My First Children's Birthday Party from Alex Wong's blog

A little background here, I'd been playing around with magic for quite awhile, and mainly do close-up. Recently, I did some magic during a mission trip to Sri Lanka for a group of about 50-60 kids which went quite well, so I thought this round would be better. It turned out quite differently though. 

My friend asked me if I was available to do some simple tricks for the daughter's birthday party, I'd have about 10-12 children aged 3-7 years old. And I was doing the performance in the living room. I know most of the children personally (mostly friends' children) and we're pretty familiar with each other. There were a number of children who were guests and were people I'm meeting for the first time. 

So before the party started, we were playing with the children, and making some balloon sculptures while waiting for the rest to turn up. When everyone was here, we started with same games (pass the parcel and stuff), before it was my turn. I prepared a number of stuff, but I ended up doing the following. 

1. How to tie a rope without letting go of the ends (by crossing the arms first). This was a warmup piece that didn't play very well. I intended it to be a puzzle which they could learn and show their friends, so I issued a challenge, got some of the older kids up, but promptly lost their attention. So I got on the next one. 

2. Do as I do with the rope, where only the magician get's the knot. I had the two older kids from the first trick attempt this, but it also promptly fell flat on it's face too as the children had difficulty following the movements. So I cut it short, and proceeded to do the next trick which I thought would be better. 

3. Professors Nightmare. After the "nightmare" I had, I sent the children back to sit down, and promptly did professor's nightmare. I handed the ropes of 3 lengths to the children to take a look, and then did the routine. The first routine where there was a moment of amazement and some applause. I was relieved this went quite well after the outcome of the first two items. 

4. Cups and Balls with Breakaway Wand. I pulled out the table, and the cups and realised it was instantly recognisable! And the children knew what was going to happen. I got them to stand up incase I flashed the extra ball, but that might have been a mistake because they got REALLY close to the table! At this point, another family came into the house (the door was behind me), so I turned around just to say "WELCOME!", I turned back and saw my stack of cups in the hands of one kid who opened the cups and dropped the 3 balls on the floor, another kid grabbed my breakaway wand and somehow the key piece dropped out, so he was staring at the broken wand. All that in the time I took for me to just turn my head and say "WELCOME". With my breakaway wand already "broken", I played along and acted shocked, then proceeded to get another normal wand out for the trick. The trick then went alright, because they knew what to expect, but it really did feel quite chaotic at that time. In between, I'd tried to ask them to sit down, and realised they can't see the cups, and asked them to stand again. At this stage, I thought I pretty much lost the audience and made a full out of myself. So I moved on to the next one. 

5. Misers' Dream (Baxt, a boy and a bucket). Boy, I tell you... I thank God (And Robert Baxt!) for this! The children were still standing, and at the start of the trick, kept wanting to look into the bucket to see the number of coins. That really wasn't a problem, and got them really close up and engaged. The children were roaring with laughter when the coins started falling out of the kid's ears, armpits, and bottom. When I went into the "Grab a coin from the air, make a fist and drop the coin in the bucket". The boy got so amused he just kept doing it repeatedly without my instruction until I almost ran out of coins (I played along of course)! So fortunately, the show ended with a high. Those who have not tried Baxt's routine, I highly recommend it.

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The Wall

Feb 24 '13
Wow. I feel for you. Children shows can be brutal. I once did a show for a group of cub scouts. They were seated on the floor while I stood in front doing magic. I was using a suitcase table. They kept getting up and walking around behind to look into the table. I actually had to pick some up and carry them back. Talk about killing the pacing!

Children shows can also be a delight to do. I am a retired educator/administrator and have been doing magic for all kinds of audiences for over 30 years. A lot of my shows have been for kids.

Performing for ages 3-7 is tough. That is a wide age group. Hard to keep the attention of the 3 year olds. I usually like to start out with something very visual. Starting out with a puzzle that, for kids may feel like a test, was probably not a good idea. I often begin with the old bottle on the rope. (Forget the official name) You stick a rope into a flower vase and let go of the rope and it doesn't fall out. Then you turn it all over and let go of the vase and it doesn't fall. While an old and standard trick, for 3-7 yr. olds it is new and visual. I usually talk about doing a test to see if my magic is strong today. I may even relate it to a barometer that tests for weather. If the rope doesn't fall, the magic should go well. If the vase doesn't fall, it should go VERY well. Believe it or not it always gets a good reaction. Kids are amazed that the vase doesn't fall. They can relate to things falling and breaking! They also feel safe in that it is not a test for them, it is a test for the adult. If the test fails, then they can all laugh at the adult. Of course the test succeeds in a very visual way.

I still use a suitcase table. When performing for kids I try to stand in front of it as much as possible. When doing the vase routine, I stand in front of the table to define the space I need to perform in. This helps keep the kids in place. Do a few tricks in front of the table. Once you have them used to you being in front of the table you can move around behind it to do tricks like the cups and balls.

I also like to do tricks for this age group that are very visual, colorful, and easy for them to follow. I do things like, needle thru balloon, disappearing silk, coloring book, etc. Tricks that use objects that the kids can relate to are always good. Tricks that use repetition, like a die box, are also good for small kids.

Finally, I would recommend you read stuff by David Kaye. He is a children's performer and understands what makes them tick.

