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Dolls May Have the Right Answer to Treating Anxiety

June 03, 1987|LYNN SIMROSS | Times Staff Writer

Starting today, Cricket and Corky, a brother-sister duo of talking dolls, will tell it like it is to kids at the Los Angeles Children's Museum.

The dolls, manufactured commercially by Playmates Toys Inc. of La Habra, will be speaking tochildren about dentists and doctors, hoping to allay their fears when they go for checkups or treatment.

"We want to show--through our work at the museum--that our interactive toys not only talk, they have something important to say," said Bill Carlson, president of the doll-manufacturing company. "Children really buddy up to the dolls, so we hope it will be a good positive experience for them to hear Corky and Cricket's messages."

During separate three-minute conversations, the dolls converse with a trained museum staff member, who asks questions for them to answer. Speaking of her visit to the doctor's office, Cricket admits it was "kind of scary, but Mom says the doctor is my friend."

'Sometimes I Cry'

Seated on a physician's examining table, Cricket also confesses to the listening children: "Sometimes I get a shot. It hurts. . . . Sometimes I cry, but Dr. Harris says that's all right."

Seated in the health exhibit's dental chair, Cricket's younger brother, Corky, talks about the dentist taking X-rays of his teeth to see if "sugarbugs" have been making bacteria that eat his teeth, and about fillings.

Mary Worthington, the museum director of exhibits and programs who wrote the dolls' scripts, explained: "Kids are so up-front and honest they can handle almost anything that's the truth. We are very careful to validate their fears. We say it does hurt (when you get a shot). When we were little kids, they lied to us and told us it wouldn't hurt."

Said Dr. Simon Wile, a retired pediatrician and chairman of the Children's Museum board of directors: "Illness and injury are part and parcel of growing up. As a child, that is not always understandable and it is frightening. . . . After we discussed and heard the talking dolls, we felt it would be an excellent way to communicate with a group of children.

"I think they are going to be a big asset, a very significant and very important part of our medical exhibit," said Wile, who came up with the idea for the health exhibit at the museum seven years ago. "Illness can be softened if you take time to explain to the children what we're going to do, why we're doing it and how it's going to make them better."

Museum Open Daily

The museum's medical exhibit displays include an ambulance, an X-ray machine and an operating room.

The permanent Cricket and Corky exhibit opens today at the museum, 310 N. Los Angeles St. Playmates Toys has donated a white pair and a brown-skinned pair of dolls, which will be alternated. The museum is attended by 250,000 children annually, making it the busiest children's museum in the country. It is open daily.

According to representatives of the Toy Manufacturers of America, this is the first time commercial talking dolls have been used in a permanent exhibit at a children's museum.

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