How to find a good children’s entertainer ….

Kids birthday parties

Children’s science party entertainers

…. and spot the good from the bad!

With an overwhelmingly large number of children’s entertainers out there nowadays, to actually find a good one can be like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s every parent’s nightmare to be landed with a less than decent entertainer that can’t control the kids.

There are a lot of good kids’ entertainers around but there are a huge number of bad ones too. So how do you spot the good from the bad?

Here’s a helpful list of things to look for that will certainly help you on your search.

Energy – a kids party entertainer needs a natural energetic personality and this should be conveyed in their voice when you call them up. When you speak to them on the phone make sure they sound enthusiastic. If you call a company you may end up speaking to someone who just works in the office doing admin as opposed to the entertainer so if that’s the case make sure to ask a bit of info about the entertainer you are getting.

Variety – no matter how good an entertainer is, kids won’t concentrate on any one thing for long, especially not a party, so your entertainer needs to offer a huge variety of activities to keep it nice and engaging for the children. Avoid people that offer just one or 2 activities or kids will get bored very quickly.

Good value – kids parties aren’t cheap but you shouldn’t get fleeced either, so shop around for an idea on the going rate. The average cost of an children’s entertainer is £200-£250. Don’t just look at price though, look at what’s being offered. A kids party entertainer might offer a really cheap price but just offer magic and games and nothing else. Whereas someone for a bit extra might offer a whole lot more.

Birthday party organisers

Science parties for kids

React to kids on the day – the mark of a good entertainer is someone that can adapt their show to the way the kids are at the party rather than plan a magic show for 30 mins at the start, then games for 20 mins and so on. If kids are really lively they won’t sit and watch a magic show for 30 mins so you need someone who can make their show fit around how the kids are on the day. Ask y if this is something they do. Avoid ones that have a set time constrained set of activities.

Up to date music – check what music your entertainer has. Kids aren’t interested in songs they don’t know so ask for songs that are up to date or for songs you know your child likes. A good entertainer should be able to keep up with the times and accommodate most requests.

Referral / recommendations – its always great to get a recommendation from a friend who’s had a good experience. So ask around. If no one can help though check out impartial reviews on websites to find out who has come highly recommended.

Party Extras – these other points won’t determine the quality of your kids entertainer but they are things you should consider nevertheless:

  • Back up entertainer – does the company have a back up person if your entertainer falls sick?
  • DBS check and insurance – its a legal requirement for entertainers to have a DBS c heck (CRB) and public liability insurance but check they have it as some may not.
  • Pat testing – it’s not a legal requirement but it is highly recommended to have all electrical equipment pat tested to ensure its safety. With kids you can’t be too careful so ask if your entertainer has this.

There are so many children’s entertainers around and it really can become choice paralysis after a while. If you’re looking for help with planning your kids party, Froggle Parties is a reputable children’s entertainment company that has also featured on CBBC and has a huge range of children’s entertainers and parties you can choose from. They also offer free party invitations and help with finding a venue. www.froggleparties.com

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MCC Cricket Academy Kids Coaching

children's cricket coaching

Cricket coaching for children at MCC Cricket Academy

The MCC Cricket Academy is London’s premier indoor cricket destination and one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world. Based at Lord’s Cricket Ground in St. John’s Wood, the MCC Cricket Academy offer a range of coaching courses for children aged 3-17.

  • Little Legends – Age 3-4
  • Cricket Cubs – Age 5-7
  • Future Stars – Age 8-10
  • Academy All-Rounders – Age 11-13
  • Cricket Masters – Age 14-17

All stages of development are nurtured by dedicated coaches and cover everything from a

cricket holiday clubs

cricket coaching for young children

basic introduction to the movement, skill and rules of cricket for total beginners through to advanced batting, bowling, fielding and wicket keeping techniques including an understanding of the laws of the game.

Coaching is available throughout the year with intensive courses being staged during school terms, half term and school holidays. Below is a selection of courses, coaching and analysis on offer.

Weekly Group Courses
These 12 week courses are run on set days and times (depending on age), during each spring, summer and autumn school terms. Specifically designed programmes are taught by our professional coaches to provide progression for young cricketers of all abilities giving your budding young cricketers every possible chance to develop their game to their full potential.

excellence in cricket coaching

MCC Cricket Academy

School Holiday Courses
You can book your budding young cricketers onto one of these popular courses, where vastly experienced coaches teach all disciplines of cricket. These run during Half Terms and Easter, Summer & Christmas holidays.

