Acting on stage and bringing Disney characters to life is a passion for four Riverside High School students. But when the coronavirus pandemic shut down their spring musical season, they decided to keep their love of acting alive by offering virtual babysitting while in character as Elsa, Belle, Anna, Ariel and Mary Poppins.
Elizabeth Salmon, Sarah Lehner, Gabi David and Madison Chase started their Princess Perfect Parties business last fall by making appearances at birthday parties while dressed up and in character. They would host princess tea parties and sing songs, and they say it brought “so much joy at each party.”
Because of COVID-19, they realized there would not be in-person appearances at parties anytime soon, so they kicked off weekly live-stream sessions on Instagram where kids can follow along doing fun activities such as reading books, making crafts and singing songs.
They also offer one-on-one virtual babysitting where they talk to participants, answer questions and help reinforce rules at home.
“If the child is having trouble sleeping, parents have asked us to talk about it with their child and help with sleep routines,” Salmon said.
Keri Ross, mother of 7-year-old Emma Ross, said she loves the princess babysitting sessions.
"The business model they have come up with is genius. Our daughter cannot wait for her one-on-one time with Belle, which we do several times each week now. They sing, draw and play games. They even chat about feelings," Ross said.
The girls are award-winning theater students who have a love for acting and passion for working with children.
“We love to talk with them about how we as princesses are going through the same things, such as following social distancing and washing our hands,” Lehner said.
Their easy-to-follow crafts use common materials found “in their own castles” such as coffee filters to make snowflakes.
“We tell everyone ahead of time to get the materials for the next class. We then assemble it step-by-step on the video, and it's super easy to use what they have. We try to do things to make home feel more magical,” Lehner said.
“It's fun for us because it allows us to work on our acting and keep everything sharp,” David added.
The girls use theater as an outlet, and now they are finding the virtual princess parties are also helping them through the pandemic.
“Acting brought us together as friends and when the spring musical was taken away we were afraid we would lose that opportunity, so this helps us as well as the kids,” Chase said.
“It feels good making other people happy and letting people see our love for what we are doing,” Lehner said.
Getting in costume for each virtual session is not easy. There are wigs to prepare, corsets to button and ballgowns to put on.
“There are a lot of elements. The makeup takes forever. We want to make it look as animated as possible. It is something we take pride in and we love connecting with the kids,” Salmon said.
More information can be found on Instagram at @PrincessPerfect.parties.