Taking the Fear out of a Dentist Visit

Whenever possible, I like to use the GG Sprinkles forum for more than entertainment. I like to educate a bit or, in the case of this episode, eliminate a bit of fear. When I was a little girl, trips to our dentist—the only one in our little Tennessee town—were often not pleasant experiences. But things have changed a great deal since then. There are now pediatric dentists and family dentists who are ready and willing to work with little ones to provide the best experience possible. In the long run, if the dentist and his team can make a child’s visit as pleasant as possible, that would have to make their jobs a tad easier.

I decided to enlist the assistance of my not-so-willing dog, Gracie, to help make the point. The poem that I wrote was about a typical trip to the dentist. I had actually had my own 6-month checkup the previous week, which gave me the idea for this topic, so I took the opportunity to talk to the friendly dental assistant about how they work with children. The poem is written more as if a child is speaking, as many of my Sprinkles poems are. That made it more fun to write, for sure. I took some pictures of the staff and even of me in the dentist’s chair.

I pulled out Gracie’s toothbrush, doggie toothpaste, and breath drops, as well as my own toothbrush. After I read my poem, I grabbed Gracie and demonstrated how the dentist puts a covering on your chest to keep your shirt dry and then proceeded to brush Gracie’s teeth. Sort of. She wasn’t inclined to cooperate fully, but we did our best. And I knew the kids would like the humor of trying to brush a dog’s teeth.

Hopefully the upbeat message made the point that the dentist isn’t someone to fear, that he/she is there to help make a sore tooth better and keep our teeth clean and healthy. And Gracie is speaking to me again. Finally. ❤️

The Music of Children

Let’s face it: We all need music in our lives, even if we don’t know it. It doesn’t have to be professional or polished. In fact, it can be music we create. Nothing fancy, of course. Instruments can be pretty primitive, and sometimes the more primitive the better. Or at least, more fun. It was the fun part of this that made me research instruments that you can make with materials on hand. In particular, I wanted to see what children could create. I taught high school, so I didn’t have that wisdom that teachers in the lower grades have and that I’ve always admired.

Percussion instruments are always a favorite and the easiest to create. I found out that macaroni can be used in a variety of ways. I put some in a margarine container which made a fine (and pretty loud) percussion instrument. Anything resembling maracas was popular with my kids, so I used plastic spoons, plastic Easter eggs, and rice to make reasonable shakers. And I grabbed a big plastic bowl to use as a drum, but there are fancier ones with directions online. I discovered that it’s possible to create a primitive but workable guitar out of a shoebox, but I didn’t have all the ‘ingredients’ that I needed. However, I did decide to include water glasses to help with melodies. Who would have thought, by the way, that they’d be difficult to tune!

The one instrument that I really wanted to make and play was one I’ve admired since childhood: the spoons. I’ve always been fascinated by musicians, usually country, who could play them so well. I was jealous. And so, of course, I had to learn. I watched YouTube videos and read articles and, naturally, I practiced. And by golly, I did it! Not well, necessarily, but I could do it. I doubt the Grand ‘Ole Opry will be calling anytime soon, but hey…

I decided to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm and accompany myself with water glasses and percussion. It lacked polish (I’m WAY understating that) but it was fun. I started this post by saying we all need music in our lives, and I wasn’t kidding. There isn’t nearly enough joy these days with COVID, the political landscape, and weather events that seem to be increasingly bigger and more devastating. I think we need music to drown out the sadness. And the louder, the better. And who cares if it isn’t polished or professional, as long as it’s loud and fun. If it comes from the heart, macaroni shakers and shoebox guitars will work just fine. Let the little ones create, sing and dance. And let their spirits—and ours—be lifted by the melodious and not so melodious sounds. ❤️

Trying Everything (and Not Giving Up!)

I wish I could tell you that I’ve never given up, but I can’t. I have a feeling I’m in some very good company in this. I also have to admit that I’m sometimes reluctant to try new things. And as the former nanny of a risk-taking little boy, I can honestly say that I’ve been around someone who isn’t afraid to try anything and everything. No matter how high the monkey bars or how slippery the slide. And, as much as that daredevil approach to life scares me, I admire it. So I wanted to emphasize to little ones that they shouldn’t be afraid to try things, and they shouldn’t give up if they can’t master something right away.

To help make the point, I used my own experience as a little girl who used her allowance to buy her first pair of roller skates and then spent a considerable amount of time on her rear end as she tried to stay upright. But, of course, I didn’t give up, and not just because those skates cost me five dollars of hard-earned allowance and I wanted to get my money’s worth. No, I really wanted to master the art of roller skating so I could skate with my friends. And it didn’t take very long for me to do just that. I like to use some kind of visuals when I present, and since I didn’t have any roller skates, I set up my Victorian ice skater display my parents gave me. By the way, ice skating was something I truly never mastered; my ankles couldn’t take it.

