I’m a huge believer in two things: the wisdom and potential of our children and the importance of poetry and imagination in their lives and development. My teaching background is at the high school level, but my methods in the classroom ran high in interaction and whimsy, at least as much whimsy as preparation for state testing allowed. I have four young grandchildren, and I nannied a little boy for over four years from infancy, so I like to think I know children pretty well. And I used poetry to teach and inspire no matter what ages I was called to teach. Poetry takes very big ideas and boils them down to nuggets of wisdom more easily understood. And then there’s the rhyme, such a valuable asset to pre-reading and a great hook to pull the little ones into the poetry itself. The rhythm, cadence, and yes, the rhyme, all have value for kids. Even if the full meaning of the words eludes them a little, there is value in what they do process.
I have written and published two books of essays and poetry for teachers, but my greater joy came in writing poetry for children. I began a book of children’s poetry the day my first grandchild Samantha was born and fourteen years later I continue to add to it. I entitled it A Duck in the Sky, which comes from a discussion we had with Sam when she was just a toddler. We were talking about the meaning of life and Sam assured us that the meaning of life was, in fact, a duck in the sky. Fair enough, and a very good title. I never published my children’s book, although that will happen. But in the meantime came Covid and quarantine. I wanted to contribute something, to help entertain young children stuck at home, even if for only a few minutes at a time. So GG Sprinkles was born, someone who reads poetry and entertains with props, demonstrations, etc. Our videos began on a GG Sprinkles Facebook page, and shortly after that became a GG Sprinkles YouTube channel.
So we now have quite a few videos available and I continue to write poetry. I have learned a great deal about a lot of topics: fairies, zebras, angels, octopuses, birds, superheroes, blanket forts, dragons, space, buried treasure, planets, burping, puppets, trains, unicorns, kites, magic wands, and so much more. It has been a pure joy to do this for the kids. And, of course, I’m learning so much along the way. We intend to keep the videos coming as long as the poetry comes and the kids and parents are interested. We’d be delighted to have you come along with us as we explore new topics poetically and just have some fun. GG Sprinkles welcomes you to any of the videos you’d like to watch and further thoughts here on my blog. Enjoy!
Dinosaurs, like trains, were never a big deal with my daughters. But dinosaurs, like trains, are a very big deal to little boys, and, as it turns out, to a lot of little girls as well. When I nannied Cooper, one of our favorite shows was Dinosaur Train on PBS, and it was a valuable show. In addition to learning about dinosaurs and the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, it teaches little ones about being good people. And, if you are so inclined, you can learn the alphabet by learning the song “Dinosaurs A to Z,” which Coop and I both mastered (and we were pretty darned proud of ourselves). So I knew that dinosaurs was a topic I wanted GG Sprinkles to cover.
I had no toy dinosaurs of my own, so I had to once again borrow some from my grandsons, and once again they came through for me as they had done with trains. But I wanted a dinosaur that makes noise in addition to the little ones they gave me and they found one for me. My fondest memory of this one is a Christmas quite a few years ago when Everett was much smaller and we gave him that very dinosaur. When he opened it, it roared at him and he fell backwards into a box. I’m not sure it’s a fond memory for him, but we thought it was pretty darned cute. At any rate, I was now armed with quite a few dinosaurs. I decided that an appropriate poem would highlight some of the dinosaurs that Cooper and I liked best as well as mention the three periods I was familiar with. Even so, I needed to read a bit about the dinosaurs. I had wanted to do something with butterflies, so as I researched dinosaurs, I discovered the existence of lacewings, the first butterflies that evolved into what we have today. I decided butterflies would fit in with dinosaurs just fine. I discovered that lacewings actually predated flowers and thus, the early butterflies actually had no flowers on which to feed; they actually ate from trees. So once again I learned new things and had fun putting this presentation together.
We opened with a roaring dinosaur and then moved to the poem and an introduction to some of the dinosaurs the boys had loaned me. We ended with our prehistoric butterflies. I was reminded once again of how much I learn as I put the GG Sprinkles videos together. As much as I love that (and I really do) I also love that I can do something that engages little ones and entertains them for at least a few minutes. As the pandemic seems destined to rage on for a while yet, I can continue both entertaining and learning. And you’re never too old to do both of those. Thank goodness!
It’s certainly a different world these days for all of us during the virus. But I would imagine that for children, it’s especially upside down and chaotic. Will they be in school, or will school be at home? Why can’t they go play with their friends? And why are we wearing masks?
