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Please Choose Carefully

More Advice To Ensure You Get The Right Children’s Entertainer

In October 2015, I wrote about How To Find The Best Children’s Entertainer for your event. This latest blog is a sort of reminder or a Part Two.

I’ve titled it ‘Please Choose Carefully’ because I appreciate that you could be spending a lot of money. And if you ‘get stung’ by a disreputable entertainer, it could put you off all entertainers. Hopefully this short piece will stop that happening.

So first of all…

Are They Established?

Avoid Fly By Night Entertainers

If you were to ask Children’s Entertainers how they started, you might get some interesting replies. Some are the same as me, they did it for their children and then developed from there. Others have had a lifelong interest in Magic or Performance and this has become their path. But there are some who have started because they see it as a way to earn money.

When there are tough economic times, or when major employers make redundancies, some people look for a quick way to make money. To an outsider, a Children’s Entertainer’s job is easy and it is just what they are looking for. They buy a bright T-Shirt, some chef trousers, a couple of Magic Tricks and they call themselves an Entertainer. Now, of course, everyone has to start somewhere but these people build a nice glossy website and advertise that they can do your Child’s Birthday Party, but don’t have any experience or practice. They only gain the experience at your expense. In effect, you are paying for them to practise and sometimes with horrendous results.

Then there are the dabblers, the ones who are trying everything in an effort to get your money. One day it might be Character Parties, next it’s Discos, then a Bouncy Castle or two, then Catering, anything as long it attracts your attention. These types generally are changing their Business Name over and over. As one grand idea fails, they start something else up. Or, as soon as one business gets a bad reputation, they change the name to disguise the fact.

So when you are searching, look for some information about How They Started or How Long They Have Been Going For. An interesting thing to do is to Google their address and see if any different Business Names are listed.

You might be surprised!

Next…

What Do They Look Like?

Stay Away From Cartoon Entertainers

One of these pictures in an accurate representation of what I look like. Can you guess which one it is?

I mentioned this in the other blog, but it seems more and more entertainers are doing it so I’ll go on about it again.

When choosing the Children’s Entertainer or Magician for your Party, make sure that you see a recent photograph of them, maybe one that’s a couple of years old. If there are no photographs, or if there are only cartoons – Be Worried! The problem with the cartoons is that they generally do not look anything like the Entertainer. They are actually what the entertainer would like to think he or she looks like.

My (slightly controversial) view is that they only have the cartoons done, because they know that a recent photograph would put people off!

By the way, this photograph was taken in May of this year.

Finally…

Will You Get Who You Booked?

Don't be fobbed off

If you have searched and found the perfect Entertainer for your Party – That is Who You Should Have!

I’m sorry to say that there are some Entertainers who will take one booking and then drop it for a higher paid one. So instead of getting the chosen Magician, a substitute turns up. Sometimes, the first the booker knows about it is when the stranger walks in. In my business, this is something that all good Entertainers frown upon, but it doesn’t stop it happening.

So always get some form of confirmation that you are going to get the person you have booked. Every reputable Entertainer, or Magician will provide you with a document of confirmation. This might be an e-mail or paper contract. If you don’t get this, Be Worried.

So there you go, my second rant about Choosing The Right Entertainer For You is over. I truly do hope you get the right person, because, like I mentioned, one bad Entertainer ruins it for all the good ones.

Of course, while you are here on my website, I would like to mention that I’ve been established since 1998, only use photographs and always issue confirmation paperwork. So you might like to enquire 🙂

Don’t Forget!

Things To Remember For Your Birthday Party

Birthday Party Checklist

To be honest, organising your Children’s Birthday Party can be stressful.

And sometimes when you’re stressed, it’s easy to forget stuff.

So here is a checklist to help remind you.

THE CHILD (VERY IMPORTANT)

THE CAKE

SOME CANDLES

A KNIFE (FOR THE CAKE)

LIGHTER / MATCHES

BANNERS & DECORATIONS

DRAWING PINS

SELLOTAPE (FOR WHEN DRAWING PINS AREN’T ALLOWED!)

