As a London children’s entertainer of over 17 years experience, I’ve been to a fair few parties. How many I couldn’t possibly accurately calculate, but I’d hazard a guess that I’m probably past my thousandth party. With all this experience I’ve become acutely aware of what can make or break a children’s party, especially from the entertainer’s perspective. Ideally when hiring an entertainer, the intention is to have a fun party with as little stress as possible. This doesn’t come without some planning and the best parties come from good team work between the client and the entertainer. Communication is vital, make sure you spend some time chatting to your entertainer to make sure they know what they are doing. Personally I feel an entertainer who is willing to compromise and bend to all requests may suggest an entertainer with little or no experience. An experienced entertainer is a source of many hints and tips for making your party successful, so don’t be afraid of picking their brains. A wise client is one who listens to suggestions from the entertainer and works in conjunction with them. Good teamwork is essential for a smooth and calm party. I don’t know about you, but I like to avoid chaos at all costs.
Let’s start with BALLOONS.
Balloons. What party is complete without them? They provide instant festive decoration and are a party must. Right?
Right. But there are also times when balloons can be the cause of party chaos.
As an entertainer who wants to make sure my client’s party experience is a calm and controlled affair, I walk a tightrope of sergeant major/party-pooper. It’s a fine balance of keeping control but also not destroying the fun atmosphere. After all, fun is what a party is about. But out of control fun can soon descend into very unpleasant chaos. This is easily avoided though by taking some precautionary measures.
When clients book a party with me, I suggest to them that if they are having balloons, to make sure they are kept off of the floor.
Party-pooper alert? Hmm, maybe, but balloons are great fun to play with on the floor as long as there is no other planned activity going on. If you are having a free play /soft play session for your party, by all means cover the floor with balloons. They are a simple and cheap way of keeping small children busy. Combine balloons with a few bubbles and that is a party in itself. But and this is a big BUT if you have booked entertainment for the party, keep the focus on the booked entertainment. Children find it hard to focus on one thing if there are lots of other things going on at the same time and that inability to focus often leads to all-consuming chaos.
Keep balloons tied up and out of reach if you don’t want loose balloons to become bouncy weapons and missiles, perfect objects to hurl into puppet booths or bash puppets/entertainers/each other with.
Don’t underestimate the noise balloons can create when in a child’s grasp, the squeaking and bursting and general distraction they can cause can’t be over-emphasized.
Helium balloon ‘forests’ can be a beautiful decorative feature, but make sure that the dangling string is just out of children’s reach otherwise expect a few children to take on the role of chief balloon collector and claim them all. If there is to be a puppet show, make sure helium balloons are away from the front of the stage as the constant bobbing of the balloons can completely obscure the view for the majority of the audience and also risk popping on the hot lights. On that note, do bear in mind that some children are balloon phobic especially if they happen to be autistic and sensitive to noise. Balloons can then be a very terrifying thing, unpredictable and very loud when popped. We want to minimize tears and disruption and maximize fun by thinking in advance.
So to summarize:
Keep ‘air’ balloons off of the floor if you are having entertainment and use them for decoration and going away gifts at the end of the party.
Make sure the string of helium balloons is just above the reach of the tallest child at the party to minimize squabbles and disruption if you want to make a forest of helium balloons.
Tie helium balloons firmly to the child’s wrist on departure- they have a nasty habit of flying to the moon if you don’t. ( The balloons that is, not the children!)
Consider tying helium balloon to each of the chairs at the tea table. This is a great way of adding instant party pizzazz but keeps the balloons in a secure place.
Be mindful of any left over latex from burst balloons, small children can easily choke. In my time as an entertainer, adults have been known to use the stretchy stuff to make makeshift caterpaults to fire at the entertainer… Hmm. Not great. Silly grown-up’s hey?
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