You often run into the situation where you need to limit the number of
sculptures that you make for each child. Here are some ideas:
- Balloons are not teething rings! Keep them out of the mouths of babies!
- Anything you stick on a baby to get a reaction is deemed 'cute'.
A balloon for a very young child is merely amusement for the
adults around her. Is it worth the risk? In this day and age
you can never be too careful. You can't rely on the parents
to do the right thing. They just know it's fun and that
Johnny/Susie wants a balloon. For the most part, that's all
they care about. I've seen very young children put a balloon
animal into their mouths, not because they saw me do it, but
because that's what the very young do naturally... which is
why we don't make critters for them, right?
- As twisters, it's our job to make balloons into something irresistible to a
child. As citizens, it's our equal responsibility to educate everyone on
the dangers of balloons for children, and that all thin plastic, rubber,
cellophane, or mylar items need to be kept away from small children until
they understand how to play with them safely. As a father, I happen to
know that the sole mission of children from ages 1 to 3 is to kill
themselves by any means possible. Kids are lucky with balloons
everyday, or they'd be keeling over right and left. If one child
chokes on any balloon, that's too many.
- Just because a baby doesn't have any teeth, that is no
guarantee a balloon won't pop while it's in the baby's
mouth! Newly cut fingernails have sharp edges. Also,
the little darlings love to grab on hard and pinch.
Or, the stroller may brush past something sharp, or, or or...
I HOPE everyone gets the idea. PLEASE, never use "the
little cutie doesn't have any teeth" to imply "s/he's perfectly
safe... too little to harm the balloon." Besides the choking
hazard, the balloon itself can have a wicked recoil! Have
you ever seen a kid hold a balloon tight over their eyes, as
a sort of rose-colored glasses effect? Also, remember that
on a windy day when a little kid's balloon hat gets loose,
the instinct will be to jam the balloon hat on the kid's head,
so they don't cry when it's lost. Pushing it down further
will only lodge it firmly by their little ears.
- Do not make balloons for the very young. Better to have a person be
disappointed than to have your day ruined by seeing a child attended to by
emergency technicians because he choked on a balloon fragment. As you look
over your crowd, watch for very young children. Never let someone with a
very young child wait 40 minutes to find out they are not going to get a
balloon. You don't have to single them out, just make a public
announcement to the general crowd as to your rules. If they continue to
wait, then you might have to talk directly to them just to find out who the
balloon is going to be for.
- When working, I frequently (and tactfully) remind the parents of
the very young that balloon pieces are easier to choke on than they
are to swallow and that the parent must be responsible.
- Our basic philosophy is this: Everyone gets a balloon if possible
as long as they are 2 years old or better. We have a sign with a choking
warning that states our policy, NO exceptions. I've had some miffed
parents, but as I say to all: "I want to see your kid to grow up, don't you?"
- When I twist, I have a large (11"x8.5" yes sideways) black on
red sign at the top of my menu board. I always have it there, and
it is in all of my contracts that I will follow its wording exactly. It says:
It looks very nice with a warning hazard triangle in the left
upper corner. It has been my policy for the last two years of
YOUNG CHILDREN COULD CHOKE ON OR BE SUFFOCATED BY AN UNINFLATED BALLOON OR A
PIECE OF BROKEN BALLOON. ADULTS SHOULD SUPERVISE THEIR CHILDREN UNDER EIGHT(8)
YEARS OF AGE. DISCARD BROKEN BALLOONS IMMEDIATELY.
DUE TO EXTREME CHOKING HAZARD, _NO_ CHILDREN UNDER TWO(2) YEARS OF AGE WILL BE
GIVEN A BALLOON. _NO EXCEPTIONS_!!!
- In T. Myers Clipart Book there is a page on this very subject.
I used one of the pictures to make a badge that I where to every
event I attend and perform. It is an attention grabber and
conversation piece. It clearly states to keep balloons out of
the mouths of babies and carries the warning about balloons.
I would strongly suggest every one buy the book just for that,
if not the rest of the pictures for a menu board.