BLUTAC (FOR WHEN SELLOTAPE ISN’T ALLOWED!!)

WHITETAC (FOR WHEN BLUETAC ISN’T ALLOWED!!!)

BALLOONS

PUMP (SAVE YOUR PUFF)

SOME STRING (JUST IN CASE)

A PAIR OF SCISSORS

FOOD

TABLECLOTHS

PLATES (PAPER OR PLASTIC TO SAVE WASHING UP)

DRINKS FOR THE CHILDREN

TEA, COFFEE, SUGAR & MILK FOR THE ADULTS

CUPS (PAPER OR PLASTIC TO SAVE BREAKAGES)

SERVIETTES

WET WIPES (TO CLEAN OFF THOSE CHOCCY MOUSTACHES)

KITCHEN ROLLS (IN CASE THE ADULTS SPILL THEIR DRINKS)

PARTY BAGS

BIN BAGS (FOR THE RUBBISH AND TO PUT THE PRESENTS IN)

CLING FILM / FOOD BAGS (FOR ANY LEFTOVER FOOD)

OH AND TAKE SOME £1 COINS FOR THE LECCY METER (I HAVE BEEN TO A HALL WHERE THEY WERE NEEDED)

Doing It Yourself?

SOME TIPS FOR ORGANISING YOUR OWN CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

 Mister Tall DIY Party

Hopefully I’m not talking myself out of a job, but here is some advice about running your own Children’s Birthday Party

How long should the party be?

Plan for your children’s party to be a maximum of two hours. Some parents do have three hour parties. This is a very long time for children, as they can find it very tiring. Whatever you decide, I recommend you split your time in to short segments, with a different activity in each segment. This will keep the children occupied and will hold their attention. The food time will be one of these segments, but here’s a thing – If you plan for the children to take 30 minutes to eat; they will take 10! And if you plan for them to take 10 minutes, yes, you guessed it, they’ll take 30!!!

How much party food do I need?

You know how it is when you are preparing for your party, you are worried that there won’t be enough food. So you make lots of sandwiches, get plenty of nibbles and tons of sweet things. Then at the end of the party you have lots of sandwiches, plenty of nibbles and tons of sweet things left over! I have found that the best way to avoid having lots of leftover food is to make up a food package for each child. You can buy a party box or colourful food bag for each guest and fill it with the party snacks. Have a few of these packs as spare, just in case extra guests arrive, but you should find you won’t have a mountain of leftovers.

How many children shall I invite?

Generally speaking, children like to invite their class mates to their party. So that could be thirty children. Therefore if you are holding a party for two children, you could have up to sixty kids! That is a lot of noise! The thing is, you might invite that many and prepare to feed that many, but only have half as many turn up on the day. So…

How can I be sure of how many children will arrive?

Hmmm, well, who knows?!? There can be a problem with parents actually replying to invites. I’ll be honest I have been at parties where the Birthday children’s parents really didn’t know how many children were going to turn up. Here are a couple of ways that you might get some clues…

To make sure not so many children are away, avoid holding your party during school holidays – perhaps arrange it for the last weekend before the end of term, or the first weekend after the start of term.

Try to get the invited children’s parents’ mobile numbers – then text them to ask if they are coming. And maybe send a reminder a few days before.

Facebook – as above, send them a message, so they give to you an answer.

Finally, be prepared for extras! It’s not uncommon for a sibling or two to be brought along to the party as well.

Latecomers and Early Birds

Whatever time you decide to start your party, there will always be someone who arrives early and someone who arrives late. It’s just one of those things. If the parents stay, provide some seating for them and maybe some beverages. If they drop and run, do make sure that you have a contact number for them and remind them what time the party finishes.

What games shall I do?

There are loads of traditional games that you can do. Children like musical bumps and statues, but they don’t like being eliminated. Also if you have a lot of children at your party and you eliminate most of them, you’ll have a hoard of restless children milling around. So think of ways of playing games where everyone stays in. Remember, children do like to run around and they also like to play ‘Boys V Girls’ games.

