The kids are laughing. Maybe that’s the only thing that really matters.
It’s not like I have something against the traditional donkey or modern iterations of Sponge Bob, Angry Birds, or Princesses. It not that children get prizes or candy. Let it be known, I’m a big fan of candy. It’s about chaos. For the neurotic, hyper-vigilante worriers like me, this article is for you.
Can I start with the premise that you give an 8 year old a bat, then blindfold him, then tell him to swing as hard as possible? Sure. What could possibly go wrong? There’s a reason there is a whole pinata segment on America’s Funniest Videos.
Many of the new pinatas are made from cardboard instead of paper mache. Not just any old cardboard; the type of cardboard that could withstand re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Give that 5 year old a chainsaw and we might get some action.
Don’t forget to add in a line of anxious children waiting to pounce on the candy should the blindfolded person actually crack the pinata code. No danger there of a misguided toddler (or six) wandering into the path of an oncoming bat train.
Finally, the big kid down the street steps in and breaks the pinata open. Candy for everyone, right? Next is like a scene from the Hunger Games. Only the strongest will survive. Kids get pushed, fingers get stepped on, and that big kid, with his Lebron James-sized hands fills his basket and claims victory, leaving the masses in tears.
So, maybe I worry a little. It’s not so bad, you say? If you must, here are a few things that will make the pinata experience more fun for all.
If you have the time and ambition, make your own pinata. Check out these sites for tips on making a few different types. By making your own, you can control how easy or hard it is to crack the pinata and can control the type of object need to break it open. This will deal with problem 1 and 2.
Kids don’t listen to rules when there is candy involved. The boundaries need to be clear with rope, cones, or police barrier tape. Try having one boundary for the swinger with a buffer zone then a boundary for the watchers.
Try to have at least 3 helpers for the smack-down. One person can be positioned with the bat holder and highlighted in an AFV video, one for the on-deck batter, and one (or two) for the rest of the kids.
Tom Hanks said in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Because I’ve spent my life making kids laugh at parties, I’m not a fan of having them cry there, either. There are a few ways around it.
That’s my two cents on pinatas. What’s yours? Share your pinata story with our readers here, good or bad. We would love to hear from you!
I am very excited to say that I published my first ebook! The Almost Perfect Birthday Party: A sanity-preserving guide to planning a party your child will love is the gathered experience of many years in the children’s entertainment and event planning business. This book is for all of the moms and dads and other party planners who, like me, are a little less than perfect. You’ll get lots of tips to make the event go more smoothly, but more importantly a guide to help you and your child be happier in the end.
For the book launch this weekend, the book is FREE! On Saturday and Sunday only, you can hop on Amazon and download this book. It is available in the Kindle Store, but you don’t have to have a Kindle to read it. You can download the free Kindle app or read it on the Kindle Cloud Reader. You can see the choices on the right of the screen.
It took many months to write then more time to learn all about the world of publishing an ebook. The formatting, cover design, and finally publishing an ebook were all something I had to learn before I pushed that publish button. Now, that I’ve done it, I can’t wait to write my next one. Perhaps, I’ll write about the process in another post.
Needless to say, I would love for you to read it. If you are so inclined, comment on it here. The beauty of an ebook is that it can be changed at any time, as many times as you like. And since it’s free on September 21st and 22nd, what do you have to lose? If you can’t wait until tomorrow, you can buy it right now.
Feel free to ask questions about the process. It was a great experience.
It’s toooooooooooooo hot to go outside today on the East Coast. Stay inside and learn some new tricks. Check out this video on learning 4 ball juggling variations. Haven’t learned to juggle 4 balls yet? Check out our other 4 ball juggling tutorial.
Let us know how you do!
Many of you ask me how to tie a knot in a balloon. Since you asked, I created a video just for you.
If you still have questions, post it in the comments section below. Do you want to see more? I’ll post more balloon twisting videos in the coming weeks.
Michael and I just finished teaching an 8-week after school circus arts program at an elementary school near our home. I taught circus arts classes in the past, although I had never done an after school program with this format. While I love teaching, the prospect of teaching Kindergarten through 5th graders was a little daunting, especially since the 20 person class skewed young. I made up a rough class schedule, recruited Michael to help and crossed my fingers that we could teach 5-11 year olds to juggle or something that resembled a circus skill.
