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Children’s Entertainer
Party Tips

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Party Tips

I'll be sharing regular party planning tips on this website and blog. Although this is a website about children's parties - most of what I suggest will apply for almost any kind of event.

I have attended over 8,000 events in my career - so I have a good knowledge of what works and does not, and lots of experience and ideas to share.

If you're planning an event - feel free to ask my advice or guidance and I will do my best to help!

Tip 1 - Hire a Professional

Hi.. I'll be sharing regular party planning tips on this new website and blog.

Although this is a website about children's parties - most of what I suggest will apply for almost any kind of event.

My first tip, when selecting service providers and entertainers, is to choose professionals!

The key question is what does "professional" mean? It doesn't necessarily mean someone who does nothing else for living.

It is more a question of attitude and priorities. A quick look at their adverts and website will tell you a lot. Does it look like they care enough to invest in their business or is it amateurish? How do they sound on the phone? Do they respond promptly to your requests?

There are also many practical and legal requirements - do they have insurance, is their electrical equipment tested, do they have risk assessments etc. You may or may not believe we live in a nanny-state and that these things are merely the result of too much red-tape. Reality is, they matter in today's society - like it or not.

Enhanced CRB/DBS checks are now no longer available to children's entertainers. I have had them in recent years but the law has been clarified. They are now only available to those in regulated professions. I do carry a recent basic DBS certificate.

If you are hoping to hire a hall or venue for your event this is especially important as venues should (although they do not always) insist service providers have these things to cover their own risk.

It is essential you ask your venue in advance if these will be a requirement...

Here's why - Last year whilst I performed magic at a wedding, I saw an upsetting situation develop.

The Disco arrived. The duty manager demanded to see the DJ's electrical PAT testing certificates. Without this paperwork he would not allow the DJ to plug-in his equipment. Mr DJ didn't have them.
The father-of-the-bride argued that no one had told him they would be needed - if they had he would have made sure all was in-order.

The manager stood his ground - as he was perfectly entitled to. The DJ went home and the evening was a flop.

The moral of the story is two-fold.

  1. Actively check what requirements a venue has
  2. Insist all service providers carry all necessary paperwork - in that case it can't go wrong.

Professionals, those who care, will look, act and most of all prepare in a positive and proactive manner.

If they can't answer questions about their credentials immediately - what does that tell you!

Tip 2 - Stay Safe

I know people find health and safety boring boring boring!

I've been performing magic professionally for over 17 years, and in that time I have seen quite a few incidents, accidents and many "Near misses" at the parties and events where I've performed. Most of these situations were avoidable, or the very least would have caused less trouble if some basic precautions had been taken. So here are a few recommendations, based on my experience, for you to consider when planning your party.

Firstly, make sure you know about the venue that you have hired. Check out where the fire extinguishers are and any fire exits. The caretaker should be able to point these out to you. But if you just pick up the keys then it's worth checking where everything is. Make sure you know is the correct address and postcode, just in case you need to call the emergency services. In my career I have been at three events parties where are the Fire Brigade had to be called and at least half a dozen where paramedics were needed. You'll be peased to hear I wasn't involved in any of those incidents!

Make sure your venue is free from hazards. Most Village halls and community centres are used by many clubs organisations and even preschools. They will have a lot of equipment stored in the hall, and it is quite often left lying about. I recall once having to help a parent clear away some very sharp chisels and other tools left behind by a woodworking club.

Check everything is safe in the kitchen. Many halls have older kitchens with big tea urns and other hazards. Most five-year olds haven't seen a tea urn before and might assume it is a harmless drinks dispenser! I would recommend bringing  antibacterial spray etc so you can clean all the surfaces. I was once contacted after a party by parents who were concerned that I might have caught a bug! It seems everybody else at the party did, apparently caused by unclean worktops. Luckily I didn't have anything to eat at the party!

Check all the tables and chairs are safe, set up properly and stacked correctly. I have seen a child nearly hurt by falling chairs (which I prevented) and even had a folding table collapse on me because it wasn't set up properly by a parent.

Be aware of other hazards. You may recall reading the news recently about a young boy who had been killed by falling mirror in a shop. I saw something very similar nearly happen in the hotel function room. The room did contain a very lovely decorative Victoria mirror, but just as I was leaving a child ran into it. Fortunately the the child was not hurt, but a very nice mirror was ruined!