With many adults questioning the effectiveness of wearing masks, some of them with angry voices, children must have even more questions, especially if they themselves are old enough to wear one. Our county just put a mask mandate in effect beginning the end of last week. Obviously kids are used to wearing masks of all kinds on Halloween and seeing a large variety of them. Some even play with them when they play super heroes. My grandsons, for example, have Captain America costumes with masks and used to dress up a lot. I thought I could use this as a way to normalize as much as possible the wearing of masks to protect us from the virus.
I gathered together different kinds of masks to illustrate the fun side of masks, and then moved to a couple that I wear in the days of COVID-19. I worry that this might all be a tad overwhelming for little ones, and my goal was to show that masks, especially the ones they see today on adults all around them, are not scary. The poem I wrote for this episode gets into that and expresses the hope that by Halloween, they’ll be wearing fun masks as they ring doorbells and trick-or-treat. I truly hope that their world—and everyone else’s—will be back to normal by then.
Seeing cute photos online prompted me to do a light topic on this episode: silly faces. So we had some fun with that and pointed out that some of the best group photos happen when the photographer says, Okay, now everyone be silly! So I read a poem about making silly faces in pictures.
I showed photos, some old and some recent. I read a poem about what people in the future might say about our photos. In some of the old photos, as we know, people often were told not to smile because of the time it took to actually take the picture. But I took the opportunity to point out that when we see those pictures today, we wonder why they weren’t smiling, and we sort of wish they were. We also talked about remembering that when someone takes your picture, that’s something people in the future will see, maybe a hundred years from now. So we should ask ourselves what we’ll want them to see. Hopefully, we’ll want them to see happy smiles and, when the photographer says to cut loose, the silliest faces we can make. So enjoy Silly Faces. ❤️
When I did our episode on dandelions, I totally forgot that dandelions are the official flower of military children like our Charlie. Like dandelions, military kids are tough and resilient, they flourish anywhere and they put down roots where the wind takes them. I have tremendous respect for the Charlie’s of the world, the Dandelion Children. Charlie has lived in two states and a foreign country, and he’s only four years old. His parents have done a fabulous job helping him adjust and adapt with every move. He is a healthy, happy little boy. When we visited them in Italy last fall, we traveled quite extensively, through eight countries. Every step of the way, Charlie both entertained himself and had the benefit of parents who immersed him in the languages and feel of each country, and worked to enrich his life with experiences few small children get to have. They’ll continue to do that for Charlie as they move through the years.
Charlie is a wonderful example of a Dandelion Child, and he’s in good company. Someone chose the dandelion to represent these kids, and they chose well. These little ones have parents who deploy, sometimes for long stretches. And of course, there are the moves. Through it all, the Dandelion Children learn, adapt, and grow. I absolutely had to honor these incredible kids with a poem and that became a big part of this episode. We lead off with a lighthearted nod to the wonders of tic tac toe. Then on to Dandelion Kids.
I research online to see what little ones like to talk about and hear about. I keep a list of what I cover, and so far I’m doing pretty well. Some of the topics on the various lists give me pause, I must admit. I mean, honestly, I’m just not sure how I would approach bacon, baggy clothes, or blimps. But then I remind myself that I managed to work with topics like Tasmanian devils, zebras, and peppers (all requested topics), and I make myself explore the stranger topics. I love a good poetic challenge.
But then I come across a topic that just sings to the big kid in me, and we’re off. That’s what happened with car washes: I love them. I’d go out and toss a big bucket of dirt on my VW just to go through an automated car wash. Why? The suds and rainbow bubbles, of course! I put my car in park, sit back, and let the magic happen. And, in fact, I love that tiny kids think it IS magic. I’ve gone through the car wash with my grandkids, and their delight with the brushes and suds is contagious. So this was an easy one for me.
I know that allowances can be important to kids, so that was the second topic of this episode. I’ve watched how my kids have dealt with this with their little ones, and I remember trying different ways to give allowances with our kids. And I remember my own parents did it various ways, including taping money to windows they wanted cleaned or a sink that needed wiping down. I had to be sure to say in the episode that not everyone gets allowances, that they happen at different ages, etc.
It’s unusual for me to tackle three topics in one episode, but since we had just talked about rainbows, I decided to write a poem about ‘accidental rainbows,’ those pretty rainbows that appear thanks to mist and sun, prisms, etc. I, myself, am a big fan of the accidental rainbows; I used prisms in my classroom to illustrate a couple of poems. This one was fun to write. So enjoy going through a car wash with us and imagine the rainbow suds and remember how gratifying it was to make a purchase with your very own allowance. And for goodness sake, keep an eye out for those accidental rainbows. ❤️
When I was raising my daughters, I don’t remember a lot of resistance to wearing clothes that either I picked out or that matched (and what I picked out usually did). They were easy to get along with when it came to dressing them for the most part. When I nannied Cooper, there was a little more resistance to matching colors and coordinating patterns, but we got along in general. There were some days, though, when I had to override his clothing choices to get him out of the house for some outing or appointment. And I remember feeling guilty that I was tampering with his independence or interfering with his God-given right to mix plaids with stripes. After all, a person’s style choices say a lot about them, no matter their age.