- How do you handle a parent who wants a balloon for a child
that is too young to have one? I just say "No". This raises
some eyebrows, but I continue with "He/She is too young to
have a balloon, but I can give one to you." Then I hand the
balloon to the parent, NOT the child.
- I ask how old the child is, and, if he/she is under 2 or 3, I
simply decline. If the parent of a child insists, I make a balloon
for the grown up and hand it to them and write their name
on the balloon just as I would the child if he/she were old enough.
- I usually don't give balloons to kids who look like they are 3
or under. I give the balloon to the parent. If they want the
child to have the balloon, THEY can give it to them. I've been
told that relieves me of any negligence. Any comments?
- A number of twisters have suggested giving a balloon to the
parent, the idea being it then becomes the parent's
responsibility if he/she gives it to the youngster and a problem
occurs. I'm not a lawyer, but from my experience in other areas,
this is not likely to protect a twister from liability. In numerous
product liabilty cases, at least partial liability has been assigned
to a manufacturer whose product was being misused, if the
misuse was common or predictable. If a balloon professional
claims in court he/she could not have reasonably anticipated
that the parent was going to hand the balloon to the small child
in his arms, the balloon professional is going to be ground into
hamburger by most plaintiff's attorneys. It's like the so-called
"attractive nuisance", in which you've got some condition
(such as an excavation) which is protected by all the fences,
signage, and other warnings you can think of, but if some
kid gets in there anyway and gets hurt, you're liable, just
because it's there. This is the case even if you've made it
clear to the kid and whoever's supposed to be responsible
for the kid that the condition is there and no one is supposed
to enter the area. Putting up a sign that says "Enter at your
own risk" does not change the law. Regardless of whether
we've got certifications or even whether it's a paid twisting
job or volunteer work, as twisters we don't have the option
of leaving the choice up to the parent. They're not the balloon
professionals, we are, and we can kid ourselves about it now,
or we can have the courts tell it to one of us later.
- I refuse to give or sell to any parent who is going to give the
balloon to their under age child. I find that explaining the choking
hazard is enough for the parents to gracefully back down (but
there are still some really dense people in this world *sigh* :-)
Of course, I also duck the issue of unhappy parents by blaming
the apocryphal insurance company who will let me make a
balloon for little Johnny or Suzie only if I would pay them some
unholy number of thousands of bucks a year :-)
The old "I'm not covered" line is pretty effective in these litigious days.
- You should refuse to give balloons to kids under 3 (in some cases under 4).
If you HAVE to make an animal for a toddler, tell the parents that you
will give the balloon to MOM and DAD. Tell them that your insurance
company will not allow you to give a balloon out to anyone under 6.
- I've also been told not to make red and pink balloons for
small children. Apparently they are difficult to see, should
a child ingest or inhale one.
- A balloon cannot be removed using the Hiemlich maneuver
as it is a flexible membrane. A child choking on a balloon
has six(6) minutes before they die and two minutes before
irreversible brain damage occurs. If a trained pediatric
paramedic arrives with the proper tools AND the balloon
is stuck in the upper trachea area, they can push the balloon
down into the stomach [sic - probably meant lung], and clear
the airway. A physician can later remove the balloon. If you
are in the hospital or within one minute of one, you might
be able to get them on the operating table and opened up fast
enough to save them, maybe. I know of no truly loving
and at least semi-intelligent parent who will continue to ask
for a balloon for their child after being told this. I've run
across some *really* dense ones, but management/the client
has always backed me up on this as they don't want to be
involved in a choking incident either.
A very large portion of my income comes from giving balloons to
kids under 10. So I've had to come up with ways to make myself feel
comfortable with it. I do ask the kids directly to keep them out of their
mouths, and I let them know that for safety's sake, any adult may take away
their balloon if they don't handle it properly. They do understand that
you're being serious then. If there is a parent there for each small
child, I insist on giving the balloon to the parent and not the 2 year old.