Try to block off access to the stage and other unsafe areas. Many halls have a stage with curtains, lighting and usually a lot of clutter.  The combination of wires, cords, scenery and darkness is of course very very dangerous. So draw the curtains and block of the steps to the stage. Many stages have portable steps that can be safely removed well away from danger.

Keep an eye on the children. They are perhaps the most volatile thing at the whole party! A good entertainer will take the children's energy and use it in his show or party games to help add to the fun. Of course, some children can become too boisterous and perhaps need to be reminded how to behave. This responsibility lies firmly with you, the parents.

Beware of candles, sparklers and party poppers.

See below.... Please take great care with heading out party poppers, especially to the very young. If I get to meet you, I'll show you the small scar on my right hand (which I'm sure you appreciate is very precious to me!) which was caused when I put my hand between a party popper that was about to be pulled and a four year old's eyes.

Be careful about allowing dogs into the party. 30 noisy children, running around playing games and having fun can get dogs very excitable! On one occasion, the parents of a guest bought a dog along to a party a friend of mine was working at. Good old Fido sat quietly in the back until he could contain his excitement no more. He broke loose and started running after the children, causing many of them to become frightened and tearful. I for one do not allow dogs into parties where I am working for this very reason.

Having dumped all this on to you... Please don't panic!

This is all common sense, but it is worth taking time to think about these things in advance because on the day of the party you will have a lot on your mind.

One thing that might help put your mind at rest is that I have Health and Safety policy. This is something I require for some of my corporate clients. I know it sounds boring and rubbish, but it does help me think about the working situations that I find myself in. So wherever I work -  I always keep an eye out the things that might pose a problem so that you and I can deal with them.

This is all just part of the service!

Whatever you do for your children's birthday - have a happy healthy safe party!

Tip 3 Candle-Abra-Cadabra!

It's supposed to be the highlight of the birthday party.

Family and friends gather round the birthday child and sing (usually out of tune) "Happy Birthday" just before the candles are blown out to applause and cheers. In my life as a children's entertainer in Kent, I must have seen several thousand birthday cakes and perhaps 30,000 candles blown upon.

However, it doesn't always go exactly to plan.

I've seen the presentation of the cake totally flop, I've seen a few cakes flop on the floor and what's worse is I've seen children come very close to sustaining a nasty injury.

I'll be covering several aspects of presenting the cake in my next blog posts... Today I want to take a look at the burning issue of CANDLES

 Here are my top 10 tips to make the most of presenting the cake, making great memories and keeping your children safe!

1) Bring some candles
Yup - I know it sounds silly to say.  Make sure candles are on your shopping list to buy and bring to the party. Assuming you have some in the kitchen draw can end up leaving you in the dark. I've been to hundreds of birthday parties where Dad has been sent off in a panic to Tesco (other supermarkets are available) to get candles.

2) Bring a lighter/matches
Again it's basic stuff... you can't always rely on one of the other parents being a smoker!

3) It's quicker to light from a candle
It's also less hard work on your fingertips. I've often seen parents having to twist their wrists into all kinds of contortions to light seven candles from a single lighter. It takes a lot of time, and the lighter gets very hot - plus you might catch your sleeve alight! Light one candle and pick that up to light the others - it is a LOT easier.

3)A On the topic of making lighting candles easier... Pre-light the candles and then blow out immediately, before the time when you're going to sing Happy Birthday. This is because they typically have a skin of wax over the wick, by burning it off beforehand you can make the whole lighting candle experience swifter and neater!

4) Light the candles  away from the children
Kids are fascinated by fire... (more on this later) - If you attempt to light the candles on your cake in the middle of a table full of kids, they will lean all over you and into the cake to get a better view at that magical flickering flame.It will frustrate you and them - someone might also get hurt.

5) Avoid cheaper “happy birthday candles”
There are a lot of candles that spell out words like a person's name or even to say "Happy Birthday". These are great and make presenting the cake at your child's birthday party very personal. Beware of the budget versions of these candles... Some of them burn so very quickly that you get a big blob of multicoloured wax that spoils the look of your cake by the time you've got around to singing "Happy Birthday dear....." And when the candles are due to be blown out - there's nothing left other than a ruined cake. That leads me on to...

