t dance well
Don’t worry about how well you can dance. Even if your dance moves resemble someone who has their elbows and knees permanently locked while trying to swat flies, dancing with your child will encourage them to dance also. But why do we want to encourage our children to dance?
There are many obvious reasons why dance is beneficial.
Here are some reasons why dance is important for developing musical skills
Overall, our visual and spatial senses are very effective at representing arbitrary ideas. Some ideas in music are not concrete enough to explain in words and this is where something like dance becomes extremely useful.
You can research Dalcroze (Eurhythmics) to find more information in regards to this topic.
3. Sing – Even if it doesn’t sound good.
Everybody can sing. Not everybody can sing well however.
The same point applies for singing as it does dancing. Even if you’re terrible, do it. Make the most of it while you’re children are young enough to not give you feedback on your singing.
If you can sing well, that’s fantastic. If you can’t, then at least you’re setting up the premise that singing is normal and enjoyable. If your child accepts singing as a normal and enjoyable practice then guess what! They’ll probably sing more.
Singing is extremely beneficial for developing a good ear. A good ear will help to identify incorrect pitches and make adjustments when necessary. It will also help with improvising and composition (song writing).
One of the best things you can do is get some singing lessons yourself. Getting a private tutor is great but (dare I say it) YouTube is an excellent starting point. And it’s free! Brett Manning is just one example of someone who offers some quality singing tutorials for free (and paid if you want).
If you want to take singing really seriously, then look into the teaching method of solfege (Do-Re-Mi, Sound of Music stuff). You may also be interested in the Kodaly method as this heavily relies on singing and solfege. You’d be best finding a qualified music teacher for these methods.
4. Play an instrument – Even if you don't know how!
If you can, try to play an instrument while your children are around. They will love to see you do this and it will inspire them to play an instrument too. Children imitate their parents. From carpentry to breastfeeding, children will want to do what their parents do. If you want your child to learn an instrument, then the best thing you can do is practice an instrument yourself.
If for whatever reason, you can’t play an instrument, then play recorded music; at least once a day. And you can play anything. It doesn’t really matter. Classical, Reggae, Rock, Country, Jazz, Dance. Play music that you enjoy but also give them some variety. The wider the influence, the more diverse their understanding will be.
The Main Idea
As with all of the points mentioned, the most important thing is to lead by example and have fun! If you enjoy doing all of these things then you are creating positive experiences that will stay with your children for life.
Even if they don’t end up playing an instrument or become a virtuoso violinist, you will have broadened their experience, given them important life skills, exposed them to the beauty of the arts and most importantly, spent quality time with your child.
Fun Stuff for Kids (The Blog) is all about providing parents, teachers and child carers with helpful hints, educational articles and fun ideas that children will love.
David Thurlow is an educator, entertainer, musician, husband, father and casual blogger