How to amuse the children
HEN the Editor wrote to me asking if I would write an article for him on "Entertaining Children," I said, How entertain? Professionally, or at home? "Well," he said, "how to keep them quiet and how to amuse them."
Well, now that could be very easy. . . .
To keep them quiet, I might suggest a good hard bash over the head with a blunt instrument; to keep them amused, I might suggest sending them out with a pocket full of squibs into Harrods on a busy Saturday morning, or giving the boys a lot of worms to put down little girls' necks, and nice long sharp darning needles for the girls to stick into the little boys; Fm sure that would cause a lot of fun to the little dears, but hardly any for the adults.
So those ideas are neither generally amusing nor sporting, nor are they conducive to good healthy living. so I will exclude them from this advice.
IF you are really going to entertain 'children, the great understanding of them is not, in my opinion, strictly necessary, as long as you approach this subject with a certain amount of tolerance—for the adult. For the adult is usually going to say to little Willie: "Yes, you may see that," or "No, you may not see that."
So anything that you do professionally for the amusement of the • child must at least seem "right" to the parent.
Children are notoriously logical, so you must decide whether you arc going to approach them with good logic or something that is so illogical that it is ludicrous. No child in its right mind is going to accept something that is half-way, because you give him cause to wonder and argue, and once he starts that you have lost his attention from what you are trying to do for him.
I remember when I was very small at school, one of the masters who was trying, unsuccessfully in my case, to pump, bludgeon, and what you will, some form of sense and knowledge into my exceedingly unreceptive brain, used to ask how. many "maggers" we had instead of "How many marks." Now that was so silly that we used to look forward to the time when "maggers" were asked for.
I remember another master who failed miserably with us because he used to make feeble jokes to us that always had sonic rather peculiar logic to them, and instead of laughing or paying attention to what he was trying to teach us, we would grin foolishly, and wonder what the devil he was talking about.
ANOTHER tremendously important factor in this is sincerity. A child, or so I've found, will accept something as long as he believes that you believe it too. If you fall on a banana skin that isn't there, and he can sec that it isn't there, then you must, by your own actions and reactions, make him think that you thought that there was a banana skin there—then he will laugh.
And don't think a child hasn't seen through you, he has, hut he will stay with you mentally if you let him see that you were taken in; he is one up on you. A child, I think, will also love to be with you if you take him into your confidence. I get letters from children where you can see that he was tickled pink to be spoken to on TV. They really do believe that you are talking to them alone.
A ND never, never play down to r‘them. Either stay above them so that they have a sort of respect for you, or put yourself absolutely on their level—be one of them.
You know. I'm surprised sometimes when I watch children's TV and see very experienced actresses and actors failing only through patronising the people they are playing for. A child hates to be patronised, perhaps even more than we adults do. It makes him feel very uncomfortable, and upsets him.