Since The Greatest Showman hit our screens, circus skills and performers have never been more popular.
There are lots of circus skills that children can learn at home while in lockdown. Not only do these circus skills look good, and make fun party pieces, but they also encourage hand-eye co-ordination, improve fine motor skills and encourage dedication and perseverance.
While you might not be sending your kids off to join Cirque du Soleil once they've learned these circus skills, they will be able to impress friends and family - and who knows, might have found a lifelong hobby. Find more activities for KS1 kids here and take a peek at our exercise suggestions for under 5s.
Juggling is an impressive circus skill to learn. It improves hand-eye coordination - and also really impresses your friends! First off, you'll need some juggling balls. It is best if they are not too bouncy and will not roll away, otherwise everyone will get fed up running after them when they get dropped! You can use small satsumas, or bean bags, but if you have flour or rice, small plastic bags and balloons you can make your own. Fill the bag with some flour or rice, shape it into a ball shape and tie it shut. Cut the ends off two balloons and wrap one of them around the bag. Take the other balloon, and pull it over the initial balloon in the opposite direction. Follow this easy tutorial.
Next you need to learn how to do the actual juggling bit! We could explain it here, but we think it's far better to watch someone showing you how it's done. This is a really clear tutorial video.
You can also learn to juggle a diablo - there are lots of tricks to learn and most children we know find it easier and more fun than juggling balls, so it might be a better choice of cirucs skill. Diablos are also great to take to the beach and camping (when we are allowed to go).This guy has really clear instruction videos.
Stilt Walking And Hula Hoops
Little children can walk tall at the circus with some tin can stilts. Use coffee tins - the sort you get coffee in at the office - or even paint tins if you have some empty ones from your latest DIY projects. You'll need something to make a hole in them, some para cord, string or yarn, and some paint or stickers for decorating. Get the full instructions here. If you're handy with a screwdriver, you can make these wooden stilts. Learning to walk on stilts encourages concentration and balance. Once the kids are proficient, you can set them some challenges - walking across the lawn or navigating an obstacle course.
Hula hoop performers astound the audience at circuses by doing tricks with tens of hoops. You probably don't have that many at home, but children can still learn some some skills to perform some impressive tricks. There's the Z Spin, The Escalator and the Hand Toss, and that's just for starters. Learn 10 easy tricks from quick online classes at the Hula Hula Institute - yes , it is a thing!
Hide your good dinner service before you encourage the kids to try this! Find a plastic plate - the sort you have for younger kids or for camping and picnics. It will need a lip around its base for the stick to start off spinning on. Then find a bamboo or green garden stick - it needs to be as straight as possible. Hang the plate on the top of the stick and keep twisting your wrist until you get the plate to spin. It's all explained in simple terms here. It's going to take some practise and skills to get right, so if your kids can't wait, they could try spinning a cushion or plate on their finger instead. If they want to try with a football or basketball instead, they can follow this quick lesson from a real Harlem Globetrotter!
Under five year olds can try this fun circus spinning plate craft. You need a paper or Styrofoam plate, some markers or crayons, some foam sheet, a small stick or skewer. Your children decorate the plate and then the stick is pushed through the centre of the plate, glued in and they can spin it around and make lovely patterns. Watch the tutorial here. We have also seen someone use a ring with a big plastic stone to act as a spinner, so you can spin the plate on the floor or table. Decorate the plate in the same way and then push the 'ring' part of the ring through the middle of the plates. You place the 'stone' part of the ring on the ground and twist!
Be A Clown
Have some fun dressing up and using face paints to turn your little circus stars into the funniest performers. Most clowns have a fluffy, multicoloured wig. If you don't have one in a dressing up box, improvise with some hair chalks, coloured hair spray or by tying in some extra 'wool' hair into their own hair. Next it's makeup. They'll need big red lips, a red nose - dig out one from Red Nose Day or paint a ping pong ball - some drawn-on eyebrows and some mad colour around their eyes. Dress up in baggy pyjama pants in bright colours, long stripy socks (football socks are good), some big boots or shoes (borrow mum's or dad's), braces, an old tie and a big hat should finish it off. Then the clown children need some funny clown 'skills' - tripping over their shoes, messing up magic tricks, doing roly polys and making a newspaper tree - learn how here, it's really impressive!
Lion (And Other Animals) Taming
Younger children can get in on the act too (see what we did there?) To be a fun lion tamer they will need a top hat - make one by cutting out a rim from a paper plate and taping to a role of cardboard or craft paper. Seal with a circle of card on the top. Paint black. You'll also need a hoop - cover a hula hoop in stripes of crepe paper - you could even add tissue paper 'flames' if you want. And of course every lion tamer needs a whip - a skipping rope or a stick with some string tied to do it will do the trick. Obviously you need a lion. A tolerant family dog or cat might be happy to play the part, but otherwise you'll need to find a soft toy to take its place. If you don't have a cuddly lion, find another animal and make a mane out of craft paper, crepe paper or suitably coloured wool.
Obviously we don't approve of animals in the real circus, but you can go to town in your at home circus. You could have a parade of elephants (we love this DIY elephant mask made from a paper plate) or horses doing tricks around your circus ring - make tails from bundles of wool or raffia, tied at the top with a bow.