To help make the point that one shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, I used the lyrics to the song ‘Try Everything’ from the excellent movie ‘Zootopia.’ I love the lyrics to this one that include lines like ‘Birds don’t just fly/they fall down and get up’ and ‘nobody learns without getting it wrong.’ But my favorite line is ‘I wanna try even though I could fail.’ I used the example of my attempts at hoola hooping, which I still haven’t mastered. I did promise in the episode, though, that if I eventually succeed in being able to hoola hoop, I will demonstrate it in an upcoming episode. No pressure, right?

I wrote a poem about my roller skating experience and another about not giving up, and I was good to go with this episode. It was almost a way to redeem myself. As a nanny, I really held Cooper back, I think. I kept him off playground equipment that scared me. I fretted and worried and didn’t let him take risks that kids really need to take to spread their wings and see what they can do. I let my own fears control Cooper, and I’ve always regretted it even though my motives were pure. So I think a child’s—or anyone’s—resolve to ‘try everything’ is closer to the attitude we all should have. And once we try it, we shouldn’t give up on it too easily. Like the song says, we need to try even though we could fail. After all, failing at something isn’t the worst thing that could happen; never trying because of fear would be the bigger failure.

Things that Go Fast! Race Cars and Roller Coasters

I always wanted to build a racetrack. Well, sort of. And I thought I could indulge that fantasy and share it with my GG Sprinkles viewers. I decided to use what I had on hand to build my racetrack, and that happened to be poster board, along with tape and markers.

I built a pretty impressive three-lane straightaway, but decided that wasn’t much of a challenge for my race cars, so I built hills in each of my three lanes just to shake things up. That actually worked a little too well, but the craziness only added to the fun. The three cars have been in my when-the-grandkids-visit toy box for a while. These tiny vehicles let no obstacles stand in their way, and they’re very energetic. And a tad noisy. Gracie used to bark incessantly at them when we’d run them in the family room. She’s not a big fan of fast, noisy things. Cooper, on the other hand, is and so I took the cars with me when I nannied. The cars went under every piece of furniture and an appliance or two, but they survived. So these noisy little beauties were just what I needed on my poster board track. I created flags at the finish line and colored them to match the cars and we were good to go.

There aren’t many Sprinkles episodes where I leave the rocking chair and get down on the floor, but this was one. And I had a good time. But it wasn’t just race cars that I wanted to feature; I wanted to do something with roller coasters as well. This was a bit trickier, though. I couldn’t figure out how to build one of those out of poster board. It occurred to me that if I cut strips of plain white paper and taped them together end to end, I could design in miniature any roller coaster I wanted. I have an acrylic ‘table’ I use in my episodes, so I used tape to put the long paper strip on the table, creating loop-the-loops, drops, and death-defying hills. I hoped the kids might decide to create their own racetracks and design their own roller coasters.

I wrote poetry about things that go fast and riding roller coasters. Part of the underlying message here is that sometimes things that scare us become some of our favorites once we try them. In this case, you need only to take that first ride on a roller coaster and then chances are you’ll want another. And another. And the screams as you loop the loop and leave your breath behind you on that last steep drop are a major part of the fun. ❤️

It’s Okay to Be a Puzzle

Puzzles of all sorts are popular with children and adults alike. I thought doing a GG Sprinkles episode on puzzles would be appropriate. I didn’t just want to demonstrate store-bought puzzles, so I decided to make some of my own. That way I could encourage the kids to do the same. I took a Christmas card and cut it into jigsaw pieces and did the same with a calendar page (specifically a hummingbird). I wanted something even more visual so I used a piece of poster board, grabbed a few handfuls of cookie cutters, and traced around them. The object is to place the cutter cutters on the right spaces as quickly as possible. I had fun with this one, but I wanted to give them something to think about.

As a high school teacher, I discovered pretty quickly that some of the biggest and most difficult puzzles to solve were the teenagers that passed through my classroom over the years: How would this one learn best? How would I get that one to make it to class on time? What would inspire each one to write and write well? Each child was a different puzzle, and I count myself a failure for each one I couldn’t solve. And clearly, I was a puzzle to each new class: How far can we push her? How tough a grader is she? How fast can she run? Actually, that last one was even more relevant for Cooper to solve as I nannied him. And he was surely a puzzle for me. I knew little girls; little boys were definitely more of a mystery. After over four years with him, we pretty well figured each other out, although there were tears along the way. Sometimes, Cooper even cried. 😁