When instructed to play with the balloon with the child, and given an
explanation as to why, most parents will thank you for being so considerate
and comply with your suggestion. You're not going against the request of
your client. You're just being cautious and placing the final decision in
the hands of each parent.
- To the best of my knowledge (and I have talked to lawyers about
this) it is NOT ILLEGAL to give balloons to kids under three. It does,
however, open you up to liability issues if there was a problem. At first
I gave the balloon to the adult and told the adult that they could do with
it as they wish, but there is something about handing it to a child that
makes what we do so special, so.....
I talked to my insurance company and they said for it to be an issue,
the person suing me would have to prove that I was negligent, so we came
up with this solution.
- Ask every child near the age of three how old they are. (I do this
anyway as I entertain the children I am making balloons for.)
- If they are under 3 find the parent or guardian of the child and tell
"Balloons fall under the small parts act, which means that balloons
represent a choking hazard for (small children) or (children under 3)."
If you give them this warning, and you discipline yourself to say it each
and every time, no one could prove you were negligent, and you are
therefore off the hook.
While I do this and believe that it is enough of a safeguard, I must add,
in the same vein... that I am not a lawyer and can not represent myself as
one. My advice may or may not be legally binding. You just gotta love
these....."let's see who we can sue 1990's." Someday we will wake up, and
people will actually hold themselves responsible, but until then it doesn't
hurt to cover your bases.
- I'm sure the most important issue to all of us is to not give a balloon
to a child who might choke on it. For me, this means to err widely on the
side of safety. And even older kids can put balloons in their mouths, so if
I see an older kid doing this, I warn the kid and/or the parent.
I'm sure we are more worried about not killing a child we are trying to
entertain than not getting sued.
- Don't panic about being sued for giving balloons to 3-year olds.
I'm not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, it's only how I look at the
What is legal and illegal are determined two ways. First by an law passed
by Congress or a local government, and second is by a court deciding a
I know of no law that says handing a balloon to a 3-yr old is illegal.
That's just not the sort of thing that concerns Congress, so I doubt we'll
be seeing the "Balloon Customer's Bill Of Rights" anytime soon. The
trickier part is the court decision. Courts decide individual cases, and
do not make up ad hoc laws. So unless a twister has been sued for giving a
kid a balloon [and lost], there is nothing wrong with it. Yet.
It could be considered "negligence" to give a kid a balloon if you fully
expect him to eat it and have it pop. But that's a whole other matter,
which you should try to avoid at all costs.
But I am not worried. I make sure to give the balloons to the parents, and
if I'm ever sued should and anything should go wrong, I hide behind a simple
defense. I'll state that I gave the balloon to a parent, and I believe
that the parent can decide what is in the best interest of their child.
I don't make a big deal out of it. I say, "he's a little young, but I'll
give it to you."
It works the same way at private parties. No 2 year old is going to
approach you without his mom. If so, just brush him off.
- I do not recommend giving balloons to little kids for several reasons.
First, they will not appreciate it, since their cognitive skills are so
low. Second, they will probably pop it by dragging it on the ground (they
tend to be short). Third, there is a good chance that they'll put it in
their mouth, which could pop and hurt them.
- The only way that a kid is going to demand a balloon is if his parent
does. So give the balloon to the parent, and then move on. Don't worry. I
honestly believe that parents should and do watch out for their kids. So
as long as they are the ones who decide if the kid holds on to the balloon,
then it is not your concern, or your fault if anything bad happens.
- Child chokes on balloon...Tragic...but it could have been a soda cap and
had the same results. Parents MUST be very aware of the things that children
of that age get into. Balloon hazards are clearly labeled on the package
(suggesting they may have been purchased at a store) and that I as an entertainer
make hazards clearly known, in writing both in my contracts and on my business
cards, as well as on my "menu" sign (when I use it). Parents have a
responsibility to make appropriate age and developmental decisions for their
children. We have a responsibility to inform customers/caregivers of known
hazards of any product we sell.
