A First! A BSL Interpreter at my Halloween Shows at Colchester Zoo

I’m a month behind on this, but I’ve just found a picture on Twitter of one of the two shows that were interpreted by a British Sign Language interpreter at Colchester Zoo over the October half-term.

The Royal Association for Deaf people were at the zoo all day on Saturday 28 October 2018 and sent a BSL interpreter to various events over the day, including two of my shows!

How to entertain 30 children

It’s not a simple task

As a children’s entertainer, I’m incredibly lucky that I have a repertoire of games, dances, activities and ad libs that allow me to always have something appropriate to do with groups of children.

Teachers, nursery practitioners and Cub/Brownie leaders all need to plan an entire year of activities term by term. Thankfully, my job is not so serious – and has a two-hour window. If the children are having a good time during a party, I can chop and change what I’m doing. If I do it quickly and efficiently, birthday parties and stage shows can be kept moving, and the children’s attention is maintained.

Building Rapport

Not knowing the children and their names can appear to be a bit of a hurdle. I use this to my advantage. By starting conversations and not demanding too much from the children to start with, I can ascertain a few key names (the leaders, the lively ones, the shy ones etc.) which tend to lead me down a few routes that make my life a lot easier over the next couple hours.

The children don’t know me either, so every time I have a new group of children to entertain, I get the chance to make a good first impression on them. Simply by listening and paying attention to them, they soon realise that this entertainer really cares about what they think, do, and want to talk about.

As I generally don’t entertain children for more than two hours, I can be consistently high-energy. This fascinates them. And it makes me memorable in the long list of adults they’ve met. A grown up who listens to them, cares about what they’re talking about AND has the energy and imagination to match them while they’re playing!


Here’s the best thing… discipline is not something I worry about. Much. Inevitably, at a birthday party, most parents stay to keep an eye on their little one. This means that as soon as any of the children misbehave, their adult has moved in before I’ve even seen what’s going on. It’s tough deciding if a child’s being naughty or is just over-excited – after all it is a party! I tend to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt. No-one wants the party stopped to watch a child being told off. I hate that there are entertainers that do this. Please don’t book them.

Normally, the worst behaved children are the ones that get dropped off and left. That’s not to say all dropped-off children are naughty, but generally, the ones that like to push the boundaries tend not to have their grown-ups in sight (this includes parents who are present, but not ‘present’, if you know what I mean) … but that’s probably another blog post for another time.


I only play games that are entirely inclusive. Getting players ‘out’ is not my style. Playing age-appropriate parachute games and making simple changes to standard party games make this very easy.

With musical statues, I don’t get anyone out. I just pick themes for each ‘freeze’, and keep the game moving. If we’re playing musical chairs, instead of asking children to stand at the side or ‘just go and dance’, if they end up without a chair, I get them all to share their chairs – the children end up bunching up and sitting on top of each other on fewer and fewer chairs until they’re all bundled on one chair with a squashed child at the bottom!

Everyone’s occupied. No-one’s out. No-one’s bored. And no-one needs to rummage in a scruffy old box to choose a rubbish plastic-y prize that they don’t really want that ends up in the kitchen bin that night!

The Magic Show

This is when it all comes together.

By using the names I’ve learnt since arriving at the party, the rapport I’ve built up with the children while playing games and maintaining inclusivity, I can make every magic show work.

The children perform all the magic in the show – and are super-willing to do so, especially when they realise that they don’t necessarily need me to make the magic happen.

They change slightly when they realise they might really be doing magic. They feel like they’re in charge. They become empowered.

That is my favourite moment in every party that I have the pleasure of entertaining at, and is what I’m most proud of in all I do. Ask any teacher, nursery practitioner or anyone else who knows the privilege of working with children. They’ll tell you the same. That’s the real magic.

For a video clip and to get a prices/packages list instantly to your email inbox, head over to the Party & Pricing page.

Sorry Jimmy’s Farm – baby Austin had other ideas for Daddy on Saturday!

Out first child Austin arrived Saturday evening weighing 8lb 7oz. We’re home now with Mum and Austin doing brilliantly.