I saw my own grandchildren at various times dressed in unusual combinations, and my daughter would be as chill with it all as could be. Clearly, she appreciated the value of letting the little ones showcase part of who they were through their unique style. As someone who typically goes for gaudy colors and tee shirts that say much about my personal taste and choices, I can really get behind her attitude. Let them demonstrate their personalities in this very personal and showy way. I decided GG Sprinkles should devote an episode to this very idea and have a little fun with it.
I costumed for an awful lot of my units in sophomore English, and I have a closet full of very eclectic outfits: a medieval gown (two, actually) for King Arthur, a toga or two for Caesar, princess gowns, capes, etc. I have a Mardi Gras gown that I used to wear with a belt I made that says ‘For the love of God, Montresor’ from a Poe story that’s set during the Carnivale. I chose that one to wear for the episode. Why not, right? Then I grabbed some of my tee shirts with bands and sayings that I identify with. I grabbed a pair of Sleeping Beauty socks (my favorite princess) to show that you can make a statement about yourself even with your socks. There were other items, but the point is that our style choices are independent and important to us. So enjoy exploring style with the youngest of us. Their sense of style is every bit as important to them and as telling as ours is.
During the Covid crisis, no one was traveling, of course; most of us weren’t leaving our own homes. There still isn’t a lot of traveling, and many of us are still sticking close to the house. So I knew it would be a very claustrophobic time for little ones. No visits to relatives, no trips to Disney World, not even a day trip to the zoo, etc. I thought about how we could all take trips without leaving the house and came up with the various ways we could travel in our minds.
The first way to “move about the country” is, of course, through our books. I’ve emphasized the power of reading and imagination since we started recording GG Sprinkles, so I encouraged the little ones to use books to travel in their imaginations. Then I pulled out a box of sand and shells I had brought back from Virginia and talked about how souvenirs you bring back from a fun trip can remind you of the trip, and that’s another way to ‘travel.’ Then I showed some photo albums and went through some of my pictures—yet another way to travel in your mind. I like to encourage the kids to make something or show their creativity in some other way, while trying to be mindful of the fact that they likely need to work with what they already have on hand. I suggested that they draw or paint pictures from trips they have taken or want to take, either by looking at pictures from their trips and drawing those or using their own imaginations. I also suggested they think about making a travel poster all their own with pictures from trips real or imagined.
It’s not easy at any age to be so isolated even if you’re in a house full of siblings. Your reality is totally different from what you’re used to. In some countries, your backyard was the limit of your freedom. Charlie and his parents certainly experienced that for months during Italy’s lockdown. My YouTube channel reaches little ones outside U.S. borders, so I try to remember that we all can’t necessarily get in our cars and go for drives. The current realities vary from country to country. But none of us is limited in our imaginations; we can journey to wherever we wish. And if it helps to travel in our minds, I’m all for that. Lord knows I do it. ❤️
In this same video, just for fun, I read a poem I wrote about creating a shopping list for mommy and asked the kids what they would put on such a list. I channeled my little-girl self (not really a stretch!) and created my own list. This was just for a slightly lighter moment in the video. So, enjoy traveling in your mind and making a shopping list for mommy.
Yep, dandelions. I’ve always thought they were pretty things, even as I’m digging them out of my yard. And I never outgrew blowing on them in their white fuzzy form and making wishes. But then, I believe in fairies, so what do we expect, right?
So I was hoping that little ones would find dandelions as much fun as I do, and I put together a GG Sprinkles episode on them. Since dandelions say summer to me, I included a poem on staying cool in this troubled time when not all pools are open still in June and some may not open at all. To prep for this episode, I decided I needed a big bouquet of dandelions to display. Easy, right? Wrong! We drove to all the places I remembered dandelions growing in profusion and found almost nothing. What we did find was pretty pitiful. I was underwhelmed with their size and color. I’ve noticed that this seems to be the case with a lot of things I’m used to seeing in nature. It’s like the world is so topsy turvy with illness and turmoil that growing seasons are off and nature’s putting the brakes on with some of its beauty. But that’s probably just my angst kicking in. At any rate, we found a few dandelions to display. My daughter Katie had told me earlier in the day about putting the seed dandelions in a jar and attaching a tea light to the lid. I decided to do that as a pretty way to display the few white fuzzy dandelions I had found. Last night I made a dandelion ring to wear, and it was quick and fun to make. I like to at least suggest a craft idea when I find relevant ones, and this one is pretty cute.
