It all starts with a good idea, but a good idea without a plan turns into a bad experience. Here are situations that I have personally encountered while performing magic shows at birthday parties in the Dallas Fort Worth area over the past 15 years. I will provide my thoughts (Printed in Blue) on how to avoid this from happening at your birthday party.
What time does the party start?
“Oh just drop the kids off at any point, we are going to be partying all day until the sun goes down” Wrong answer: Your kid’s birthday party should have a starting point and an ending point, and 2-3 hours is probably the best time frame. I can’t tell you how many times I have arrived to perform a magic show and almost no one was there. Then during the show, kids start trickling in. If you are hiring entertainment, make sure you tell the parents so they will know that the show has a definite starting time.
Get Phone Numbers
Nothing leads to a lawsuit quicker than little Billy getting hurt in the bounce house, then being driven away by some other adult (That no one really knows) to a doctor (That no one really knows) for treatment. If only you had the parent’s phone number, you could have called. The parents arrive back at the party, thinking that they were picking little Billy up, and are told, “Oh he had an accident, and Mr. Jones, who lives three streets over, drove him to a clinic.” If parents are dropping off their kids at your birthday party, have a notebook and get their phone numbers.
Block off sections of the house
If you simply tell the kids to stay out of a particular room, you can bet that is the first place they will go. Then you can avoid conversations like this: “Where is Smokey the cat?” “Oh I found him under the bed, someone got our hair clippers out of the bathroom and shaved his back.” If you want the kids to stay out of a room, you need to physically block the door. Move a heavy chair in front of it. Putting a “Do Not Enter” sign will not work! A “Do Not Enter” sign to kids means: There’s something really cool in there and we don’t want you to see it!
Recently I did a magic show in Frisco Texas. This was a really nice house with wooden floors. The lady who owned the house and organized the party was having a horrible day. I noticed that she was going around and trying to clean the floors behind all of the kids. If a child dropped a crumb of cupcake on the floor, she was right there with her wet towel to wipe it up. It was obvious that she was falling behind as her 20-something kids kept spilling stuff on the floor. Within about 30 minutes, she looked completely stressed out. You could read her face, she was saying “What the hell did I get myself into?” I remember thinking: If you feel the need to keep your home spotless during your kid’s birthday party, maybe you should have rented a party room down the street, and let someone else do the cleaning. Or you might consider covering your fabric furniture with sheets or towels. Kids are going to spill things, that’s their job.
Trying to control the spill factor during a kid’s birthday party is a losing proposition. Just know it’s going to happen and if that’s not OK, then cover things up, or have your party somewhere else.
Don't try to do everything yourself
Invite some of the parents to stay and help with the party. A good ratio is 4 to 1. (Four kids to one adult.) Look for problem areas, such as a bounce house, or a swimming pool. Post a volunteer adult at these places to supervise the kids. Especially the bounce house. From my experience, the chances of some kid getting hurt in the bounce house is about 75%
Watch out for those balloons
Kids love balloon animals and they are so cute, what could possibly go wrong? I hear moms and dads asking all the time, “Can I get one for my baby?” NO! That’s a really bad idea! Balloons pop, and when they do, it can be dangerous. Balloons are a choking hazard. When a child puts a balloon in their mouth, it can pop and the latex (rubber) can prevent them from breathing. DO NOT GIVE BALLOONS TO ANY CHILD WHO IS UNDER THREE YEARS OLD. If a child is chewing on a balloon, take it away from them immediately.
Secure your pets
Cats and especially dogs can be a problem at parties, especially kids’ parties. It’s a very confusing time for most pets. Cats usually hide on their own, but dogs tend to be more aggressive when strangers are roaming through their homes. Cage your dogs, or put them in a locked room until the party is over. Expect kids to pull their tails, or poke at them. It’s going to happen so deal with it before it becomes a problem.
One of my worst parties
I was hired to perform a magic show in McKinney TX a few years ago, during the early spring. The party was at a city park under a pavilion. There were about 20 kids and another 30 adults (50 people in all). There was a nearby playground area where most of the kids were hanging out.
During my magic show, it started raining. Have you ever been under a tin roof while it was raining? It gets very loud. It was so loud that I have to temporarily stop the show to wait for the rain to settle down.
Everyone was crammed under this metal pavilion (No one wanted to stand out in the rain). The wind was blowing pretty hard, so we all had to squeeze together in the middle of this pavilion to stay dry. Basically, this was just a metal roof on stilts (No walls).
The rain turned into hail and was pounding the metal roof, the sound was deafening. My car was parked about 50 yards away, so running to the car wasn’t an option.
Then we heard the unmistakable sound of the emergency tornado sirens going off. At the time I was doing the magic show as “Checkers the Clown” and all I could think of was, “Great, I am going to die with clown makeup on!” The tornado was probably going to rip all of my clothes off and lodge me in a tree somewhere.
Headlines: “Checkers the Clown, found dead, naked in a tree”
Finally, after about 10-minutes the hail stopped, the tornado sirens stopped and we are all still alive. So it was back to eating hotdogs, laughing, and playing with balloons.
Makes you think right? You better enjoy the good times while you can.