6) Watch the wax...
Many cheap candles burn quickly. This is because they have a low melting point. This also means that the wax stays fluid for longer... which can means wax sprayed all over party clothes and faces when the candles are blown out.

7) Take care with sparklers
These are very popular and potentially very dangerous... I've seen children lunge at a cake in an attempt to beat the birthday child to blowing out the candles... If there is a sparkler on the cake, they can easily get burned. Use sparklers wisely - make sure the cake is "out of reach" on a table or make sure an adult holds it well away from the young faces.

8 ) Take Care with roman candles and indoor fireworks
Follow the same guidance as above, but I would add to make sure the cake is safe on a table away from hands and faces. I saw a cake with a roman candle in full flame slip off the plate - the children lunged towards it... very risky!

9) Relighting Candles
Are meant to be amusing... but they can deceive kids. I've seen a child assuming the candle was extinguished grab and get burned... Be careful!

10) Position your cake so it faces outwards...
So you've chosen nice expensive candles, on a great looking cake and when you look at the pictures on your computer the writing or decoration is obscured... So arrange your candles sensibly, so they don't obscure the design and angle the cake, so the writing is pointing forwards, so your pictures will look great!

I hope you find these party tips useful... and I trust you won't think of me as a health and safety freak... I've seen all these things happen at birthday parties in Kent in my 15 years working as a children's entertainer.

Enjoy your party, enjoy your cake and enjoy some great party memories!

To find out more about Marli The Magician - children's entertainer in Kent - call 07904 262138 or simply email amazing_magic@me.com

Tip 4 Table Plans

Can you guess what seems to be the most vexing challenge for parents when setting up a room in their village hall or community centre for a children's party...?

Let’s help you overcome it and even offer a money saving tip that helps your birthday child feel really special into the bargain.

My extensive research, undertaken during my years of work as a children's’ entertainer in Kent , shows that the supposedly simple act of laying out the table for party tea confuses, bemuses and baffles even the most prepared of parents.

The first rule of children’s party hall hire is to check where EVERYTHING is - from the tables & chairs through to the kettle and cups. Even things like keys to unlock the windows and the power switch are often hard to find. So ask the hall manager in advance.

Those however are minor challenges, compared to the drama I frequently observe when it comes to making the best use of the available tables at kiddies parties.

You want to have a place at the table for each child, you want the table to be decorated with a nice cloth in keeping with the party theme and you want all the kids to sit and eat together.

So how do you lay out tables most efficiently and how can you make sure you get enough tablecloths... Even better how could you save some money on your party budget?

The majority of village hall tables are oblong and sit 8 or 10 children.

TIP 1

Sit children on both sides of the table. So many times I see people only lay a place on one side, they soon run out of space and often tables. Kids are only small!

TIP 2

Use benches or smaller chairs if they are available. Placing full-sized adult chairs takes up more table space. If the hall you have chosen for your children’s party has a pre-school or nursery during the week, they’ll have some small chairs somewhere. Check with the hall manager.

TIP 3

If you need more than one table (which 90% of children’s parties do) place them end-to-end. Another common mistake I see is two oblong tables being placed with the long edges together. This actually only adds a couple of places and you could run out of tables.

TIP 3

You can’t keep adding tables indefinitely as you’ll run out of hall! So make them into a U shape, or even sprigs. Place the birthday child in the “middle” of the top table - just like the happy couple at a wedding... They’ll feel really special.

TIP 5

You want all the tables to look good so you invest a few pounds in some nice cloths made to match the birthday child’s favourite theme. But OOOPS! So often I see big gaps because people don’t buy enough cloths.  Visit the hall and measure the tables, work out a layout before your children’s party - then check out the size of the cloths your child wants and divide one by the other. SIMPLE - but so often overlooked.

Now here’s a bonus idea I had some time ago which I’ve mentioned to many party mums who have used it, saving themselves some money...

Somewhat flying in the face of the advice I’ve just given, lay out the tables for the party in a U shape, place the birthday child at the top of the U just as in the picture - but leave the front edge of his table empty...

Place ONE decorative table cloth hanging down the front of the table where you’ve left out the children....

On the rest of the tables use cheaper plain cloths or none at all (the tables wipe clean very easily).

Now your child can sit like a Prince or Princess - you can take some great pictures from the front with no other children in the way.

A perfect memory of a perfect party!

I’ll be adding more tips from my experience as a party entertainer in Kent soon.