Also, parents are very well aware of the things in a child's environment that
are considered to pose a choking hazard, and are counseled by pediatricians,
PSA's etc. It is not like the child choked on some "new toy" that suddenly
broke apart and ingested small pieces ....because of the size of an uninflated
balloon or broken peices of balloon they are on the list of things to watch
out for...along with: peanuts, hotdogs, bananas, hard candies...
I can't tell you how many times I have seen parents freely give those same
things to their toddlers without so much as batting an eye. Even after I
advise parents of the possible hazards of giving balloons to young children,
they want it anyway. I've even seen the hair raise on some parents backs because
I would dare presume to know better than they what is appropriate or not for
Raising toddlers is a hair raising experience (on your back and otherwise =-),
for just that reason. So, while I do not dismiss the incident, it really
had much less to do with the balloon than the childs's age and surroundings (I
don't dare say the amount of supervision, as we all know these things often
occur under our noses).
In closing my sincerest condolences go out to this childs family, as a
parent I know their suffering must be great.
- When the lines are long, you can't afford to have people taking 5
minutes to decide what they would like. While at the point of
being 75% done with the current balloon, I often ask the next kid
waiting in line what kind of balloon he would like.
- If they don't know what they want by the time they reach you, suggest
something real simple, or just make it and give it to them. If you can,
do what's quick and get to the next person.
- Here's an example:
Me: What would you like? Kid: (pause) Me: It has to be quick or I'm
going to pick. Kid: a rooster. Me: Good answer, but not fast enough.
I'll ask again in a minute, after I make her animal. You practice
that. You can pick any animal you want, but it has to be quick.
I go to the next person, this kid is practicing saying animals. When I
turn back to him, and ask again, he'll usually pick something
different. I don't know why, but this gives me a lot to play with. I
can then pick whichever I liked better. I've also given myself time
to think of how to make the one he asked for originally if he's still
determined. If you're entertaining, there's nothing wrong with
making what you want rather than what your audience requests.
- I have a specific weird figure I make for each non-request. Some of them
are as follows:
- "Whatever" is a family pet, very popular with families that live on the
- "Don't Care" is a cousin to the Venusian Dingus. It is loved by all,
especially Venesian children that have big brothers or sisters that always
give them a bad time.
- "Anything" is a weapon on Jupiter. It only fires blanks, but that
doesn't matter. There are no real enemies on Jupiter anyway.
- "Surprise Me" I give them an uninflated balloon with a loose knot in
it. They are always surprised.
- It really doesn't matter what the figure looks like, or whether it looks
like anything at all. If you have a definite figure in mind for each
non-request, and make it without hesitation, it is always good for a laugh.
Once you have a story of sorts to go with each one, it is even better.
Before long, you will get specific requests for the nonsensical figures as
often as for the real figures you make.
- When someone comes up and really doesn't know what to ask for, I'll suggest
a slightly fancy or off-beat balloon, or one that I haven't made many times
that day so that I can practice. But the fact is, kids are happy with a dog.
- When the child says "Uhhhh", I say, "Let me tell you a few of the things
that I make...a dog, a cat, a lion, a tiger, simba, nala, an elephant, a
teddy bear, a parrot, a parakeet, a cockatiel, a cockatoo, a snake, a
giraffe ...uh...well, that's all I can think of right now; did you think of
anything?" They usually come up with something from that list, because they
hear an animal and then get stuck on that one and don't even hear the rest.
Adjust your quickie list, to suit the age. If a kid is 12, add motorcycle to
the end...if he's 6, add Power Ranger, etc. Just so long as you rattle it off
at breakneck speed, they'll only hear the words they like the most
- Another trick that's about 75% successful is a force. Say, "I can make you
a teddy bear, a rocking horse, a *dog*" with special emphasis on the dog.
"You can have anything you want, a rabbit, a parrot, a *dog*." Say dog
as the third item twice in a row, and 3 out of 4 kids will ask for a dog. And
if they ask for one of the other items you mention, at least it's one that you
know how to make.
