Here is a list of things that I think make a kid show magic routine great. Each idea is followed by a brief comment. I am confident more things could be on the list. It is not being suggested that the list is an ultimate statement about what it takes to do a great magic routine for kids. The main purpose is to provide “food for thought”.
- Clarity of effect
The nature of the trick must be immediately clear. If you have to explain why what just happened is actually a trick, it is not a good trick. If the kids have to think about it a moment to realize it is “magic”, it is not a good trick.
- Simplicity of plot
The audience should not have to work at remembering the important aspects of the routine. Convoluted story lines are not good. This happens more often than you might think because kid show magicians tend to add lots of business and lines to their presentations. They also tend to be unscripted and therefore use more words than necessary. At times, in the course of the business, lines, and wordiness; children find it hard to keep in mind what the whole thing is actually about.
- Kid friendly concepts
Kids like dogs, rabbits, toys, and large colorful things. Routines that feature such things will pretty much always go well. Routines involving numbers and dates (other than birthdays), gambling themes, and romance will not go so well. Also, tricks featuring small common items such as pencils and paper clips will not go as well. Tricks with such things may fool the kids, but if you want to have a great time with the kids, go big and colorful!
- Tricks that are truly amazing
Some may say that the trick does not matter. It is all about having fun with the kids. If that is the case, be a joker or buffoon and forget about magic. Magic, when done as it should be done, is wonderfully entertaining. Children like to feel a real sense of wonder and they like it when something causes them to think Wow. How can that be? Amazing magic is something they like and will probably remember the rest of their lives. How did he make that table float in the air? Did you see it when the rabbit disappeared? Remember how the rope was cut and half and then came back together again? Great tricks do make it easier to have a great routine.
- Opportunity for full involvement.
Children like to be part of the fun. They especially like it when they can say magic words, clap their hands, wiggle their fingers, etc. Routines that bring a couple of helpers on stage are good, but when you can do something that gets the entire audience in on the action, that is better.
- When an adult is in a comical situation
As a general rule, children love to be called up on stage. Some performers may not have discovered that at times it is possible to get an even better reaction when calling an adult up on stage. Kids love to see what happens to the adult, and love to laugh when an adult is part of a funny happening. Even without an adult on stage, children love it when the magician (who normally is an adult) is somehow the object or victim in a silly situation. A great example of this is how excited children get when a puppet plays a trick on the performer.
- When the child has success
Children like happy endings and they like to feel like they have a hand in the magic. They enjoy it when the magician proves he is a good magician. There is value in that. But they like it even more when they feel like they somehow made the magic happen. I would rather have a child seem to make a lost item magically appear in a change bag than to do such a thing myself. I am strongly committed to a kind of kid show magic that always puts children in a positive light.
A final thought
The number one answer to the question “What makes a kid show magic routine great” is “The magician”. That is, if the magician makes a great presentation. At a convention of educators, a speaker once asked a room full of people, “How many of you can remember something specific a teacher told you in grade school?” A few people raised their hands, but not many. The speaker then asked, “How many of you can remember at least one of your grade school teachers?” Everyone raised a hand. The speaker then said, “Never forget it. The students will remember you long after they remember anything you say. Do what you can to make their memory of you a thing that will be a positive influence on their lives”. That is an idea for magicians to take to heart. Do we want the kids to remember only a trick we do or do we want them to remember us? If we want them to remember us, what will the memory be? What picture will they have in their minds? It is how we conduct ourselves as performers; how we dress, move, speak, act, and react, that makes a great routine, a great show, and a great memory.