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Topic: The babysitters club?
Message: Posted by: Jeff Alan (Jun 25, 2004 07:45AM)
I took on a job for tonight that I am begining to regret. Well actually it started as a normal booking, but the mom keeps calling and changing things and now it has evolved to this: a 2 hour magic show & class for ages 4-10. She hired me for a show and classes, because this is an adult party and they want the kids kept occupied for 2 hours. So I am starting to feel more like a hired babysitter than a magi.

I do shows and I do classes, but I have never done both at one event for such a varied age group. Anyway, don't you think the kids will be magic'd-out after an hour? I am thinking of incorporating some games to break it up. After an hour I would want them to get a little excercise as well! Any ideas, suggestions? Hurry...thanks!
Message: Posted by: Frank Tougas (Jun 25, 2004 08:51AM)
Ages four through ten. Wow I have a completely separate show for 4-5 year olds because of attention span and their take on magic. I feel for you. I hope you are getting a lot of money and renegotiated for each change she made. All I can tell you is you have a real learning experience potential there. Games, bits and silliness with balloons are all good. Giveaway tricks as prizes for the games, also good. And make sure everyone wins something.

As for the class I would probably pair them up a young one with an older child, get the older child on your side and helping you to teach the younger. Give them a reward to work for, like a really good trick, if they help with the younger children.

Let us know how it came out. There will be a lot of thinking on your feet and creativity on the fly.

Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jun 25, 2004 08:56AM)
Charge lots! Sometimes you are asked to be a babysitter, even though they may not use that term. :( That's life.

Clarify that you also expect adult supervision in the room the whole time you are there, and by adult, you do not mean one or two teenagers.

I have done 2 hour entertainment before, and know that UK performers do it all the time.

A program of games (with prizes), a magic show, balloon creations, a magic class, may help you achieve this.

Because I had a background in child care, I felt confident taking on two hour packages (at the time when I did them). I prefer not to do them now for birthday parties, and so don't offer them anymore.

For some family events (picnics, Christmas parties, etc), I offer a 45 minute show, followed by a 15 minute break, followed by an hour of strolling balloon twisting. But I make it clear to the customer that the strolling balloon twisting is just that, not a formal show, and is not guaranteed to hold the attention span for the whole hour.

Remember, not to take on what you can't handle. You have the power to say no, always! Set some guidelines, and don't let a customer bully you into doing something you don't want to do. It may mean losing the booking, but part of good negotiating is still having the power to walk away if the end result is not a win-win situation.

Can you clarify what exactly you are looking for? Encouragement? Specific game ideas? How to do magic classes that reach both 4 year olds and 10 year olds? Other?

- Donald.
Message: Posted by: Ron Reid (Jun 25, 2004 09:26AM)
Hi Jeff:

I think you'll be fine; I regularly do 2 hour workshops for the younger ones. The key is to include some real easy self-working effects like the fortune fish (or whatever you do) so the real little ones will be occupied.

Also, mix up the show with the workshop. Start off your 2 hours with a short show (maybe 10 to 15 minutes). Then go into the workshop part - perhaps 30 minutes. Then another short routine (5 minutes) and so on.

I have learned to give the kids lots of releases concerning their attention. They have to concentrate kind of hard while learning a trick. Then, they get to rest their minds while I do a comedy routine or balloons.

I hope this is all making sense. But really, this can be very successful for you tonight.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Jun 25, 2004 09:38AM)
I will baby sit anyone but know that I charge a TON for this. If they ask why, I tell them flat out that I am a performer and entertainer and although I can baby sit, this is a different thing all together.

I also tell them that I MUST have at least 1 adult in the performance room with me at all times. This is soemthing they have to provide for me.

Donald is right, you do have the power to say no if you feel this just is not suited for you.

Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jun 25, 2004 10:35AM)
Here's one game idea.

Take name badge sized stickers, and write animal names on them two by two. Example, two with the word horse, two with the word cat, two with the word dog, etc.

Then tell the children that you are sticking the nametags on their backs.

They have to learn what animal they are without asking it outright. They can ask, "What sort of noise does my animal make?" or "What does my animal eat?" They can't ask, "What animal am I?", but they can ask, "Am I a horse?" or "Am I a lion?" if they feel they are closing in on what animal they are. (Horse and Zebra will really mess them around with regards to the noises question. Same for tiger and lion.)

If you want to make it tougher, make it so the questions have to be answered with a yes or no only. In either case, you may need to give them some suggestions as to the sorts of questions they can ask... they may not be able to think of anything to ask right away.

Then when they have their animal figured out, they have to go and find their partner animal. They can do that by either looking for someone with the matching name tag on their back, or by making the animal sounds.