This might be a helpful tip – Be sure to have one point of focus for the children, a loud voice or amplified voice. And have something to play music loud enough.

Sometimes parents play a game (like Pass The Parcel) with the aim of giving every child a small prize. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this. I have seen the last children to get their prize become upset because they are last and have also seen children get forgotten.

Balloons

Nearly every Children’s Birthday party has balloons. So I thought I’d give them a little mention. They are great to use on a gate post or front door to show where the party is. They are great decorations on walls or in some form of sculpture. They also make great footballs, rugby balls and weapons. I’m not saying that as a suggestion. It is a fact and if you have some balloons on the floor, or within reach, they will be used in that way. Just be prepared.

Also if you have a special helium balloon, which is for the Birthday Child, keep it safely out of reach. Keep it special and then it can be enjoyed for long after the party.

Scared by the whole idea?

The idea of having to entertain a couple of dozen partied up children for one hundred and twenty minutes might fill you with dread. Well it can be done and you will survive. But if you really are scared and don’t fancy the challenge and live in Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Wiltshire or Dorset, book me and I’ll run your whole party for you.

You won’t need to worry, it will be less stressful and you might even enjoy it!

Home or Away?

Do You hold Your Child’s Birthday Party at Home or in a Hall?

Kids Party Clean Up

So you’ve decided that you are going to have a birthday party for your child, but where is the best place to hold it?

Are you happy for all of their friends to come into your home? Or is it better to book a large room or hall and let them run riot there?

Well, I hope I can make you aware of some of the pros and cons about both.

AT HOME

There are advantages with holding your children’s party at home.

Cost – It’s free!

Availability – You can have the party anytime you like!

Travel – You live there!

And you know exactly what it’s like.

You can arrange which rooms you are going to use and make as much space as you need. It’s possible (weather permitting) that you can make use of the garden as well.

One thing which is important to consider is, how many children are you inviting? If you are getting the whole class to come along, do you have the room for 30 or so children? If you haven’t, then you should keep a cap on the numbers. Invite best friends only, or only the girls, or only the boys.

If you do have room for that many children, be sure to clear the room which they will be using. Get the settees pushed back to the walls and move any valuable (or not so valuable) ornaments out of the way. Children do like to run around, so you really do need to make sure they have the space to do so.

Regardless of the number of children you have invited, be prepared for mess. Unfortunately there is a very high chance that someone will spill a drink, or drop a piece of chocolate cake. So if you have a lovely cream carpet in your living room, it’s best to keep that room out of bounds!

One more thing about having the party at home is to consider how the children will behave. A party is often the only time class friends meet up outside of school. So when they meet, they will act like they do at school. Imagine what children do at playtime, they run about, they play games, they play fight and sometimes actually fight. This is how they may behave in your home. Be prepared! Make sure that there is some structure that will keep them occupied. It might sound a bit OTT, but have a timetable in mind for how the party will go. Be flexible though, because sometimes what seems a great idea in your head doesn’t go so smoothly on the day!

The final thing is the cleaning up when they all go. Well to be honest, you are likely to have that whether you are at home or a hall. But the advantage of cleaning up at home is that you can take your time. There’s no pressure to ‘be out’.

IN A HALL

This could be a Village Hall, Community Centre, Scout Hut, Social Club or Church Hall. It is going to cost something to hire and is probably going to have time slots of availability. But the big advantage is space!

This is the most likely option when you are inviting the whole class. A good hall will have space for tables to be set up for when the children eat and still have plenty of room for them to play.

You may not have to travel too far to find a good venue. But an important thing to consider is parking. If the weather is bad and you are ferrying party food to and from your car, you don’t want to be miles away. Also, if it’s difficult for you to park, it’s going to be hard for your guests, which could make them late.

Something to look out for in your hall is a Sound Limiter. This is a ‘box’ which is fitted at one end of the room and it monitors the sound volume. If the sound gets too loud, it will cut out the electricity. These devices are fitted to stop loud music being a nuisance to the neighbours, but are sometimes set so sensitively that children can cause a cut out.

