Princess & Me
Character Events & Parties

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Handling COVID-19 like a Queen

How a children's entertainment focused small business in one of the most populated cities in the United States is handling the pandemic.

Written by Ali Williams, the owner of Princess & Me Parties 


When did the idea start to switch to virtual offerings?

It was the second week of March. I received several frantic calls from parents wanting to reschedule. There were only three in person parties that still continued for that upcoming weekend. The families agreed to the new terms - family only, no touching, no hands-on activities like face painting, and we would be using their sink upon arrival and before departure. It didn't work. The crowds of friends were one thing, but the surprise hugs were another. How do you tell a 4 year old birthday girl that she can't have a hug as she looks up at you with complete excitement and love?  As soon as I got home (or back to the castle as we call it) I got to work on how to go fully online; a new frontier for us. It was the right thing to do, the safe thing to do. It started as just an offering for our clients who were rescheduling (some rescheduled to a few months later and others to 2021), but when other parents got word we were doing online events they contacted me wanting to book.  


What challenges and success have you found in this change?
In just two weeks, I'm proud to say that we mastered Zoom calls. It was a fun test of our improvisation and multitasking skills - only a professional princess can smile and talk of happily ever after while unbeknownst to the child you mute their friend on the call whose dog just started to bark at the mailman. A lot of our in-person activities like story time, singing, magic show, and royalty lessons all work great in the online format. Other activities like our games have been modified; who knew dancing with a princess could be done over a Zoom call! New activities like show & tell, coloring, and even hide & seek have been added and we keep finding new ways to connect with the kids. The characters send the kids high fives., surprise them with tickles, and even ask them to catch the magic and send it through the screen for help with the magic show. I think that's what really makes us different - we're not just putting on a show, we're connecting. That's what Princess & Me Parties was built on - connection.

Are the Zoom calls well received?
These video calls have honestly been great for everyone- parents, kids, performers, and the company. The parents are so happy to have a break. I've seen a few taking naps in the background, cooking, or just zoning out on their phones. It's nice to know they can get some downtime from full time parenting. We have some families that have become regulars, attending every Play Time call. Those are group Zoom calls open to the public to join. They're just $15 per household for an hour. One character leads the kids through coloring, show & tell, and games. They're really fun. The performers are loving having a daily motivation. They're all these talented and beautiful extrovert actresses, nannies, and teachers who love interacting with children. Many have told me that they don't know what they would have done if these video calls weren't happening. The kids are having a blast being able to connect with the characters. While the majority are just in it for the games and fun, some of them are opening up about things that you can tell they're struggling with - loneliness and loss. It's been really comforting for them to be able to speak openly to their favorite character. For me, it's been a blessing too. I'm such a goal-oriented person and am always working on something so I would have probably read a hundred books by now and painted my entire apartment if I didn't have the business operating right now. I'm working full time and making about 20% of what I do normally because I've put the cost of these offerings very low and am paying my performers their full rate. My personal goals of saving up for my first house and my next vacation can wait. The priority right now is making sure my business that I've worked so hard to create over the past 6 years not just survives this pandemic, but thrives and comes out of this stronger than before. 

Have you had calls with kids outside Los Angeles?
What's great is that we've shifted from seeing these kids only once a year and only kids in Los Angeles to being able to see them, sometimes, every week and being able to meet kids from all over the world.  We're now able to reach places we would never be able to visit in person. Just this month we got our first booking for a family in the UK and now all their friends are contacting me. I have never been more grateful for technology. 

What's next for you?
Back in March, I shared my experience with other party company owners who were starting to face the pandemic in their own region. No one else was doing virtual parties at the time. They were all trying to find a way to make the in-person parties work. While the performers were all smiles on the surface, behind the scenes they were a wreck of nerves and worry. I explained that going to an online medium, while unknown territory, was the best for everyone. It brings magic to families in the safest way we can right now. The natural of our business encourages group gatherings and interaction so while some states and cities are allowing some businesses to reopen, we're nearly last on the list, so we have to find a way to make it through. 

Learn more about Zoom video calls at www.PrincessAndMeParties.com/video-party

10 Fun Things to do on Thanksgiving Break (and 1 bonus)

Whether the rain is falling down, sun is shining, or bellies are so full you don't ever want to leave the couch, we've got 10 really great ideas for things to do on Thanksgiving break and one bonus thing too.

1. Leaves, Leaves Everywhere

Colder weather and wind means the leaves are falling down. Time to gather them in a pile and encourage a running start. Arrange them to create works of art like these beautiful images from Andy Goldsworthy.

2. Walk in the Park

Autumn is a perfect time of year to get outside and play. Crunchy leaves, crisp air, and a slight breeze. Whether it's Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills or Lake Balboa in Van Nuys in any of the other hundreds of parks in Los Angeles, it's a great day to grab that cute sweater and your child's hand, and head to the park. Keep an out for squirrels storing nuts for the winter.

3. Indoor Fort
This was one of my favorites as a kid. My dad would bring home gigantic cardboard refrigerator boxes for me and my brother to color on. Then we would arrange the boxes in tunnels, line them with pillows, add some lights, paint some bricks, cut out a window, and drape sheets from chairs. Viola! Instant castle fortress.

4. Makeovers

What are you planning to do with that nail polish you weren't a fan of? Or that eyeshadow that was just too pink? Time for makeover dress up fun. Invite some friends over and set up foot bath. Pull out those cute shoes she's been eyeing and top it with some costume jewelry then hit the runway. Or let her make you over. Prefer a character to take the lead? All of our characters have full makeover kits for face painting, makeup, tattoos, and glitter.

5. Beach Day

In the fall there aren't as many tourists at the beach which means it's a great day to get some vitamin D and new shells for the mantel. Keep an eye out for the gray whale migration. Malibu is a great place to go for whale watching because the coastline curves bringing the whales really close to the shore.

6. Arts & Crafts

Paper, scissors, stickers, crayons, paint, and some imagination can turn a pile of scraps into tiaras, puppets, and more. Looking for cheap craft supplies? Check out your local Dollar Tree. Recyclable materials are great too. Check out these cute fairy houses made from soda bottles.

7. Scavenger Hunt

This is a great option for inside or outside. Use a template like the ones below or create one of your own using items around your house.

8. Movie Marathon

Streaming services allow us access to thousands of options. Maybe it's time to show them one of your favorites and introduce them to VHS. Add a fun element with DIY drive in "cars" or snack caddies.

9. Board Games

We love game night at our house. You can act things out in a game of Charades like the characters of Frozen 2, break out one of the family favorites like Candy Land, or try a new hit game like Chow Crown. Check out this video of a family giving it a hilarious try. Available on Amazon here.

10. Hike

The joy of living in Los Angeles is that there are numerous hiking opportunities. Some of our favorites are Griffith Park and the Hollywood Reservoir, but if you're feeling really adventurous, check out "The Wisdom Tree". It's steep, but worth the reward of the 360 degree view. Look for the hidden box with memory book. Always bring extra water and snacks, make sure your phone is charged and let a friend know where you're going before you begin the hike.
11. Cleaning up the House

How many princesses can you name that clean up their homes? Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel... time to throw on that princess playlist and encourage princess time. If you prefer for your kids to clean up with an actual princess, you know how to reach us ;)