Author Topic: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans  (Read 6572 times)

Captain Calamity

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2010, 12:24:38 PM »
I'm really gratified to hear that most of you seem to think that the day of the balloon modeller is far from over. I still find that many entertainers don't seek to learn how to balloon model properly. They know that a child will be more than happy with a quick balloon sword, dog or flower and have no interest in improving their skill level as the majority of children that they come across don't want to spend time watching a great modeller invent and create. They just want to 'have' something. Not only that but once they have it; they will proceed to untangle, stretch and ultimately burst the item as that seems to give them more fun than actually looking at, holding and appreciating it and then even perhaps one day trying to make it themselves.
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Simply Shonna

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2010, 02:41:05 PM »
Sometimes it is not so bad that a child unravels or takes about a sculpted balloon.   I know of some children(Dustin especially) who use to take apart everything from balloons to TV's and computers trying to figure out how they worked and how he could do it himself.

Sometimes things are not always as they seem to us.

Yes, most of us young and old still want instant gratification, that is why we have so many fast food places and microwavable foods, but there are still plenty who like to stand around for hours and watch balloons being made, especially children.

The twisters in our area who do the quick one balloon, can't tell what it is stuff, never have a line, whereas we always create a line.   When people are willing to stand around and wait 1 to 2 hours to get a balloon, it is no longer instant gratification.   I believe it is appreciation and the age old feeling that if something is being given out for free, "I better damn well get one."

Just a reminder, there are plenty of one balloon creations that are truly masterpieces of the mind.   Everytime I look through some of the old books and at some of the sculptures Ralph Dewey, Ed Chee, Guido Verhoef, and Jack Matterson have done with one balloon, I am truly impressed.   Our art has progressed greatly, but it was the one balloon artist who got us all started.  

I remember thinking that I could only use one balloon; that that was how it was done.  It was so much more important to be very precise with the size of your bubbles and the amount of inflation to a balloon.   Now I can move so much faster at twisting because I can know break off balloons, and in new balloons, use multiple colors to age detail and deminsion.   Man, in the beginning the original balloon twisters had to do everything with just one balloon.   Hats off to those that came up with some of the earlier designs!
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Smiggle

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2010, 05:09:54 PM »
Great discussion - there are kids out there who will find their imagination fired by something like watching a good twister at work - or a painter, or performer - and they will have the drive to folow it up of their own accord, others may need some encouragement and a lot just won't bother because "you need to be born with a talent" - I was 58 when I twisted my first balloon so the talent (what little there is) took a long time to surface  :D  

Earlier this year I did a Children in Need fund raising day in Oxfordshire - I was told there would be another twister there but they were oinly just starting out. The other twister was a 14 year old boy who had been fascinated by watching some one twist at a party and had got himself some balloons and a couple of basic books, after a few weeks he asked the organiser of this event if he could have a go. Understandably his repertoire(sp?) was limited and he had to refer to his books quite a bit, but he turned out some reasonable stuff and learned a lot from the experience  - we even had time to jam a little when it was quiet.

During the day I found out this lad was also studying clowning and circus skills - as a thank you for passing on some of my knowledge he got out his unicycle and tried to teach me to ride it - I think my efforts on that entertained the crowd more than my magic or balloons  :D  :D
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scallywag

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2010, 05:57:04 PM »
There will always be people to continue the craft... I'm sure of that. But looking at the much bigger picture... There has been over time a move away from creative practices. Once upon a time we needed people who could make things now a lot of things that would have been made/crafted by a skilled person are imported or made in a factory so quickly and so cheaply that there is less need and less people see the point of learning a creative ability.

Look at our schools more and more children who are good at maths, english and science are called 'intelligent' and those who are good at creative subjects are called 'unintelligent'. The emphasis in school is on the academic subjects. Artistic subjects are considered 'soft' subjects not to be encouraged. As someone who studied for a BA in performing arts I can tell u a lot of people think u r unintelligent or wasting time.

A lot of crafts are dying out... I really hope twisting is here to stay...
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Captain Calamity

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2010, 07:39:10 PM »
Some of you will have noticed that 'The Scallywag' who has just replied to this thread share the same web address as me. He is my double-act partner and not me being schizophrenic. I hope that clears things up.
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Professor T Wist

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Re: The Last of the Balloon Modellers
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2010, 09:34:40 PM »
Quote from: "Captain Calamity"
Some of you will have noticed that 'The Scallywag' who has just replied to this thread share the same web address as me. He is my double-act partner and not me being schizophrenic. I hope that clears things up.