When you book your hall, be sure to get some form of confirmation and a contact telephone number. Many halls are run by volunteers and sometimes they are very good and sometimes they are… ur… a little bit too casual. I have experienced these casual caretakers at quite a few parties. On more than one occasion, they have been late opening up the venue. Instead of having half an hour to set up, the parents have only got into the hall five minutes before the party was due to start. This really does cause unnecessary stress. If you have a contact number and send them a reminder on the day before your party, you should avoid this.

Also when booking the venue, be sure that you do have enough time to set up the room how you want and pack away afterwards. I know of a venue in Portsmouth, that only allows fifteen minutes between bookings. That means one party has to clean away in seven and a half minutes and the other set up in the same time. Again, this is unnecessary stress.

To sum up, the advantage of a hall is that there is much more room and there is no chance that any of your stuff getting damaged!

Whether you decide on Home or Hall – The Amazing Mister Tall can provide the perfect party package!

The Quest For The Perfect Pass The Parcel

A light hearted look at one of the nation’s ‘favourite’ traditional party games

In this article, I will endeavour to discover the best way to play Pass The Parcel. I’d like to start off by saying that it isn’t one of my favourite games. In fact, I’m not a fan! If requested, I will play it at parties, but prefer to play better games instead. By the end of this piece, I either will have converted myself into a fan, or converted you into my way of thinking.

I’ll start with its origins…

Pass The Parcel was first played in Neolithic times. It was invented by a caveman called Dug and his friend, Neville. Instead of a parcel, they used a rock. A few things stopped the game being a success; they didn’t have paper, they didn’t have music and there was just two of them.

Moving on to The Dark Ages, Pass The Parcel was played by many many people. Again, there were problems… It was dark! So they didn’t know who had the parcel, if they had unwrapped it and what it was when it was unwrapped.

It was in Victorian times that Pass The Parcel really became the nation’s favourite. It was so popular that hundreds and hundreds of people would take part, with games lasting for weeks. It was said that there was so much paper from the unwrapping, that you could have seen it from space.

So how do you play Pass The Parcel?

Well there are no hard and fast rules, but here is the usual way the game is played. (Or should I say the way that parents anticipate the game will be played.)

The children sit on the floor in a circle.

A parcel is given to one of the children.

Music plays and as the music plays the parcel is passed from one child to another.

When the music stops, the child holding the parcel unwraps one layer of the parcel.

The music restarts and the parcel is passed on again.

The previous two steps are repeated until the last piece of paper is removed and a large prize is revealed.

Everybody claps and cheers for the winner.

Where can potential problems occur when playing Pass The Parcel?

The children sit on the floor in a circle.

A parcel is given to one of the children.

Music plays and as the music plays the parcel is passed from one child to another.

When the music stops, the child holding the parcel unwraps one layer of the parcel.

The music restarts and the parcel is passed on again.

The previous two steps are repeated until the last piece of paper is removed and a large prize is revealed.

Everybody claps and cheers for the winner.

I’ll go through each of the potential problems.

The children sit on the floor in a circle. Getting twenty, or so, under sixes to sit in a circle is as easy as juggling with live salmon! They sit in all different places, they sit so close that they are piled up or they sit so far away, the game could be called Post The Parcel! Little Jessica doesn’t want to sit with Little Johnny and nobody wants to sit near Ralph. So the way to get the children sitting in a circle is to trick them! While they are standing up, get them all to hold hands. This still isn’t easy, but is better. Once they are all holding each other’s hand, they are in a ring (see you’ve tricked them). Now get them to sit and you are in a position to start the game. Phew!

A parcel is given to one of the children. This is the easiest task of the game, but consider what you have wrapped the parcel up in and how well you wrapped it! Wrapping paper is the obvious choice, followed by tissue paper and then maybe a newspaper. But beware if the newspaper is The Sun. It’s best not to include page 3, with its picture of Delilah, aged 23 from Cumbria!! And use a little bit of tape to keep the parcel wrapped, not a whole roll of sellotape.

If I do play Pass The Parcel, I use specially made cloth bags.