One-to-one Coaching
The Academy offers a net session with Coach for personalised lessons. All MCC Coaches are minimum ECB Coaching Level 2 qualified and are highly experienced in all forms of the game. Coaching sessions can focus on batting, with the use of a bowling machine, fielding and on your bowling or wicket-keeping technique. All coaching sessions are customised to suit individual requirements and abilities.

Hawk-Eye Bowling Analysis
Nowhere else in the world can a budding cricketer get the opportunity to use this state-of-the-art kit. Hawk-Eye allows cricketers to analyse their skills in minute detail, accurately pinpointing speed and line & length of deliveries bowled. At the end of the session you can view video analysis of performance and graphical Hawk-Eye breakdowns of statistics, in the Analysis Suite. You can see how fast you bowl, watch each delivery back in ‘Virtual Reality’ and measure how far you are turning the ball through spin, seam or swing.

PitchVision Batting Analysis
PitchVision, like Hawk-Eye, is a fantastic analysis tool to help improve your batting game. The state-of the art technology enables MCC coaches to offer in-net assessments of batting techniques. See instant replays of your performance on a laptop and gain more from your coaching session at Lord’s. All video is then available to view, upon registration, from the PitchVision website. PitchVision’s batting analysis tool is the most instant form of video feedback in the net itself.

The Academy facilities

cricket lessons for all ages

Cricket school holiday camps

  • Net sessions
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Birthday parties
  • Free parking*
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Viewing balcony
  • Disabled access
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Coffee Shop, open from 9am to close, selling hot and cold snacks and drinks
  • Newly refurbished dressing rooms and showers
  • Gym facilities

Lord’s cricket store
A new addition to the Home of Cricket is the Lord’s Cricket Store, bringing you the latest top-of-the-range cricket equipment from all the top brands and for all age groups. Situated in the MCC Cricket Academy and staffed with cricket equipment experts, who are on hand to advise each purchase, while visitors are also able to try equipment before they buy. Open from 10am weekdays and 8am on weekends.

For more information on the MCC Cricket Academy, availability, coaching courses, facilities and prices please call 020 7616 8612 and email cricketacademy@mcc.org.uk Follow us on Twitter @MCC_Academy.

MCC Cricket Academy at Lord’s the Home of Cricket NW8 8QN
*Parking is subject to availability and may not be available during major match days. The closest entrance to the MCC Cricket Academy is the North Gate, off Wellington Road.

See more information on the MCC Academy and other after-school activities and holiday clubs on the All 4 Kids UK Directory

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The benefits of horse riding for children

Horse riding club for kids

Horse riding lessons for boys & girls

Where do I start? For me personally the list is endless. By letting children begin a relationship with these loveable animals at a young age it allows them to build their confidence with animals a lot bigger than themselves. This can become more difficult as we get older, something I am sure a lot of you reading this can relate to. Young children have a lot less fear than adults, which can be a positive point, even though it means we as parents do double the amount of worrying for them!

We are constantly being told by the media that we are becoming an inactive nation whose children are

Horse riding parties for kids

Horse riding birthday parties

spending more and more time watching TV and playing computer games. When children are around horses, be that riding them or helping out around the stables they have no idea how much exercise they are having. If you haven’t ridden a horse before it’s hard to realise just how much effort it can take to do it well, particularly if you are learning. As long as children are having fun, that is all they care about! Horses can become a way of life which stays with them throughout their childhood and teenage years. This leads nicely on to my next point of horse riding being a fantastic way to keep teenagers off the streets and stopping them causing trouble! Once children reach an age where they can be useful around the stables you will find the only time you will hear off them is for a lift to and from the yard. Whilst you may start feeling like you should have a taxi sign on the top of your car you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where they are and that they are under the supervision of a number of responsible adults.

Horse riding is a fantastic way to improve balance and coordination in children; studies have shown that it can be extremely beneficial to those who struggle in these areas.

