Families love the tailored entertainment P&O Cruises holidays offer – the onboard Kids Club programs are filled with activities for different age groups that keep the young ones happy all day.
But, what really goes into making fun a full-time job? And how can we duplicate this magic during meals, in our cabins, even at home.
We spoke to professional children’s entertainer Phil Wilcox from Superheroes Sydney about his tips and tricks to keeping little ones entertained.
How do you grab and hold a child’s attention?
Actions and words: “There are many simple tricks to entertain kids. Use different inflections, volume and even accents in your voice; kids love that kind of thing. Try bellowing out and then the next second whispering. Mix up stance and posture, particularly by going down on one knee to be on their level.”
Mix it up: “Everyone knows that kids have short attention spans and to keep them entertained and engaged you need to mix it up and change tack frequently; moving from a game to a story to a different game.”
Keep them on their toes: “Kids attention spans get shorter and shorter as the time you spend with them goes on. I’ve found that if you show them a mixture of crazy exuberance and quiet control early on they know that you’re capable of anything. This contrast also keeps the kids keen and eager to see what you’ll do next, knowing that they’ll have to behave if their going to see some fun and crazy antics.”
Tell a story: “I frequently use storytelling both as a way to structure the entertainment and as a way to grab their attention. For instance, I always structure the entertainment with an over-arching story. Something simple like, ‘if you want to be a cool superhero like me, you’ll need to play some training games to learn how to fight baddies.’ I’ll keep referring back to this story structure adding things like ‘has anyone seen the Joker round here today? Yes!? Oh no! We need another training game!’”
Engage and incentivise: “With children’s entertainment, most of the work isn’t on ‘entertaining’ them so much as ‘engaging’ them and displaying control. Kids need to know that their actions have consequences so if they listen and perform well they’ll be rewarded with praise or a prize, but if they misbehave you need to have the integrity to follow through with a disincentive."
What do kids really love?
Role reversal: “Kids love a reversal of power. Pretend to be frightened or surprised by them, ‘forget’ the name of some simple like hide and seek (hide A SHEEP!?’, ‘hide AND SLEEP?!’), or pretend to be knocked back by the sheer force of a high five.”
Competition: “Everyone loves winning and kids are no exception. They are competitive. Kids like it when there is integrity to a game and there is an opportunity to win.”
Balance: “Kids are generally conservative in the sense that they like a controlled space; a place where they feel safe. But on the other hand, they love a crazy loud environment of fun, adventure and imagination. Keeping these two things in balance is the challenge of a children’s entertainer.”
What do kids really hate?
The middle road: “Kids can sniff out those entertainers who are scared, weary or uncertain of themselves – and they will punish them. When entertaining kids I have to give it my all. There’s no in-between, no slacking off.”
The blind eye: “Being listened to is important – kids don’t like being ignored. A little non-distracting acknowledgement can go a long way.”
Injustice: “Kids hate unfairness. For a kid, the world has more order and natural cause and effect than we see as adults. I make sure I always follow through with promises and try to remain consistent in competitive games.”