The Difference between Magic for Kids and Adults
by Duncan William
Having performed adult magic for many years, many years ago, I decided to focus my attention on performing kids magic – thinking it would be similar but with just colourful props to substitute for cards. I was wrong.
So what, then are these differences between performing to children and performing to adults? There are a few nuances but perhaps the most striking is that, for children, the performance is more about the entertainment ride than the final magical prestige at the end. For adults, they are there to be astonished and amazed and, more often than not, the comedy and bits of business that make the magic a routine are secondary.
Performing for children doesn’t necessary have to involve large colourful props but this visual representation stimulates their senses and adds to the show's sense of theatre. For adults a deck of cards could be the only stimulant their eyes need as long as the mystery and the wonder of their mind is stimulated. Bright, colourful props immediately shout ‘kids magic’.
Sadly, and I see this time and time again, there is a preconception that kids magic is merely for kids. That said, there are performers out there who understand that magic in a kids show can also appeal to adults. It can have humour and tricks which are easy to follow, with bright, colourful, visual magic built in that can create a sense of wonder for adults just as much as for children. Magicians should take the time to appreciate that.
There is another difference between kids and adult magic – and I say this with a generalised sweep of my ‘industry comparing’ brush – that, overall, kids magic or children’s entertainment is generally performed at a lower level, or has a lower bar of excellence than adult magic. Why? Well, if you look at magic shops, most of their catalogue is for adult magic and mind reading – to fuel the needs of a great ‘pot’ of adult magicians. Kids magic is seen as secondary and certainly not as profitable for manufacturers of magic. Why? Well, for a start, there are less children’s entertainers. But also because, with adult magic, the ‘trick’ is usually sold with little routining included in the instructions. The 'magic' is there for a magician to add through his or her own style and patter although, as I said earlier, the trick itself can sometimes be sufficient to meet the audience's need for astonishment. Kids magic however is effectively redundant if it doesn’t have the ‘entertainment ride’ built in, with the ‘trick’ itself generally being secondary.
Even performers' websites need to have a different feel. My adult magic website Wedding Magician has a very different feel and look to my Children’s Entertainer website. The first is a lot more subdued compared to the more vibrant kids magic website. Both are usually the main face of your business and reflect your performance styles. Even without the name, I would say it is very easy to identify which site is for children and which is for adults.
That all said, kids magic is evolving. There are more and more children’s conventions springing up including Ventarama, the Blackpool magic conventions, and the hugely popular Trix in the Stix, together with several kids magic conventions in the US.
Whilst magic remains hugely popular at the moment, I feel that kids magic is somewhat languishing as a second-rate performance art, even though the local demand for kids magic remains high. For things to change, I envisage that there needs to be a breakthrough kids act making it into the mainstream. Yet this is difficult when the target audience is more than likely to be adults (e.g., Saturday night TV viewing) and TV producers just want the ‘magic’.
It’s a Catch 22.