It's not the Destination, It's the Ride.
You magic purists out there are probably cringing just thinking about it. But it is true. Children don't enjoy the "magic" as much as they enjoy fun bits of business. And I think that the reason so many ("adult") magicians hate doing kid shows is because they don't understand this concept. These magicians will perform miracles for an audience of children, and get no reaction. Or they get shouts of incorrect explanations like, "It was there the whole time." These magicians must learn that fooling the audience (especially 3-7 year olds) is not the goal. As important, and possibly more important, than fooling the audience, is having fun before the magic happens.
What do I mean by having fun? I mean making the kids laugh - either through physical comedy, verbal comedy, or both. Acting silly, goofing around, hamming it up, or all of the above. These are the things that an audience of children loves and will enjoy the most. To put it another way, the emphasis in my kids show is not on the magic but on the entertainment. This is not to say that the magic isn't important. But with an audience of children, I go for the laugh, not the "Oooo, how did he do that?"
This principle: "Entertainment is more important than fooling them" applies to older children as well. But for a different reason. With children eight years and older I believe you must fool them, and fool them bad. But on the way to fooling them, if you have fun and make them laugh, you will diffuse their intense desire to catch you and expose the method. Making older children laugh will make the show so much easier for you.
As an example of using this principle, I offer my routine for the Crystal Silk Tube. This trick, invented by Pavel and called Blow-Knot, was originally published in Tarbell 7. There are several versions available on the market, including one made by Tenyo, called Crystal Tube. The effect is: one at a time, three different colored silks are inserted into a clear tube. The magician brings the tube to his lips and blows the silks out. As they flutter down, it is seen that they are all tied together. In my routine, I use silks which are red, green and yellow. I attach the silks as they enter the same end of the tube, not opposite ends as most people perform it. This is the way Pavel originally wrote it up, and it is more logical. A standard plastic wand is needed as well.
Magician asks, ìWho here knows the colors of the traffic lights?î Kids yell out, "Green, yellow and red." After they answer, pick up the three silks. Say, "Let's see how smart you are. Let's see if you know what the colors mean." Hold up the green silk. "What does green mean?" Kids yell out, "Go." Ask again, "What does green mean?" (I ask twice, because I want the kids to get used to yelling in unison and yelling it loudly.) Kids respond, "Go." "Very good," I say.
Put down the green silk and hold up the yellow silk. "What does yellow mean?" Kids yell, "Slow down." Ask again, "What does yellow mean?" In unison, kids yell out, "Slow down." Ask again, "What does yellow mean?" Kids respond, "SLOW DOWN." (Now you are going to start having fun with them.) Ask again, but this time speak more slowly. "What, Does, Yellow, Mean?" Kids respond, "SLOW DOWN." Ask again, even more slowly. "What . . . Does . . . Yellow . . . Mean?" Kids respond, even more loudly, "SLOW DOWN!" "I am slowing down. What does yellow mean?" Kids scream out, "SLOW DOWN!!!" Say, "Oh, yellow means slow down! I thought you were telling me to slow down." I know you might think this is dumb, but the kids just keep shouting and the adults laugh.
Put down the yellow silk and take the red silk, wave it high in the air, and ask "What does red mean?" Kids respond, "Stop!" Freeze, and utter "huh?" Kids respond, "STOP," louder. Remain frozen, and say "huh?" Kids respond even louder, "STOP!!!" Say, "Oh, red means stop," breaking your pose.
Put down the silks, and pick up the tube, and explain, "I'm going to take the three handkerchiefs, put them into the tube one at a time. I will then blow the handkerchiefs out of the tube and they will be all tied together." As you say this, pick up one silk, place it in the tube, and blow into the air, mimicking your words.
"Here we go." Take the green silk, tuck it into the tube with your finger. Pick up a magic wand, and stuff the silk two-thirds of the way into the tube with the end of the wand. Pick up the yellow silk, tuck it into the tube, and then stuff it all in with the wand, so that itís at the halfway point in the tube. Pick up the red silk, tuck it into the tube with your index finger, and stuff in all the way in using the magic wand. But stuff it too much, and force the green silk out of the other end of the tube. It flutters to the floor, and you don't see it.
The kids yell out that one of the handkerchiefs is on the floor. Pick it up, apologize, and stuff it back into the tube next to the red silk. Use the wand to push it all the way in, forcing out the yellow silk. The kids let you know that a second silk is on the floor. Pick it up, tuck it into the tube, and stuff it all the way in using the wand, forcing the red silk out. Pick up the third silk, stuff it in, but this time leave all three in the tube. Keep in mind the silks are not attached yet.
Raise the tube to your lips, blow into one end, and the silks fly out of the tube. But the children see they are not knotted together. Pick up the silks, and ask the kids, "Wait a minute, what did we forget?" The kids respond, "We forgot to say the magic words!" Say, "That's right," as you stuff the three silks, one at a time, back into the tube using the wand, but don't force them out. Hold the tube by one end, and shake it at the children as if you were reprimanding them with your index finger. "Now this time, don't forget to say the magic words." Punctuate each word with a shake of the wand. As you do that, the silks fly out the end of the wand. Without seeing this, though, bring the tube back to your body, say the magic words, and look down at the empty tube. Act startled because you have no idea where the silks went. Bring the tube to your eye and look through it like a telescope. Turn it around and look through the other end. Meanwhile, the kids are screaming that the silks are on the floor.
Retrieve the silks. This time, you will actually do the trick. Place the green silk in the tube, ask the kids what green means, and the children respond. Ready the yellow silk at the end of the tube. Ask the children what yellow means. As they are yelling out the answer, do the dirty work to attach the two silks. Their shouts hide the noise. Stuff the yellow silk in with your finger until the back end of the yellow silk is sticking out of the tube a bit. Get the red silk ready to be attached, and ask the kids what red means. As they they yell out the answer, attach the silks. Stuff the red silk all the way in. Everyone says the magic words. Lift the tube to your lips and blow. The silks fly out of the tube, attached together.
Catch the silks before they could hit the floor and be grabbed by the children. Display the three silks between your two raised hands, in the applause position.
The original routine for the Crystal Tube has a beginning and an end. The beginning is, "I will stuff these silks into this tube." The end is, "They are now knotted together." I created a middle, the 'ride,' to the destination, that is full of fun and laughs. This is the part of the routine that the children enjoy the most.
Entertaining adults with magic is different than entertaining children with magic. A good rope routine is comprised of a steady stream of minor miracles spaced throughout, from beginning to end. A good Ambitious Card routine is also made up of a series of minor miracles in quick succession. In my routine using the Crystal Tube there is only one magical moment in the five minute routine: when the silks become tied. Instead of a series of miracles, there is a series of jokes - laugh points - throughout the routine. But for an audience of children it's not the magical moment that the kids like the best, it's all the fun that they have getting there. In fact "Do that again" is a common reaction to the climax, because the kids had so much fun.
The silks are out of your control three times in this routine - when they get stuffed out the end, when they are blown out unattached, and when they are shaken out of the front of the tube. If you are performing close to the children in the audience, and they are a bit wild, you may (will?) find that the children grab the silks from the floor and not give them back, until they have had a good laugh. Therefore, you may want to perform this only when there is distance between you and the children or when you are on a stage.
The magical moment at the end is strong enough for the adults in the audience to be fooled. There are also jokes for the adults to enjoy. And the routine is full of lots of silly comedy for the children in the audience.