So what’s the point? Most of us are puzzles in some way and to some people. It’s what makes us unique. It’s also a pretty good indicator of how much someone wants to be your friend if they’re willing to invest the time and energy in solving the puzzle that is you. So it’s good to be a puzzle. Each of us is worth ‘solving’ and each of us is our own person. I wanted the kids to know that and to embrace the differences, not only in others, but also in themselves. And in case you were wondering, Cooper discovered that I can run pretty darned fast. That part of me didn’t remain a puzzle for long. ❤️

Baseball Heroes

The start of the baseball season, however tardy, and a late night chance viewing of the movie “A League of Their Own” got me thinking about the women who achieved so much for little girls of the future who dreamed of playing professional sports. The 600 women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League really were remarkable. I knew a little about them, but not a lot. It was time to do the customary research, and I found out some interesting things. For example, there were ten teams during the League’s existence. The ladies took a charm course, as they did in the movie. The League lasted ten years, and the song the ladies sing, ‘Batter Up, Hear that Call,’ really was the official song of their league. I had always assumed it was written for the movie.

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to meet several of the players at a card show. Dottie Kamenshek, one of the most talented players in the League, talked with me for a bit and signed my cap. She taught me how to properly shape the bill of the cap so that it looked like a true ball cap. All the players there signed a baseball for me. The cap and ball are two of my prized possessions. I knew Dottie Kamenshek was a person I needed to share with my little viewers. I consider Dottie and her fellow players heroes.

My poem for this episode was only about the ladies of the League. But my husband reminded me that there are also plenty of heroes among the men who play pro ball as well. Professional athletes can certainly be heroes because of their talent and skill in their sport. But the ladies of the AAGPBL are heroes to me because they paved the way for girls who came after them and dreamed of playing professionally, no matter the sport. So my standards were pretty high; my sports heroes need to contribute more to the world. My favorite ball player of all time, Roberto Clemente, certainly fits the bill. Clemente was a player I used to tell my students about, mostly for that reason. Through the years I’ve collected Clemente items, cards, caps, etc. This was a man who was a phenomenal player but who was so much more. He was actually killed when his plane went down as he was escorting supplies to a Nicaragua devastated by an earthquake. So obviously I had to include him in my list of baseball heroes. The Roberto Clemente Award was established to recognize baseball players who make a difference in the world in some notable way. The list of winners was a good source of other ball players I could present in our episode. Stan Musial made our list, as did Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter, and several others. All have started foundations or been very active in charities and worthwhile causes.

Roberto Clemente

It was a pleasure to introduce the little ones to the women of the All American Girls League, and I suspect for most it would truly be an introduction. I think it’s important that they know about those who came before so that they can appreciate them. It was a bonus to be able to tell them about Roberto Clemente and others who, like him, have tried to make the world a better place. It gives our sports heroes a valuable other dimension that elevates them a bit above their sports expertise.

Incidentally, I mistakenly say in the video that Clemente was taking supplies to Puerto Rico when I meant Nicaragua. Clemente was from Puerto Rico, so I tripped over my facts. I know better, of course. He is, after all, my hero. ❤️

Sailing with Pirates

Pirates have always fascinated me, and apparently they intrigue children also. Jake and the Neverland Pirates is a favorite animated show, I hear. There are many children’s books out there that have pirates for characters, as well. This is, of course, the romanticized version of pirates. The cutthroat reality would be a bit much. So to get ready for this episode, I researched pirates. I found out a lot, of course, but have only five minutes or so to present. So I focused on when the stereotypical pirates were sailing the seas. Turns out that the tricorn-wearing, shiver-me-timbers pirates were actually not out there for very long at all. That interested me. Oh, there were pirates for many years, still are of course, but not the flamboyant type. I looked into whether any pirates had redeemed themselves ultimately and become (more or less) law-abiding citizens. I read up on Sir Francis Drake, who was knighted by Elizabeth I, Henry Morgan, who became a lieutenant governor of Jamaica, and others who became landlubbers and lived out their lives. I also read up on Anne Bonny, arguably the most famous female pirate. It can’t be all about the boys, after all. So I had my information and set out to write the poem.

I have to say, I had fun with this one. I decided to focus on what pirates said, their colorful phrases and exclamations. This was also a learning experience for me, and I loved it. And I knew no child could resist a reference to a poop deck. I managed to work quite a bit of pirate jargon into my poem. And, bonus, I am now fully prepared for Talk Like a Pirate Day in September.

So we read the poetry, talked a little about pirates, told a couple of pirate jokes (what’s a pirate’s favorite letter? Rrrrrrrrr), and showed a few pictures of my grandson Charlie dressed as a pirate. And, of course, I had to make a pirate hat and sword so I could look authentic. All in, right? Even if your hat is a touch crooked and your fearsome sword is covered in tin foil. So, avast me hearties, and sail the pirate seas with us. ❤️

The Mighty Dinosaurs

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!

Why We Wear Masks

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.

Silly Faces and Your Photo Legacy

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. ❤️

Charlie’s silly face!