Saturday I was meant to be appearing at the Jimmy’s Farm Sausage and Beer Festival in the morning and at a birthday party in the afternoon. But as I was packing the car my wife called downstairs and explained that Austin, due this Saturday coming, had other ideas.

Midwives, in order of appearance

Our stay at Colchester General Hospital was outstanding. We were delighted with the level of care we received. Everyone we met was lovely.

Midwives Saffron, Emma, Elaine, Vicky, Helen, Stephanie, Zoe and Jacqueline kept us informed, calm and, most importantly, confident at every turn.

And a Saturday night at the theatre has never been so entertaining – all the staff we met there were an absolute pleasure.


So I’ve got a bit behind with admin this weekend… if you’ve emailed or phoned about a party and not heard back yet, I’ll be in touch over the next day or two.

And finally, to Kate in charge of events at Jimmy’s Farm and to Mandy in Gosfield, I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it Saturday and thanks for being so understanding 🙂

Jimmy’s Sausage & Beer Festival 2015

I am delighted to announce I’ll be appearing at Jimmy’s Sausage & Beer Festival 2015!

It’s the weekend of the 25th and 26th of July at Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead.

I’ll be performing my magic show in the giant tipi on the campsite for the children that are camping for the weekend.

Other acts over the weekend include Justin Fletcher and Mr. Bloom from CBeebies, Toploader, Athlete and Chas ‘n’ Dave!

Does this mean I can say I’m performing on the same bill as Toploader?

Just putting that out there.

The Sausage & Beer Festival won silver in last year’s Festival Kidz Awards and is a great event to take the whole family to.

Camping tickets are sold out but you can still buy individual and family tickets for each day – check the Jimmy’s Sausage & Beer Festival 2015 webpage for loads more information.

Circle Game: Duck, Duck, Goose!

Duck Who What?

If you don’t work with kids you’re perhaps not familiar with games for groups of children – the circle game Duck Duck Goose is a classic to have on standby and you can easily fit it into your child’s birthday party.

Circle games are perfect for parties as everyone’s included throughout.

If they’re aged 4 or over, there’s a good chance they’ve played it before. It’s great for burning off a bit of energy and creates a lot of laughter as the chases happen. If you’re getting the children in a circle for Pass the Parcel then play Duck Duck Goose as well.

So how is it played?

The children sit in a circle facing each other, and one is chosen as the Fox. The ‘Fox’ walks around the circle in one direction, tapping each child on the head, saying ‘Duck’ each time. The Fox at any point can call someone ‘Goose’ as they’re tapped on the head.

That’s when the chase starts.

The Fox runs in the same direction it was going with the Goose in hot pursuit. They’re racing to get back to the now empty spot in the circle. Normally, the Fox makes it there first as he’s already standing and knows he’s going to run as soon as he’s said ‘Goose’.

Play continues with the Goose now becoming the Fox, walking around the circle again, Duck… Duck… Duck…  until… Goose!

Easy-peasy, then

It’s a great game and very, very simple. There are plenty of ways to vary it, including:

  • You could use your birthday party theme: Play Elsa, Elsa, Olaf or Batman, Batman, Joker
  • Extreme Duck Duck Goose (perhaps for ages 6+?): the Goose runs the opposite way to the Fox and there’s a face-off as they meet to get to the empty spot in the circle – rules on use of fists and feet need to be applied!
  • Try different actions for the chase: bounce like a kangaroo, waddle like a duck or roll around like a rock
  • If you’ve got a large number of children, play with two Foxes, each going in different directions around the circle

It’s played around the world

Duck Duck Goose is played the world over in slightly different versions. Many involve playing with a handkerchief. The children in the circle stay facing forward. The person walking around the circle drops the handkerchief behind one of them. Once they’ve realised it’s behind them they give chase! In Germany it’s called Plumpssack, and is accompanied by a rhyme sung as the child walks around the outside.

The biggest ever game of Duck Duck Goose was played in 2011. It was organised by a school in Missouri. It had 2135 players and stretched all the way round the outside of an American Football Stadium!


Image “Geese on Valentijnkade“ by David Evers is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Theme Your Party Decorations

Theming your child’s birthday party to their favourite film, activity or story book character is a super idea. The look on a child’s face when they first realise the decorations are their ‘favourite’ is priceless.