I think there is so much going on in children’s lives these days that it really emphasizes my goal as GG Sprinkles. I want to do sweet topics as much as possible. We’ve covered topics such as toys, music boxes, earthworms, puppets, snow, zebras. I want them to be able to watch and enjoy, be entertained for around five minutes, and not worry about the loud voices and social distancing. Are these things important? Of course. Vitally so. But I’m sure that parents are sheltering the very young ones as much as possible; there will be a time and a place for the rest of life. And if something as innocent as dandelions and running through sprinklers can be injected into their day, maybe I’ve contributed a few minutes in the still of the day that asks nothing of them except that they be entertained. And it makes me happy to think that’s the case. ❤️
I read that kids like the idea of medals and seeing medals. I run/walk virtual races and collect the medals, so I had some I could show the little ones when we filmed our episode on medals and awards. And when it comes to awarding medals, let’s face it—we probably all deserve at least one. We’ve helped home school the children, entertained them, worked from home, and otherwise tried to make our children’s lives as normal as living with the Covid threat would allow. And parents have done a heck of a job. But the little ones have also had to adapt to a new normal that has involved mask-wearing, isolation from their friends and classmates, schooling at home, and a host of other changes that have rocked their young worlds. So they, too, are candidates for medals.
I decided back in March when we started filming our GG Sprinkles videos that I would try very hard to only use materials for any of my demonstrations that I already had around the house. During the height of the quarantine, I wasn’t leaving the house anyway, so it only made sense. For medal making, I used poster board, ribbon, markers, and as much glitter and sparkle as I could find in my craft supplies. We made one together after reading a poem about how nice it is to get medals. With Father’s Day approaching, that was an idea to run with for a medal recipient.
This was also our 50th episode, so we celebrated a little with a medal of our own. So here’s our Medals episode. And our 50th. Enjoy!
I haven’t mentioned yet that we have family in Italy. Our son-in-law Ben is a navy Lt Commander stationed in Naples, so he, our daughter Ashley, and four-year-old grandson Charlie have been there since late last summer. We visited them shortly after they relocated for our very first trip to Europe and came home in early November. All was well until Covid-19 hit Italy with a vengeance, taking thousands of lives, decimating the Italian economy and putting three people we love very much in danger. What followed once the Italian government got tough was over sixty days of complete lockdown. Our son-in-law went to the base only a few days a week, but he was out of the house, which was scary. He, of course, was the official hunter and gatherer for the family’s food. Every day we would check in on the numbers and reports out of Italy, and those reports were dismal, indeed. FaceTime calls were numerous, and as parents we lived in fear for our kids, not just that they might get the virus, but that their lives had taken such a claustrophobic, strange, and frightening turn.
In the midst of all this, and just as things were starting to affect us here at home, we were hearing that rainbows were becoming very symbolic in Naples. The USO in Naples was encouraging children to make posters using rainbows to try to keep people’s morale up. Charlie participated in that effort. We learned that ‘andra tutto bene’ (everything will be okay) were the words to live by. My daughter Katie here in town helped me make a bracelet representing Italy and rainbows and her sister in Italy, and I wore the bracelet for a lot of tapings. It brought me comfort. This all prompted me to do an episode of GG Sprinkles on rainbows, and I pulled out a ton of stuff I had around the house that somehow dealt with rainbows. I used to sing a song to Cooper when I was nannying called “I Can Sing a Rainbow,” and I decided to use it in the episode. I’m not a singer, but I decided that was okay, that the heart was the important thing. So I downloaded the karaoke version and at the end of the episode, you can pretty much tell that I’m having trouble keeping it together (and even after I practiced all that day in hopes that I WOULD keep it together).
So the rainbows were for everyone, but I was singing for Charlie who hadn’t left his house or yard in weeks and still had weeks to go. I think it was the next day that, when Ben stepped out onto their balcony and looked toward the ocean, he saw the most incredible rainbow stretched across the water. It brought Naples comfort and it brought comfort to a very worried GG here in the States who sang badly (but with heart!) and who was struggling to understand how all of this could be happening to beautiful Italy and her children. But it also made me want to bring rainbows into the lives of any little ones who might tune in to that episode of GG Sprinkles. And I certainly had rainbows to spare in my family room. I hope I succeeded. ❤️