Horse riding club

Liberty Horses offer horse riding lessons and parties for children

I am writing from a community interest company called Liberty Horses and we are based near Bridgend in South Wales. We work predominantly with children who have some sort of additional need but our doors are open to everyone and no experience is necessary! We use the art of Natural Horsemanship to provide a person centred approach as we believe our clients are able to learn a lot more than if they attended an average riding school. On Saturdays and during school holidays we offer pony days where children can spend a longer period with us and can learn a variety of things ranging from the correct way to muck out a stable to grooming and plaiting their favourite pony. If you live near us or are ever in the area come and see us, our gate is always open as we would love our ponies to meet some new friends!

Find out more information on after-school activities for children HERE

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Music and Drama for All!

Drama lesson

Drama and music classes for boys and girls

As a Performing Arts practitioner, I’ve spent my whole life, from being a kid myself who loved her drama, dancing, singing and music, to being a Music teacher in secondary schools, to running my own Performing Arts company with my husband, trying to articulate just what it is about the Performing Arts that makes them so unique and such a positive force in life.

Whilst I very much believe that most people these days have a better understanding of why the arts should be a part of everyone’s life and their development as a human being, there are still a few who are fairly stuffy about what they see as a frivolous hobby, or at best a peripheral activity to be engaged in whilst not ‘having a proper job’. I remember a friend’s father being utterly bewildered that I wanted to make a career in the arts when I was very academic as well!

The way I see it, whilst performing on the stage isn’t for everyone, when you think about it, aren’t we all performers in life? It’s true that performing on the stage cultivates many personal qualities that are prized in everyday life – dedication, hard work, perseverance, the ability to push through nerves, leadership skills, and many more. I’m sure I could fill volumes on case studies of individual children and young people who I’ve seen transformed and shining with new confidence from their experiences and accomplishments.

In the last four years, my husband Stuart and I have been teaching in a large International

Boys and girls in a music lesson

SoundSketch offer music classes for children of all ages

School in Qatar (of 2022 World Cup fame!). As Head of Music there, I had the privilege of constructing a meaningful programme for kids of many diverse nationalities and cultures, some with artistic backgrounds, most with next to no experience at all. It was this that really brought home to me how powerful a medium Music is, and how it really does speak to us on so many different levels. Without any level of technique at all, everyone has the ability to engage with music on an emotional level, and on a communicative level, the old adage being that it is the universal language. Whilst our cultures and musical traditions may be diverse, the power to engage and transform is always there.
It was in Qatar that the idea for our new venture ‘SoundSketch’ was born. SoundSketch is inspired by the group STOMP! For those of you that don’t know, they use household and industrial items such as brooms, metal dustbins and even kitchen skinks to create exhilarating pieces of rhythm, movement and theatre. The thing that appealed to us was that we instantly knew that this would be fantastic for kids. Most kids love making noise, but we also saw a way to engage all kids in music-making and physical theatre without having the pre-requisite of being able to play an instrument or having technique. Without these, we can get to the fundamentals of music and drama – physicality, ensemble work, rhythms and cross-rhythms, character building, you name it!

The idea is quirky enough to grab attention, but the best part for Stuart and I is the sheer exhilaration on the kids’ faces when everything comes together and the rhythms sound funky and you see each child’s character shining through. We started in November thinking that this would be great as a weekend club for kids, but since then things have snowballed as people have latched onto what we do and can see potential for things that we didn’t to start with! Every week, we’re in various schools in Gloucestershire delivering workshops, and even corporate team building has started to take off! We’re also really excited to be collaborating with Olà Samba for holiday workshops – ‘Beat Camp!’ The first of these runs at Easter in Cheltenham, a link is available via our website.
If you fancy getting involved with our unique brand of music-making and drama, do get in touch with us! Email info@soundsketch.co.uk or call 07815 500459. You can also contact us via Facebook or Twitter, and find more information on our website www.soundsketch.co.uk

See SoundSketch on the All 4 Kids UK Directory at www.all4kidsuk.com

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Insiders Tips on how to save money on a Luxury Family Holiday

Quo Vadis for luxury family holidays

Saving families money on luxury holidays

There is no doubt that taking your family holiday firmly within school holiday dates costs heaps more than it does to skip school and travel during term time. There is also no doubt that family holidays are invaluable in terms of cultural experience, learning and family bonding. So, if you want to keep to the rules and your budget then you need to get savvy about how to book your family holiday!