Music plays and as the music plays the parcel is passed from one child to another. Now this is where the trouble starts. Little children just love to receive a parcel, it must be for them. “What? Pass it on to the next girl? I don’t think so, it’s mine, I’ve been given it by the very nice grown up. Why should I give it to someone else?” This is what the average three year old is thinking, so you have to encourage them to pass it on and then of course the next child thinks the same and so on and so on. It is only the experienced party goers, the professionals, who are probably about six or seven years old, that know how to play the game. So if your party is for under fives, you might want to hire some seven year olds to help.

One thing I do is include forfeits or challenges. So when the music stops, it might not be a prize that they reveal. It has helped a little, but again, it’s only the older children who understand the concept.

When the music stops, the child holding the parcel unwraps one layer of the parcel. Now we’re getting to the really tricky bit. You might be thinking that I’m going to say about the child taking more than one layer off. That’s a mere fly in the ointment compared to the bigger issue.

When Pass The Parcel was first thought of, there was one prize. And it was the only prize. As the parcel was passed round, if it stopped on you, you knew that you weren’t the winner, yet. But you might be, when the parcel was really small and had just a few layers left. In recent years, it has become unacceptable for anyone to be a loser. Everyone should be a winner, but maybe not as much of a winner as the winner!?! So, instead of there being one prize, a little prize is now put in each layer. It might be a chocolate, or a small bag of sweets. But every child playing knows that when they unwrap the parcel, they will get something.

That’s a good thing, right? Well yes and no. This means that the person in charge of the music has to stop the music at every child, they have to get the timing right. And if they get it wrong, or the parcel is passed a bit too quickly when the pause button is pressed, they have to say “Actually George, it’s Sophie’s turn. Give the parcel back to her.” Also, because the children know that they are only going to get one go at unwrapping, if they have already had their turn, they are no longer interested. They are no longer involved in the game. And finally one child is going to be last. They have to sit there and watch all the other children eat their little prizes while they are waiting. This is all pretty demoralising stuff for little people.

The music restarts and the parcel is passed on again. “Pass it on, pass it on, pass it on, go on, pass it on.” I bet you’ll say this a thousand times!

The previous two steps are repeated until the last piece of paper is removed. Depending on the number of children taking part, this process is going to go on for a long time. To be honest it is one of the reasons that I don’t like to play it, it takes so very long and it’s not just the grown ups who lose interest. If you think about it, the process of music playing, parcel passing, music stopping, parcel unwrapping and music restarting probably takes a minute. So a Pass The Parcel with twenty children will take twenty minutes from your party. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Everybody claps and cheers for the winner. So you’re in charge of the music, everyone has had their little prize. Some of them are eating the sweets or chocolate already. It’s the big moment, the big prize, but who is it going to stop on. You might turn your back and press stop without knowing that your child is holding the parcel! Or little Terry is gripping hold of that parcel and making sure that he is not going to let it go. Or the music stops just in mid-pass, two children have their hands on it. Arrrrrrgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whatever happens, you are going to be a right meanie! One solution is to allow the song to play until the end. This way, you can chivvy the children along and make sure that it is being passed fairly. Of course it’s best not to use a song that every child knows and will realise that the end is coming up. And instead of having the prize in the parcel, just have a piece of card with the word ‘WINNER’ on it. Then if two children win, you can give out two prizes. Simples!

I believe that the perfect party game should have the following…

Involvement: Nobody sitting out, or thinking that they haven’t got a chance to win.

Tension: Not nervous tension, but that feeling of “Oooh oooh ooh, is it going to me?”

Excitement: This goes with the tension and everyone playing should feel the same.

Surprise: This could be the surprise of getting a little prize, getting a forfeit or being a winner.

Delight: Most of the players should feel happy about who won. I say ‘Most of the players’- sometimes children do need to know that losing is part of a game.

So how do you play the perfect game of Pass The Parcel?

I would say “Don’t!” Haha!

But if you really wanted to, play it with a dozen seven year olds, with only one prize, but some forfeits in the wrapping.