Remember that children can be a great audience, but they can also be your most honest audience. Try not to be discouraged. If you can learn to perform in front of a group of 3-7 yr. olds, then moving on to a show at Vegas is a piece of cake! :)
Wow. I feel for you. Children shows can be brutal. I once did a show for a group of cub scouts. They were seated on the floor while I stood in front doing magic. I was using a suitcase table. They kep...See more
Admin
Feb 24 '13
Lots of good information their Keith, thank you. I'll have to check out David Kaye
5th Featured
Feb 24 '13
Thanks Keith! Brilliant Stuff there. Actually, I've volunteered myself for another friend's child's birthday party that is coming up on 1 May. I've armed myself with Danny Orlean's The Art of Presenting Magic to Children, and my working to incorporate some new stuff into the routine. It's all very exciting!

I'm also going to prepare tape to mark out standing locations for children coming up to help, and for marking out the performing area. I've also gotten myself a PAS-8000 from floridamagic for audio. I've not finalized the act that I would like to do yet. When I do, I'll post an update here for comments. :)
Thanks Keith! Brilliant Stuff there. Actually, I've volunteered myself for another friend's child's birthday party that is coming up on 1 May. I've armed myself with Danny Orlean's The Art of Presenti...See more
Feb 25 '13
I have been performing for kids for the past 25 years. The first thing they ask me before the show is whether I would produce a live rabbit or dove for the show. Even though I have stopped using livestock in my shows, I know that it is the most appealing to kids of any age group.I have been performing for kids for the past 25 years. The first thing they ask me before the show is whether I would produce a live rabbit or dove for the show. Even though I have stopped using lives...See more
Feb 25 '13
i love doing kids shows.... there's nothing like a room full of laughing children, it's like music.

There are tons of books available on children's magic, I even have a few (www.MisterGreggy.com/shopping).

In my 38 years of performing, the most important things I've learned about entertaining kids is this...

It's not about the trick, it's all about the journey. Of course a strong finish is important to a trick, but what the kids really enjoy is all the fun laughter on the way to the finish. Include plenty of comedy, gags and fun in your routines.

If you want the audience to focus on your show, you have to focus on them. Pay attention to your audience, chat with them, interact. It's sad when a magician gets up in front of a group of kids and just goes thru the motions, as if he/she doesn't even notice them.

Above all else, you've got to like kids. If you don't enjoy being around children, they'll know it immediately and they will eat you alive.
i love doing kids shows.... there's nothing like a room full of laughing children, it's like music.

There are tons of books available on children's magic, I even have a few (www.Mister...See more
5th Featured
Feb 25 '13
Abraham - Thanks. The thought of working with doves did cross my mind. But I since I'm not performing professionally, and this comes once in a blue moon, I don't think livestock is a good option at this point. It's certainly something that I'd consider if I started doing parties more regularly. :) What other non-livestock effects do you is the most appealing to the kids?


Greg - I agree! Yup, I'm helping out at sunday school for the 1.5-4 year olds. So I do like children, and playing with them comes quite naturally to me. I'm also working on how to make my routine more fun for the children as well. I visited your website, and you have some great stuff available. Your ebook looks like it's filled with great content. :) I'm currently working on Danny Orlean's book, and I recently ordered seriously silly to work on as well. I'll work through those material I have first before ordering your book or I'll have information overload. :P
Abraham - Thanks. The thought of working with doves did cross my mind. But I since I'm not performing professionally, and this comes once in a blue moon, I don't think livestock is a good option at th...See more
Mar 2 '13
I agree with Greg 100%. Plenty of comedy, gags and fun, he said it. and yes focus on your audience. I use effects in which kids can participate and interact. High level of energy is also very important throughout the show. No sophesticated manipulations, just simple items like the wonder glass,comedy funnel, dice box and so on.

I agree with Greg 100%. Plenty of comedy, gags and fun, he said it. and yes focus on your audience. I use effects in which kids can participate and interact. High level of energy is also very importan...See more
Admin
Mar 2 '13
I was given the advice to always have a child up on stage with you, because then their friends will be more invested seeing someone they know on stage. What do you all think of that?
Apr 16 '13
Alex,
It sounds like you and I have similar experiences! In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you I am still new to birthday parties myself, having done just a few shows. However, I have a couple bits of advice that might be benificaial.

A good friend of mine, David Williamson, told me with kids, it's all about the journey, not the destination. Reminding me to perform magic in the form of stories. Being a close-up, street magician, that was very good advice, because I DIDN'T KNIOW that! Fortunately, someone thought to relate that to the "David Blaine" guy. Now, instead of flying through the magic coloring book, I incorperate a silk box, and color change silk into a 5 minute routine about disappearing colors. It builds suspense, kids love it. The adults do too... go figure.

Also, I use the three red ropes of the professors nightmare to rope off the "front row" on the floor. It's one of the last tricks I perform, so the kids are aware of boundaries the whole act. Surprisingly, it works.
Alex,
It sounds like you and I have similar experiences! In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you I am still new to birthday parties myself, having done just a few shows. However, I ...See more
5th Featured
May 14 '13
Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'm sorry, I didn't have the time to be more responsive. Lots of things on my plate right now!

Good news is, I've done my next kids show, and the photos were just in! I'll be writing my experience in my next blog to share with everyone, and I've just uploaded the photos on this site.
Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'm sorry, I didn't have the time to be more responsive. Lots of things on my plate right now!

Good news is, I've done my next kids show, and the ...See more
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By Alex Wong
Added Feb 19 '13

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