Here’s my tip for theming your party

Pick two colours.

Whatever your child’s favourite, pick the two most prominent and complementary colours.

For a Frozen themed party – pick turquoise and pink.

Red and blue for Spiderman.

Black and red for a pirate party.

Now, buy everything that’s going to be disposed of after the party in these colours. The paper plates and cups. The latex balloons. The table cloths. The party bags.

They’ll create a great backdrop for the branded stuff you’ll get. The party will have a great ‘look’.

So what shall I buy with the characters on?

The key here is to think about what your child will get to enjoy at home as a reminder of the party.

Buy a few large helium-filled foil balloons with the characters on as they’ll serve as great focal points at the party and your child will enjoy them over the next week or two once you’ve taken them home.

The same goes for banners, bunting and ceiling decorations – they can also be put up at home after the party.

How about a large poster or a cardboard cutout? Yes, really.

And the birthday cake. Themed birthday cakes go down a storm.

When you put it all together you’ll be hailed as a design genius!

That’s right. Having your child’s favourite on some items and having the backdrop of the complementary colours of everything else will look super-professional.

Also, you’ll only throw away the plain coloured stuff and your child will make the most out of the bits you bought that were branded!


Hire a Venue for Your Child’s Party

Hiring a space for your child’s birthday party is a great idea

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have the room at home, inviting 25+ children is a challenge for anyone’s feng shui.

Most parents will stay for the party – in fact all under 5’s will definitely have a grown-up with them. That means that the guest list of 25 will be 50 in total.

So that’s 50 people plus unnannounced siblings?

Yep. In this instance, hiring a village or community hall becomes an excellent option.

The advantages are numerous:

  • There’ll be plenty of tables and chairs
  • There will be LOADS of space for the children to run around in
  • You’ll have the place to yourself, so no Joe Public to contend with
  • The kitchen facilities will be ideal for a large number of people
  • There’ll be a car park. Which is so much better than upsetting the neighbours. Again.

Your party will not dependent on the weather and you’ll have a definite finish time too so there’ll be no chance of anyone outstaying their welcome.

How do I find a hall?

There are a couple websites to help you find halls for hire – this one from the Rural Community Council of Essex is great, just pick your area from the map. This one from St Edmundsbury Borough Council is also really good, just pop in your postcode and hey presto, village-hall-io.

Some places offer catering and decoration

Alternatively, you could hire a function room. The Cookhouse at the Suffolk Food Hall is nice or maybe The Essex Golf & Country Club?

They’ll be able to supply catering, decorate the room and do the tidying up.

All you’ll need to do is keep everyone entertained


I’ve heard Magic Iain‘s really great with kids 🙂

The ultimate checklist for your birthday party

You’ll want this, whether you’re using a party entertainer or not

No matter the party theme,  number of helpers you have or the child’s age, you’ll want this checklist I’ve put together if you’re throwing a birthday party in a hall.

Print it a couple days before the party and get cracking gathering all the items together.

It’s A4 in size and is a great reference of what you’re going to need.


You can thank me after

Hopefully there’ll be room for the presents on the trip home.

Click here to download the pdf: The BIG Party checklist


Image “To-Do List” by john.schultz is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

Blowing up balloons for a party this weekend? A quick pro tip for you

The professional children’s entertainer trick to stopping balloons from popping

Burp them.

No I don’t mean hold them to your shoulder and rub their backs. That just creates static (although that can be fun).

What I mean is, just before you tie a knot in a balloon, let a tiny amount of air out. Just for half second will do. The balloon size will barely change, but the chances of it popping will be much, much smaller.

Less (air) is more

By letting a small amount of air out, you’ll relax the latex of the balloon and make it slightly squishy. This means it will be able to take a lot more abuse without popping.

Burping balloons for a children’s party helps them withstand:

  • Toddlers laying on them
  • Children hitting each other with them
  • Changes in temperature from a cold car to a warm hall
  • Grandparents accidentally sitting on them
  • Contact with pointy objects

And if you’re going to go to all that effort to inflate the balloons, then you might as well give them a fighting chance of surviving the whole party!