We started the session in a hallway. Although we were offered a classroom, the desks, tables, chairs and other obstacles made the space unusable without a moving crew at the beginning and end of each day. Far from ideal, we made the best of it. At least they couldn’t wander far.
If you have ever taught children, you know there are always a few names you figure out right away. They are the ones you talk to 5 times in the first 5 minutes. They are the ones that will keep you up at night trying to figure out how to turn octopus arms into jugglers. Who doesn’t love a challenge?
And there were challenges. Some kids were painfully shy. Others scooted down the hall or hid under the lone table refusing to do anything because they didn’t master something the first time they tried. We heard from a parent that their child wanted to quit mid-session (but didn’t). And then there were the talkers, the runners, and the “please take your hands off of him,” kids. Ask any teacher, they deal with this every single day. Thank you, teachers. You are saints.
While our framework was circus arts and our product was a show for parents on the last day, we focused on the process. Juggling is hard. Ask any person who has ever tried. You won’t be successful the first or second or third time you try. Failure is not easy to accept and especially for elementary school kids.
We focused on teamwork, each encouraging the other to do their best. We cheered their successes and raised them up when things didn’t go well. We focused on stage presence and presenting oneself as a confident person on stage and off. But, we mostly focused on a simple formula:
Courage + Perseverance = Success
Trying something hard takes courage. Performing on stage takes courage. And they all did it. Some of them worked through fear, some even intense fear and found something in themselves to overcome it.
It is hard to keep going when you don’t get it right away. But, they didn’t learn to read the first time they picked up a book and they didn’t learn to tie their shoes the first time they laced them up. We practiced juggling every day in our once a week class. Knowing that juggling wasn’t going to be possible for everyone, we all tried balancing, swinging poi, hat manipulation and clowning. They all found their thing and kept at it. While the older kids learned to juggle balls, others learned scarves. But, everyone learned something.
I learned something, too. Kids are amazing beings. The show isn’t something we’ll take on the road. It wasn’t that kind of show. What I will take with me are the smiles on their faces when the performance was done. That sense of pride, and maybe relief, that filled them. I’ll take the hugs from the kids and the thanks from the parents. And I’ll carry the hope that they will all have the courage to try something new or something hard and keep at it until they succeed.
OK. We aren’t perfect. We occasionally drop our props or forget our lines or start on the wrong cue. Fortunately, we are comedy jugglers and have ample drop lines to rely upon or can make the mistakes into opportunities for self-deprecating humor. This blooper was beyond all of that. At First Night Wilmington on the cusp of 1997, we share an event that was clearly our biggest blooper of all.
We arrived at the check in station in Wilmington after a long ride and performance at First Night in Dover. In Dover, we were greeted and escorted to a well-lit, well-suited space for our performance and again greeted by both a Site Supervisor and a professional Sound Engineer to set up and man a sound system for us. Not so in Wilmington.
We were on our own to figure out where to park and how to lug in our equipment. As was mentioned in a previous post, we were happy to be performing at the Christina Cultural Arts Center only to find out that while we were inside the building, our audience was outside, standing in the cold. There was a huge picture window between us and our audience. Fortunately, the organizers realized there would be an issue, so they set up a sound system for us. Unfortunately, we might have been better off if we had used two soup cans and a length of string for communication.
That set us up nicely for what we had to do to keep the audience’s attention. With lots of events and performances happening simultaneously, the fact that they had no seats and were standing in the cold, we knew we had to something special to keep our audience from walking away.
We decided to do shorter shows than previously scheduled. Getting volunteers from the audience would take a combination of sign language and charades expertise since no one could understand a word we were saying through the sound system. (Think Charlie Brown’s teacher.) We figured we had 20 minutes worth of show that included juggling and nonverbal communication and NO talking or at least 20 minutes we could fake our way through.
After searching for a while, we finally found someone who appeared to be a supervisor or at least that’s what their walkie-talkie seemed to suggest. We asked if we could juggle fire. They replied with, “I guess.” That was good enough for us.
For the cards we were dealt, the first show was going pretty well. I prepared the torches. The audience stared in anticipation. Michael nodded and we set the torches ablaze. The crowd on the street swelled as Michael did his thing with the fiery sticks. It was going great. And then…..