I kind of liked the schizophrenic idea myself  :D

after all we all are to a degree, who we are in RW is not who we are in our latex world, most of the time
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Captain Calamity

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2010, 11:00:35 PM »
I think Scallywag makes some interesting points about the educational system viewing artistic endeavours as of less importance than traditionaly scolastic skills and thereby making children feel inferior if they want to persue the arts. Despite living in a suposidely tolerant and supportive age; children still get told by their piers to get 'a propper job' when expressing an interest and/or ability in an artistic pursuit. They don't teach circus skills, magic and balloon modelling at school and yet many of us make a very reasonable living out of just that.

Anyway; back to the subject of attention spans getting shorter. I've just been chatting to Graham Lee and we seem to have reached an agreement on the point that whilst entertaining at a children's party; an entertainer must be a 'jack of all trades and a master of none' in order to keep all the young participants from losing interest and attention. One must do five minutes of magic followed by 8 mins of balloon modelling followed by an action dance then a puppet show and then circus skills etc etc. This is the only way to keep children glued to your show. One must also (at times) not be afraid to be quite assertive with children if they decide to fight with each other or disrupt the party in any way. If one doesn't do this then the risk is that through boredom and the inability to keep connected with your entertainment; the party will descend into a mess.

And by the way Professor T Wist in response to your thred; I am a little schizophrenic I suspect.
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Bad to the Balloon

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #22 on: January 04, 2010, 05:45:00 AM »
I remember when LEGO® didn't have instructions....

Both my kids are semi artistic, my youngest (12) surprises me the most. She actually made up the cat head on my 2nd DVD!!

CReativity has a new tool that many of us did not have .... the computer. It makes it hard to gauge the creativity because most things look so good.

The hand to eye coordination doesn't seem to be there that many of us had in the past.

Too much is emphasized on perfection and not play. Also schools have cut back art programs considerably...
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Dave

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2010, 09:16:58 AM »
Great topic btw.

I think it's important to note the difference from a hobby and a job, in schools they strive to meet government targets on education so the next gen will go on to be successful in their career and life.
School do offer after school clubs, the Scout movement is stronger than ever, Sport clubs are popping up all over the place and dance groups.
In the UK we have a huge shop called Hobby craft, which run workshops all the time, my Son plays Warhammer which he sits there for hours painting tiny models so he can play war games, my Daughter makes things with beads and also makes cards.
But with crafts and sports we have to enjoy what we do and that is where the attention span comes into it, if you don't enjoy what's the point?
In my hour show I do break it up with a game but still have them sitting there for half an hour magic show, not very often but sometimes you get 1 kid that plays up but then the same can be said for adults.
I see twisting being an art that the majority of us will pick up latter in life, plus there is a market for every type of twister we just need to find it.
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YvonneH

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2010, 10:04:45 AM »
See my experience of the school system this side of the pond is different.  My old senior school (high school to those in the US) was, and still is, the best school in town but it has also got special award status as a school for the arts and this was very much encouraged when I was at school (I left some 15 years ago) although at the time I felt I had no aptitude for the arts.  Also I never specifically studied at school to be a lawyer but the subjects I took helped me when I went to university just as the subjects I took at school have helped me with balloons to - it's just a different application of the same things more or less.  Also Schools don't teach plumbing or do training for electricians either but they do offer art classes, music, CDT, drama etc which are all compulsory until GCSE level.

As for the arts being seen as soft subjects in the academic world - so what :?:   There are also degrees that are book based that are also seen as soft i.e. business studies was the one when I was at Uni.  I'm afraid in higher education there is a huge amount of snobbery involved but if you love what you then who cares what some stuck up old git thinks :?:  (my question mark button will not work at the mo!!!)

As for key stage 1 and 2 at my daughter's school it is excellent.  They have specialised teachers that come in and teach them art, music and pe from Reception age.  Our school also have an after school art club which I would love my daughter to attend except it clashes with her music class.

Finally I really don't believe children's attention spans are decreasing.  I never had much of an attention span as a kid and neither does my daughter.  I believe it is because we are both dreamers with our heads in our own little worlds and my thoughts are constantly skipping between what I have to do (and rarely get round to LOL) and what I want to be doing, ideas for balloons or face painting, what I want to do on my website etc.

My son has amazing patience for things.  He turned 3 in September so cannot read yet but does recognise some letters.  He has paid so much attention to his sister learning to read he can blend words together if you tell him the sounds (phonics based system of learning to read we use in the UK) and since he can't read he cannot read instructions that come with things like Lego but a few weeks back he was given a small pack of Lego that came with the newspaper and he had it assembled correctly in seconds - not much but my Mum and I were impressed.  I think he is going to be like his Dad that in a few years I will find my TV dismantled in the living room just because he wants to see how it works!

