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In reaction to my article Don’t Throw Away Candies to the Children, reader Harry Temperante dropped a message in the comments box.
As usual, thank you for the great insight on children’s magic.
If I may ask, what sort of tricks would you suggest that the would-be children’s performer? I’m sure self-working gadgets and items would be nice, but would you mind sharing a few ideas about these matters? I’m hoping you could share the names of some tricks, both for close up and parlor/stage.
I’m just pushing my luck. Thank you very much.
With much respect,
I have written a topic about what tricks to do at children’s shows. Here is the link: Audience-tested Children’s Magic.
However, in re-reading my post, I feel it does not answer your questions squarely. Let me amplify what I’ve written with this updated post, which I hope addresses your question specifically.
What sort of tricks for children?
If you must perform card tricks for children, do so sparingly. Very sparingly. Most children below five years old don’t know the names of cards. Telling them to choose a card and remember it is a futile exercise. You might as well ask them to read Sanskrit or speak Latin. You will get the same confused reaction.
To overcome this difficulty, ask the child to write his name across the face of the card, or mark it with a simple drawing. This is the easiest way for the child to recognize his card when he sees it again.
The other child-unfriendly sort is mentalism. It is arcane to children. It is even arcane to a number of adults. Some mentalists boast they perform mentalism for children. Don’t believe them. They are probably not telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Yes, mentalism can be performed for children. It can even be performed for statues and monuments in the town plaza. But can it be entertaining?
It is one thing to perform mentalism for children. It is another to entertain them with it.
To entertain children with mentalism, one has to dumb it down to the level children can understand. That level, however, simplifies the performance to the extent it no longer is mentalism but rather mental magic.
Mentalism and mental magic are first cousins, but they bear a difference far more obvious than a split hair. I won’t go into their definitions here. That is altogether a different topic for another blog post. All I want to point out is that mentalism does not play well for children. If you can make it play well, then you deserve the Nobel Prize for mentalism, which does not exist.
I don’t deserve it. And probably neither do you. So avoid mentalism for children like the dengue.
Exceptions. Yes, there are exceptions—even to Leodini’s rules. In mentalism, the exceptions are visual mentalism such as drawing duplication, Himber Ring, spoon bending, telekenesis. These are really magic tricks that are often presented as demonstrations of psychic power because they purportedly are brought about by the power of the mind.
Granted the claim is plausible, children can appreciate these mentalism pieces, because the effects are visual as opposed to something that happens only in the mind (as in book tests and predictions).
Tomorrow, I will give you a list of tricks you can perform at children’s birthday parties.