The smoke detectors sounded their annoying beeps and the alarm in the building blared. We quickly blew out the torches and started our walk of shame outside. It would have been bad enough if we were the only ones in the building. But, we weren’t. A crowd of about 50 people poured down the stairs. We interrupted a jazz singer, in a beautiful blue satin strapless full length gown, who was right in the middle of a set. She was not happy.
By the time we got outside, most of the crowd had dispersed. With increasing volume, we heard police and fire sirens approaching the scene. Michael tried to tell one of the fire fighters that it was just us who set off the alarm; there was no fire. The man shoved the dude with the knickers and the bow tie aside and went about his duty.
We sat down in an alley, full of embarrassment, trying to decide what we would do for a living after this.
As it turned out, the professionals cleared the building for re-entry, we performed 3 more shows that night (without the fire), and got hired again for the next 5 years at First Night Wilmington.
We don’t juggle fire that much inside anymore except for certain venues. It is ironic that libraries allowed us to juggle fire in their buildings while fire companies did not. Hmmm…
We are fortunate that we have had so many years to juggle together (20 to be exact) and perform for so many and have not once burned anything down.
We were proud to be part of the JDRF Walk at Christiana Mall in Newark, DE on Saturday, January 27, 2013. Each year approximately 15,000 new cases are discovered in children. We hope you can help find the cure by donating or getting involved.
Enjoy the video!
Before I went to high school, life was pretty easy. School was a breeze. Playing sports seemed natural. Art projects were part of who I was. When I hit high school, I crawled out of my happy little cocoon and realized that while I wasn’t bad at any of those things, I was really nothing special. Not the low self-esteem crawl in a closet and die feeling, but I no longer felt good at anything.
I met Michael. Cute? Sure. Charming? No doubt. But, he was a juggler, too. I thought, how cool is that? I dumped my practicality compass and headed toward the unknown.
That week, I scrounged up 3 tennis balls and tried to teach myself to juggle. There was no YouTube or internet to guide me (no laughing young ones). I hadn’t seen a lot of juggling before to mentally comprehend the task before me. But, I was determined to impress Michael. 5 minutes a day for 30 days I threw those balls in the air then picked them up off the ground. I chased them under chairs and brushed off the dust balls that they collected on their journey. Even with little early success, I kept trying.
By about day 15, I could manage 4 throws and catches. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s when I felt it. It was a transformative feeling of knowing that I was going to be able to juggle. My body and my mind finally started singing in the same key and while not yet a masterpiece, it felt like a song. My heart raced and, as hokey as it sounds, real joy ran through me. That addictive feeling pushed me through the next 15 days until I had the courage to show Michael. While not overly impressed with my new juggling skills, he stuck with me anyway.
It’s that feeling that I see in the eyes of people I teach to juggle. It is a universal look I see in everyone that gets to throwing that 4th throw for the first time. It doesn’t matter if they are 10 or 60 years old, it’s all the same. I’ll never grow tired of seeing that look or reliving that feeling.
Not everyone can juggle. Most people, erroneously, don’t think they can. It isn’t like running a 5K for the first time. Maybe you can run all the way, but you can run. And it’s not like writing a book. It may not be any good, but at least you can write something. You can’t juggle until you can. There is both mental and physical energy to expend in trying to get there. There is pride and self-doubt, a sink full of dishes and Survivor standing in your way. So when you do finally learn how to juggle, when you finally get that feeling, you are suddenly in a different place.
I listened to an interview with blogger and founder of Squidoo, Seth Godin. He asked the question, does what you do matter? I sure as hell hope so. I hope it matters to the people we have made smile and laugh during our 20 years of performing. But, I mostly hope it matters to the people I have taught and will teach to juggle. I said in another post that once I learned to juggle, everything else seemed possible. I wonder who else felt that, too.
If you want to learn to juggle (and why wouldn’t you), now that we are in the 21st century, there are lots of resources online. I would start with www.juggle.org . If you are near Newark, Delaware, I am teaching several classes this spring and would love to teach you, too. You can check out the details on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jugglinghoffmans/events
If you know how to juggle, I would love to hear your “learn to juggle” experience.