Graham Lee

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2010, 11:02:10 AM »
Quote from: "Captain Calamity"
Anyway; back to the subject of attention spans getting shorter. I've just been chatting to Graham Lee and we seem to have reached an agreement on the point that whilst entertaining at a children's party; an entertainer must be a 'jack of all trades and a master of none'
I have to disagree with that statement, did I say that??
It should be "You need to know many trades and be master of them all"
You must know how to deal with every situation, but this only comes with experience
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Simply Shonna

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2010, 01:03:16 PM »
Such grand wisdom coming from a Sage Old Magician and Balloon Artist!
Graham, you are a fountain of knowledge!

I agree with Graham that you need to master a few skills to really be successful and good at entertaining.   Some learn quickly, and for others it takes years to get there. ;)

Many schools in the states have cut some art programs  and given more to the Football and other teams, but art is definitely stressed by many teachers in our schools by the projects the kids are asked to do.  

When Dustin was little, they put him in gifted program for learning, but then took him out because they said he was ADHD since he would not focus on what they were doing, but he could concentrate for hours if he was drawing or writing a story.   I would not let them put him on any medications because I did not find anything wrong or unusual with him being able to focus on art and other things he loved.  
Later his teachers admitted that he was probably just more artistic and creative than other kids, but that their program didn't focus on those skills.  

From watching my girls and other children, I just think that some are more inclined to certain areas of interest than others.   I have been doing children's parties for nearly 25 years, and the biggest difference I see in the children is that they have more gadgets to distrack them from what I am doing, but there is always one or more child who will stay by me the entire time I am twisting and watch intently while I make balloons.   When my husband does jobs as a line twister, people are not amazed at what he makes, but they stay watching because he is very funny.    

Some kids perfer interaction constantly with an adult and others like to "study" things quietly. I believe there will always be entertainers and observers and maybe a nice mix of balloon artist and balloon entertainers.
 ;)

I wish I was more like Graham though and a master at all! :)
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Captain Calamity

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2010, 03:25:17 PM »
My appologiese for misquoting you Graham. Of course the ideal is to be 'a jack of all trades and also a master  of them all' what I would argue is that is all very well in an ideal world but an entertainer doesn't have to be a master of all in order to entertain many children. I can't juggle very well but i can bring a few dozen juggling balls into a circus workshop and get the kids interact with me and trying to juggle. A lot of children's magic is self-working so if i can tell a good interactive story and weave a basic trick into the story then kids will love it. I don't need to be a master magician and the same applies with balloon modelling, dancing, venting and other areas of children's entertainment. Whilst it is great to be brilliant at them all; to engage children at a party one must offer variety and understand a little bit of the psycology of entertaining children, but one doesn't absolutely need to be brilliant (the one should strive to be as good as possible) at everything. That is how you keep childrens attention. Isn't it?
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Graham Lee

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #28 on: January 04, 2010, 04:01:27 PM »
Quote from: "Simply Shonna"
I wish I was more like Graham though and a master at all! :)
I wish.....................

But it is important not to spread yourself too thinly while trying to find your feet and way in entertaining. Find what your good at and stick with it. Then keep practising it and honing it, adding to it gradually so that you keep improving that one thing instead of trying lots and being a jack of all trades and master of none...........now where have i heard that before  :D

I know what I think are my strong points and try to stick to them, the person that says he takes on any job and anything when the phone rings and then works out how to do it after worries me. Surely it's better to give that job to someone that is an expert in that field already as if you go and do it and only make a half hearted attempt at it and the booker realises then surely you wil be damaging your reputation and the booker will think more highly of you if your honest and say that this is not your field of expertise but I know a man that is, just my opinion.
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Captain Calamity

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Re: January 2010, Children's Attention Spans
« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2010, 02:25:04 PM »
During the past quarter century, a subtle change has gradually taken form in the mental attitude of our children. Today's child is sophisticated to a greater or lesser extent. Through the so-called benefits of modern science-the impossible exploits of movie heroes and blood-curdling video games-the child is thrilled to such an extent that a twisters balloon bag becomes a poor substitute.

All this has brought about another more malicious change. Fifteen or twenty years ago the average child, with a few exceptions, was well-mannered, and quiet and attentive. The balloon artist had very little difficulty in keeping them under control. Today it appears that those few exceptions have become the rule. It may be true that children today are no worse than they were fifty years ago. But the most casual observer must admit that today children are more ill-mannered. They have less respect for their elders and their conduct in public places is often far from commendable.


What you've just read is the opening passage from 'Entertaining Children with Magic' by Eddie Clever published in 1939.

David Kaye the famous children's magician uses this passage in the preface to his book 'Seriously Silly' and I think it is relevant here.

In David Kaye's book he (as do I) substitutes "blood-curdling  games" for the original "blood-curdling action stories on the radio". I have also substituted "a twisters balloon bag"  for the original "magicians bag of tricks" and "the balloon artist" for the original "the magician".

I hope I fooled you into thinking I was writing about the kids of today. So perhaps we need to accept that children don't really change from one genration to the next or at the very least that our perception of them has always been the same. Your thoughts?
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