- I strongly suggest animals for them and don't give them a chance
to decide. I know this sounds like a stern and unfriendly way, but
it's the "way" that you do it that lets you get away with it. "Oh, you
look like a girl that would like a bunny rabbit, right?" SMILE, SMILE,
SMILE. "I'll bet you'd like a cobra snake?" SMILE, SMILE, SMILE...
- I am working at restaurants a lot now, and I have encountered the
problem with waiting for children to make up their mind about
what kind of balloon sculpture they want. To help speed things
up. I now give them a choice of either an animal, a hat, or a toy.
I have found that about half of the kids want "Toys" - especially
the ones who have seen balloons done before.
- Lead them to a decision. When asking what a customer wants, I say
"would you like something to wear on your head or something to
hold in your hands?" "Oh, a hat? OK. Would you like a flower hat,
a heart hat, an animal hat, or a wild-n-crazy hat?" This'll narrow it
down for even some of the most confused people.
- Here are a few funny one-liners to play off of when you ask a kid
what he wants and he says 'Um':
- "You want something um-mazing? um-musing? um-believable?"
- "Good! You're using your um-agination!"
- "Um-decided, are you?"
- "Are you humming because you don't know the words?"
- Make a bell and say it's an um-dinger.
- Make an um-brella.
- Offer to make things that rhyme - a thumb, an Opossum.
- Turn it into a mantra, close your eyes and meditate ("Ummmm. Ummmmm.
- Ohmmmmmmm. Ohmmmmmm. Yesssss, the answer, the answer is coming clearer.")
- If a kid says he doesn't know what he wants, I tell him I give kids a
balloon - or a hug!! (When boys say that they are too old for a balloon - I
always tell them that they must be old enough for a hug - I get a few hugs, but
most of them turn red and ask for a balloon!)
- Have a list of animals that you say to help a child pick one. Sit down with
a list of animal names and come up with a sort of rhyming "poem" that is
easy to remember and fun to say. Clever additions to the list are always
fun to do. About 50% of the time, I add things like.... "I do dogs and cats
and lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!..." I can usually get a pretty good
laugh from Wizard of Oz fans, and a belated chuckle from the slower ones
who took a bit to realize what exactly it was that I just said and then
reference it to the movie that made it sound so familiar.
Are there any clever poets out there who would care to contribute to making
up a rhyming list of animals from which a child could pick?? With all the
people on this list working at it together, I'm sure we could come up with
a very funny, clever, (maybe double-entendre filled?), rhyming list that
could be say-sung... maybe to the melody of a well-known children's song?
Then we could make it our mailing-list theme song, to be sung at all
gatherings of balloon-artists, while we simultaneously salute a rubber tree
How about the alphabet song?
Aardvark, Beetle, Cat, Dachshund, Elephant, Frog, Giraffe, Helicopter, Iguana,
jack rabbit, Kangaroo, Lovebirds, Mouse, Ninja,... You get the idea, you
would have to be sure you could make all of the things and that you have
enough time for this song which would be pretty long.
- I ask one question of the child... "Would you like something to hold or
something to wear?" This lets them feel like they made a choice, but it
eliminates them having to make a bigger decision on exactly what to choose
from a huge list. It also opens it up for them to tell me a specific choice
if they have one in mind.
- Changing minds: Show them their choices at the start, either with a
nifty sign or simply blow them up. If they change their mind anyway remind
them that *they* picked out what they got, and that if you give him
another balloon, you'll have to do it for everyone-- and you can't.
- After I've weeded the crowd down to 8 and up, I admit that I have a
very short memory, point to the next three I will make balloons for.
"You, then you, then you." While I'm making one sculpture, I ask the
next one what they want, and try to stay one ahead. If they can't
decide, I'll go to someone else and come right back to them.
Make your rules, but make as few as possible. Be firm and fair in
implementing them. If your rules aren't working, change them.
I agree that "The more your control techniques become
simply 'The Way It Is' the more adults as well as the kids will have
respect for you and what you do."