When it comes to entertaining children there is no one size fits all. A birthday party is a very special occasion and every parent wants to do the best they can to make it is good as it can be. For the child it is very exciting because they know they are going to get lots of presents and have lots of fun. For parents a birthday party is an expression of love and pride. Having a brilliant birthday party is could be described as a kind of emotional out poring. A way of showing their love? This might sound a little over the top but I believe this is true. As a parent myself I am speaking from experience. Hazel and I always tried to give our three girls really good birthday parties even when money was in short supply and let’s face it a birthday party is expensive! They are all grown up now but we’ve been there, done that and bought the T Shirt as they say.
I am digressing. My opening statement is true. When it comes to entertaining children there is no one size fits all. The kind of stuff which will amuse and entertain a four year old is different to what will delight a ten year old. To organise a birthday party for a four year old boy and then invite his ten year old brother and all his mates to come too is a recipe for trouble. Older children are more sophisticated. They are far more advanced both physically and mentally and they are much bigger! The older children will naturally dominate the little ones. They will win all the games and sometimes younger children can be knocked over and hurt if the big ones are chasing around in the excitement. Controlling older children can sometimes be a problem too. Often you will not know all of the children who are coming to the party and so you have to hope that they will be well behaved.
This all sounds like bad news. It’s not meant to be. Mixed age group parties can work. It depends on the kids. If you are lucky enough to get a group of really well behaved children and the older ones are quite happy to mix in with the little ones then all well and good but be warned. It could go the other way so why take chances.
If you are planning a birthday party for a three or four year old child then invite all three and four year olds. This is by far the best approach.
Younger Children Love Puppets
If you are going to do the entertainment yourself and you are wondering what to do then draw inspiration from nursery school, play group, mother and toddler group or Tumble Tots. Think of the kind of activities and games that the children do at these places. Make a list of everything you can think of that you might be able to use at your child’s birthday party. Games, songs and stories are all good. Work out how long each activity will take and then make a little programme up. Alternate between an activity which involves sitting and listening and one which involves movement. Don’t try and do too much. Plan on thirty to forty minutes before the party food and then perhaps another thirty minutes or so after the meal. Use less energetic activities such as “pass the parcel” and “pin the tail on the donkey” after the children have eaten. End the party on a high note by doing the “hokey cokey” or something similar. If possible enlist the help of a friend or relative who works with pre school age children in a professional capacity. A nursery nurse, teacher or child carer would be ideal. It is also a very good idea to involve the other mums too. Ask them to join in with their children. This will make things much easier for you.
You may decide to hire someone to come and organise the birthday party entertainment for you. There are people who specialise in entertaining preschoolers. Often they are people who are ex teachers or who have experience as nursery nurses, child carers etc. Sometimes they are mums themselves who have set up in business because they enjoy working with kids and they like the flexibility this type of work affords. There are people who will organise games, do craft activities, do dressing up parties, do storytelling and so on.
Alternatively you might want to hire a professional children’s entertainer such as a magician, clown or puppeteer. All children love magic. Most love clowns and puppets are always a big hit. Not all children’s entertainers will work with very young children. The sudden appearance of a clown in the midst of a group of three and four year olds could terrify some children especially the more timid ones. When working with under fives approach is everything. The first step is to win over the confidence of the children and make sure they feel safe and are relaxed. Next the material has to be simple and uncomplicated. The funny business and humour must be pitched at a level that the little ones can understand. This may seem obvious but it is very important. Entertaining pre school age children at a birthday party is an art in itself and requires experience, knowledge and understanding. Not everyone is capable of entertaining very young children at birthday parties and so you do need to make sure you are hiring an entertainer who knows what they are doing.
Here is what one mum wrote about a party for her four year old daughter at which we had performed a magic and puppet show:
Hi there! What a super afternoon – thanks largely to you! Willow had a fab time and told her grandma all about the ‘funny man who can’t clap and had lots of sheep and a cow called Daisy’. We have our own puppet theatre at home and have been playing with it already this morning, re-christening one of the characters ‘Bonkers’. I think we may be stealing some of your act! Our guests are raving about the party and we certainly won’t forget you in a hurry. Unfortunately I can’t post anything on your facebook page for Jolly Good Productions – but will gladly do so – think we may need to be friends in order to do so?? Just wanted to let you know that we were super impressed and it was such a stress-free party for us. The kids loved you (perhaps a little too much at times) but I guess that’s just the sort of reaction you need. Thanks so much again.
Birthday parties are special. Think carefully about what you are going to do and hopefully you will have happy memories to look back on in years to come.
If you have any ideas to share about entertaining pre school age children at a birthday party please contribute to the discussion using the comment section below. Thanks.
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