You can also do a variation on this with matching partners like Batman and Robin, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Garfield and Odie, Kermit and Miss Piggy, Milk and Cookies, etc. (Make sure the matching words are ones that the children recognize. The Captain and Tennille may be out! :) ) They the kids have to ask yes or no questions again, and then they have to find their matching partner.

Then have prizes for everyone. Just one party game idea.

- Donald.
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Jun 25, 2004 10:39AM)
I would make it clear that you are a professional entertainer and not a babysitter.

I would even call her back to make sure she understands that, because if I started to feel they just wanted a baby sitter, I would tell that and help her find someone who can just keep them occupied as opposed to entertained.

To say "That's life" doesn't say much for our credibilty as entertainers, and continues the stereotype that we are just babysitters.

There should be an adult present like any other party. You also don't want to be alone in a room full of kids these days if the parents aren't close by.
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jun 25, 2004 10:57AM)
Re: my "That's Life" comment.

Many customers see us as babysitters, whether we like it or not, and whether we know that they feel that way or not (sometimes it is not communicated, but that is still their mindset).

A lot of times when you ask a potential customer why they want a show, and really get into the meat of their reasoning (most entertainers do not do this, by the way), the potential customer will say that they just want something to occupy the kids for x amount of time. They don't think about whether the kids will have a great time or whatever (that might be a bonus to them, but that is not their [b]primary buying criteria[/b]), they are simply focused on getting through those 2 hours. Those types of customers are frequent, and as I said, unless you know what to ask, you may never be aware you have them. In Jeff's case, the customer is telegraphing this to him (frustrating to find out that some people think that way, isn't it?)

In other words, these types of customers are looking for a babysitter. A video can do the same thing. They can't justify a babysitter or a video in their mind, and so they hire an entertainer, because they feel it is the "right" thing to do.

(I totally agree with Neale. It is important to clarify your role to your potential customer, and be sure it is not to a point where you are arrogant about it to the customer. So, I recommmend choosing the words you say to your customer very carefully.)

Someone-to-occupy-the-time is a mindset in the potential customer that you can't combat, whether you take pride in the fact you are an "entertainer" and "not a babysitter", or not. I am proud to be a professional entertainer, too, but it is not about me and what I want. It's about the customer.

At that point, it is the job of a professional entertainer to point out that you will do so much more than just occupy the kids! (However, even though you explain all that, that customer's [b]primary[/b] buying criteria will still be having something that occupies the children.) You will also give the children a special memory, build the friendships between the children as they inter-relate, give those children a fun and funny experience, and much more. Those are [b]secondary considerations[/b] to that potential customer, though.

And because of the value in those secondary considerations, that is why your show is [b]not[/b] something on the shelf at the local Blockbuster Video store for $3.95. :)

- Donald.

P.S. Again, as I said earlier, if you feel you won't add to the event, and you won't have a win-win outcome, don't take the booking.
Message: Posted by: Jeff Alan (Jun 25, 2004 11:52AM)
This is good stuff. Frank thanks for the idea of pairing up the young & old, what a great idea. Ron, I hadn't thought of mixing magic then class, then magic then class, a great way to keep them wondering what's next! Donald, awesome game idea, will only take me 10 minutes to make and will last for 20 minutes or more, good stuff! Neale thanks for your comments, I can assure you that she knows and values what I do, and was quite surprised when she knew I could do a class as well. I would not suggest this set-up to anyone who has not done both, I have just not combined them and for 2 hours. I have no question of my stamina, I only question the children's. I understand what Donald meant by "that's life", because I see all the time AT a party that the adults assumed it was a daycare session rather than complete family entertainment. The key is that when we are DONE, they had better have a different veiwpoint or we failed.

The show plans are to go like this:

I will start off with part 1 of the magic show...

I will explain that they are going to learn a little magic and get to do a show for me (and or the adults) later that night...

We will start by pairing up the kids with a teacher/student...

Start by learning 2 items...

Break/drink time...

More magic...

More class...


End of magic show...

End of magic class...

Time for their show!


Thanks to you all for the immediate help. If others want to keep posting...you never know what will come your way!

Message: Posted by: Cheshire Cat (Jun 25, 2004 04:05PM)
This is one reason why we no longer will do weddings, as they basically are just "keeping them out of the way" bookings whilst the speeches take place. The age groups are wildly varied, and there usually turns out to be some horrendous 12 year old boy that is more stressful than all the rest combined!

But we are established and can pick and choose these days. To anyone just setting out these "child minding" jobs can be highly lucrative. I suppose life is all about "using" and "being used". When a parent comes up to me and says: "thank you for keeping them so well occupied" I just take it on face value these days. It would be nicer for them to say: "wow, you are a great entertainer" but I guess that both comments would have the same meaning and sincerity.