Book your accommodation before flights

The whole school holiday debate exists as demand out strips supply so of course prices are higher on peak dates but booking early helps. From a Hotel owners point of view they are always keen to get some early sales to get a feel for how the year might unfold and so they often release some crazy early booking discounts. The trap that we fall into is that the no-frills Carriers, especially Easyjet often haven’t released their flights at this time so we wait for both, by which time you have missed the boat. If it is a popular destination with at least a few flights a week I would book my accommodation and then keep an eye out and nab the flights as soon as they go on sale.

Do I need an ATOL certificate?

Choose a memorable family holiday

Tips and ideas for family holidays

This brings me nicely onto the ‘ATOL’ certificate which is only given when you book a package holiday and not if you book flight and hotel separately. It protects you in case either the airline or the hotels fails and you are unable to go or complete your holiday. It is a nice-to-have but at what price? It is worth costing a package and booking your own flights and accommodation to see. If you are really spending your last beans on your holiday or taking a complicated tour where all the elements really need to fit together then the financial protection is essential , if you are taking a week or two to one well-known resort hotel then I would save the money and take the risk any day.

What I would not risk is booking direct with an overseas owner as there is ongoing some massive scams, most commonly in the villa sector. I personally know one very intelligent and sensible family who have lost thousands of pounds. Stick to a UK-based or well-known company with some company credential such as ABTA membership as you can be sure they are obliged to play by the rules.

Cheaper weeks

There are a few dates that are known to be cheaper; the last week in August in most hotels is significantly cheaper than the first 3 weeks, if the school holidays allow you to squeeze in a week before Christmas you will save heaps and those inset days when attached to half terms mean you can get some much better flight prices.

The Best value destinations

If you are just looking for some luxury, beach/pool and sunshine in a family friendly environment consider destinations that have good weather but are not in peak season. The Canary Islands are an excellent example of this with fabulous weather during our summer but excellent value prices, usually much cheaper than the Med as they consider winter their peak season.

Compromise

Well not too much, it is your holiday but don’t get stuck on the star rating too much. Often hotels have 5 star deluxe ratings as they provide lots of extras and facilities that might not be relevant to a family holiday. If I had to give star rating to hotels on family friendliness it would be as much about good value family suites, early suppers, warm milk, heated pools, space to play more than the provision of an iron in the room!

Don’t miss out on your family holiday, you really are investing in memories long after your children have grown up.

Jo MacGregor is the founder and owner of Quo Vadis Travel, The Family Holidays Company, www.familyholidayscompany.com which is an ABTA bonded travel agency specialising in Luxury Family Holidays, both packages and accommodation only.

Jo has recently written a Guide on the packed with holiday ideas for each of the 3 main school holidays and the 3 half terms. You can get your FREE copy whilst stocks last HERE.

Find information on Quo Vadis and lots of other after-school activities and holiday camps for your children at www.all4kidsuk.com

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Why Rugby Is Great For Children

Rugby coaching for kids

Rugby coaching for young boys and girls

Rugby is an excellent sport for young children to take up, and the earlier the better. Children, both girls and boys, can take up rugby based classes such as Little Ruggers which is based around the South East of England. At these classes they can start to play from as young as 2 to 6 years of age and then go onto further their rugby skills at a rugby clubs at age 6 onwards. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding rugby for children as parents may worry that rugby is all about scrums rucks and mauls and most of all big hits. It is natural for a parent to worry about this aspect of the sport however all rugby up until the under 9 age group will be non-contact, usually playing tag rugby. This then takes away the worry of your little ones getting hurt and at this age group both girls and boys will flourish.

It has been shown in New Zealand where children get involved with rugby at a younger age that girls and boys can become quite expert at the the basics of rugby before the age of 6 as shown at Little Ruggers Classes. This is because children at this age are like sponges and have the amazing ability to absorb the lessons learned. If a child then goes onto to join a rugby club then the clubs can work on more rugby honed skills rather than teaching the basics, essentially it’s a leap up for them to go on and achieve great things.
In the UK it seems the choices for team based sports is somewhat limited in the past for 2 to 5 year olds there were not many options available unless you chose to do football, however these days new activities based around rugby are springing up around the country which will inevitably get more children addicted to this great sport and increase the playing numbers in the country for both girls and boys sections.

