The theatre was packed.
There were hyped up kids everywhere.
Nearly 300 little “Royals” were on hand to attend the Prince and Princess Dress Up Party at the Civic Theatre. (our wonderful community owned movie theatre created the event around the showing of Disney’s new Cinderella movie)
Children (and parents) dressed up as Princes, Princesses, knights, pirates, pumpkins, or whatever they wished.
Not only were the kids excited about the Dress Up Party, but many of the them had attended the City’s annual Easter Egg hunt at the park that morning, and were already revved up on sugar and the excitement of “the hunt”.
I attended the event on behalf of Mountain Baby as a sponsor and helper. The movie was going to be shown, and afterwards there would be games, activities and treats.
Super excited kids, fancy and fun costumes, and the fantasy of Cinderella… this was a possible recipe for pandemonium.
But, much to my delight, that’s not what happened.
Things went remarkably smoothly.
No one had a melt down. No one pushed or shoved. No biting no fighting. No one got lost.
It was all good.
I’ll be the first to tell you (from my experience as an Early Childhood Educator) that having a group of excited young children all in one place (and all over the place!) can be disastrous. Chaos can prevail.
But that’s not the way it went at this event. It was all smooth and easy.
Here was a unique situation with a large group of kids, but it could just have easily been a birthday party, a music festival, a playground or anyplace your kids are out in public with a bunch of other kids.
What made the difference this time?
Here are my thoughts and observation.
- The event was very well planned and organized from beginning to end.
- There were many adult volunteers present and many adults accompanying the children
- There were many ushers (of which I was one) helping children find their seats.
- The theatre had an ample supply of booster seats so everyone could see – we called them Royal Booster Seats. We actively walked around looking for tiny people who were too small to see over the seat in front of them, and we offered them a boost.
- Volunteers were busy getting everything set up for the children in the background in the part of the theatre where the after show events were to take place.
- I was super aware of safety issues (with my Early Childhood Education Background) and took on duct-taping all the wires running across the floor, and securing lamps, moving ladders, closing doors – anything that could present a hazard.
- During the movie, most of the kids were entranced. Some little ones got restless and their parents took them out for a while.
- After the movie, the children were invited to come up on stage and show off their costumes – or just come up. Another opportunity for chaos.
- I helped one of the other ushers to escort the kids up and down the stage stairs. When too many tried to go up at once, we offered a few very positive directions about waiting… “one at a time, we don’t want anyone to fall” etc, was adequate to make it all go smoothly. The kids were very cooperative.
- When the time for the stage show was over and the MC (the very capable Eleanor Stacey, Executive Director of the theatre) was ready to move to the next events, there were about six children left to come on stage. Those kids were crestfallen and this was another moment where several meltdowns could have happened. I went up to Eleanor and said there were just a few kids left to go up. She immediately changed course, invited the other kids up, and “tragedy” was avoided.
- When we moved to the activities area, again, there were lots of volunteers, we shifted gears as we saw what was needed for the different activities, and again, everything went smoothly and the kids were remarkably well behaved.
- The adults all worked hard, and the kids all had a great time
So why am I telling you so much about this event?
Because it offers a good blueprint for how to get the best behaviour from your kids, especially if you are having a group of them for a party or a play-date.
If you read my observations list above again, you’ll see the corresponding “Best Behaviour” success tips listed below.
- Think through and plan what you want to have happen.
- Make a list of activities to have on hand.
- Prepare the materials you’ll need in advance.
- Invite other parents to be there with you and help supervise.
- It’s tempting to go off in the kitchen and talk with your friends, but it works better if you are a real presence.
- Give kids clear directions in a positive way – telling children what to do is way more effective than telling them what not to do.
- Pay attention to the age of the children so the littlest ones aren’t left out or left behind. ie have “booster seats”
- Check and secure your house (or the area you are in) for safety hazards for kids of all ages
- Be sensitive to each child. Make sure everyone has turns at what ever you are doing.
- Be flexible. Change plans and have backups if things are getting out of hand.
- Feed everyone – have nutritious food as well as treats – or better yet, make your treats healthy.
- If the adults put the effort in, the kids will all have fun.
Remember… whether you are dealing with a group of young children or just your own, you have the capacity to help them behave well by being conscious and present with them, providing some structure, stating expectations positively and being sensitive to their developmental capacity, their physical comfort, and their feelings.
So the next time you throw a kids party or participate in a group activity with your kids, be sure to follow my Best Behaviour tips.
Your kids will have more fun and odds are you will too.