Sorry this doesn't address how you can fill in this time, - but I hope it addresses the feelings you express in your heading and first paragraph. When I first started many UK entertainers also did 3 hour sessions Donald. Then they came down to 2 and a half hours, now most do a two hour stay with the teabreak after about 45 minutes (so it's like a 45 - then break for 20 - then another 55.) I find it's wise to keep busy during teatime, i.e. preparing props for the second half, and maybe just sitting down for about 7 minutes. Otherwise you know what some people are like if you make the job look too easy . . .
Message: Posted by: MikeSpark (Jun 25, 2004 11:06PM)
The Gr8 Donald made one of the best points in this thread: make sure there is adult supervision.

Never be alone in the room with the children. Bad idea.

Message: Posted by: Emazdad (Jun 26, 2004 01:47AM)
You can't entertain and sort out kids toilet needs, or shoelaces etc. That's their job, You are an entertainer not a baby sitter.

I'd phone up and remind her that there has to be at least one other adult in the room at all times to deal with any problems the kids may have, This is of course for my protection as well. (I never put myself into a situation where I am alone with the kids.)

I'd point that out to her at the start, and it's on my contract. I'd also charge her a lot more. For weddings and these sort of gigs I charge 50% or more of my fee on top of my normal birthday party fee. I never tell a booker I don't want the job, I either say I'm fully booked. If I don't mind it, but would rather avoid all the hassle, I charge them loads. If they accept the price I'll do it, if not it doesn't matter.
Message: Posted by: Hill (Jun 26, 2004 06:45AM)
One should still request an adult to be present throughut these types of events.
Message: Posted by: Jeff Alan (Jun 26, 2004 07:50AM)
Thanks again for all your help.

Everything was a success. Except the whole event was outdoors and we were in the back of the yard (it was the dad's 50th bday), so we were sweating, and eventually trying to work by fire of the tiki torch!

I finally lost the kids after an hour and 45 minutes because I gave them their magic bags and the all ran off to do their tricks.

The adults were overly-impressed that I kept those young kids occupied so long and so well. So I owe some thanks to this board for an easy night and a good tip $$.

Message: Posted by: Ron Reid (Jun 26, 2004 09:20AM)
Excellent, Jeff! Perhaps when you have the time, you can share what was successful and what wasn't. I'd love to know what tricks you taught, especailly to the little ones.

Message: Posted by: Jeff Alan (Jun 26, 2004 11:18AM)
Sure Ron,

I will list the tricks below, I will not go into detail as these are pretty common items, but if someone would like more detail, just ask.

I had 2 catagories of tricks: Young & Older


Coin Vanish: They are taught to work with a partner. A coin is placed in their hand and covered with a cloth, the audience may feel the coin under the cloth one at a time, the last "audience" member to feel the coin is a stooge who steals the coin away. The young magician then makes the coin vanish with a magic word.

Static Wand: The old wand that sticks to your hand routine (a finger secretly holds the wand to your hand).

Rising Wand: A wand placed in an empty Coke bottle rises up on it's own. This was their favorite. A black string taped to the end of the wand the other end is held by the magi, the wand goes in the bottle string end first, your audience must be pretty directly in front of you, as you move the bottle forward (or move your body backward), the wand will rise and fall accordingly.

Nails thru Coin: I pick these up from a magic shop, easy to do, very cheap like Folding Fish. No real nails of course.

Jumping Band: a small colorful hair band is used in the "Jumping Rubberband Routine". Cotton-made hair bands do not pose the safety threats of a rubber band.

Older Tricks:

Coin & Wand: This is the one where they think you will make the coin vanish but instead the wand vanishes (behind your ear), then as you turn to show them the secret, the coin gets dumped in your pocket, so it ultimately vanishes as well.

3 Aces: Sorry, unsure of the proper name of this trick but it's where the ace of hearts is turned upside down to resemble the ace of diamonds. It then switches places with someone holding the last ace.

Pick a Coin: 3 different valued coins & a prediction. Use a magician's force to force what is on the prediction.

Mindreader: Uses a partner and simple "word clues" are used to tell the blindfolded magi what color item was secretly chosen.

The night and the setup was quite succesfull, I wouldn't change a lot if anything.

Message: Posted by: Rupert Bair (Jun 26, 2004 02:21PM)
What do you guys involve in a magic workshop/class
Message: Posted by: Ron Reid (Jun 27, 2004 07:32AM)
Thanks for explaining it, Jeff. You seamed to have really thought it out. Well done.

Message: Posted by: Hill (Jul 13, 2004 05:30PM)

I am really very pleased that you have shared your experiences here, it sound like it was a excellent show!

I know that I have personally learned a lot from your routining for this type of audience

once again thank you!