Rugby is unique in that specific human qualities can be learned. It has been shown that rugby can help develop better concentration, discipline, tolerance and determination. They learn to work as a part of the team they are taught to respect the coaches and referees and thus learn great manners.

Rugby helps to build a healthy body, healthy mind and creativity is instilled in such a child who takes up the game at an early age and that child will often bloom into a player with an exceptional eye for opportunity.

Problem solving, learning to take tricky decision and having confidence becomes a lot more developed as anyone learns the game. Rugby has the power to help youths develop the capability of analysing and deducing some general principles of life while dealing with complicated problems often bolstering their developing mental, social and physical agility.

Benefits of learning rugby for kids:

Rugby classes for young kids

Rugby coaching for children aged 2-7

  • The moral and ethical level of a child is developed by rugby thanks to the rugby laws of the game.
  • Necessary challenges are offered by a game of rugby which is quite a good thing for those children seeking to exlore and test their ‘wings’.
  • Developmental thinking is be cultivated in a child through a game of rugby – especially social skills.
  • Underachievers are most likely to be helped by rugby which promotes healthy competition.
  • Rugby is able to teach a child about teamwork, boundaries, rules and/or responsibilities.
  • The communication power of the child is improved through playing rugby, as are various team skills.
  • The concentration level of a child is enhanced by rugby.
  • Powers of evaluation and analysis are developed and so is the ability to strategise.
  • Rugby incorporates discipline – control of emotions, anger and aggression is key.
  • A child learns that the game ends on the sports field – respect for the opponent is instilled.
  • Playing a game of rugby can give one a sense of accomplishment.
  • Critical thinking skills of a child can be developed.
  • The spirit of sportsmanship is enhanced.
  • Kids can learn problem solving through rugby and develop their own unique style of play.
  • It helps youths gain confidence.
  • Different patterns of play need to be recognized and it’s necessary for tactics to be learned and be developed by the child.
  • So come on give your kids a headstart get them involved in Rugby to get maximum benefit from sports and particularly in social and sporting skills. Contact Little Ruggers via their website www.LittleRuggers.com

Find information on Little Ruggers and lots of other activities, holidays and services for your children at www.all4kidsuk.com

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Get a £1000 Grant to Help Start Your Career!

£1000 grants available for those wanting a creative career that flexible, fun and fits around life as a parent

Would you enjoy helping to inspire children with a love of arts and crafts?

Do you dream of running your own successful business without having to sacrifice your family life?

You do? (Well, who wouldn’t?) Then you should seriously consider running your own Creation Station franchise.

The Creation Station is an award-winning organisation that’s dedicated to bringing fun, educational and rewarding arts-and-crafts fun to every child. Founded by mum to three and a multi award winning entrepreneur Sarah Cressall is passionate about inspiring imaginations and supporting other to run their own fun and rewarding business

It’s an approved member of the British Franchise Association – and, if you are one of the next lucky 20 who are awarded a ‘Licence to Inspire’ you’ll receive a £1,000 Government-backed business-booster grant to get you up and running. And, in the (unlikely) event that it turns out not to be right for you, they even offer a 100% money-back guarantee. You can request your free Information pack here

Rachel Simpson from Nottinghamshire worked as a teacher but wanted a change from teaching and more flexibility to be around for her own children

I came across The Creation Station and realised I could still work with children doing something, fun, and creative and providing positive experiences between parents/carers and children. Running my own franchise offered the chance to grow my own business and to have the flexibility to work around my family commitments.” said Rachel “It also provided lots of ongoing support with all aspects of the business and I was fortunate to gain the £1000 business booster grant too. Now I’m loving running my business and on top of all this, the Creative Hub team and network are are really lovely, friendly and encouraging people.

Due to the success of the ‘Business Booster Grant’, it has been extended for the next 20 people who train before May 2014. Individuals can receive the £1000 business booster premium support package which includes additional retail products for you to sell, as well as targeted marketing support to help boost your business.

To register your interest in this ‘Business Booster Offer’ and to receive your free Information pack just visit www.all4kids.thecreationstation.org.uk and Maggie from the Creative Hub will be in touch.

With over 105,000 children and families already inspired the demand for the award winning Creation Station experiences continues to increase so there has never been a better time to join the inspiring fun and help to make a difference to others. It could be exactly what you are looking for.

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