Babies, The Audience from Nurse Lulu's Clowning on a Budget

All human beings in the hospital are fair game for entertainment; not just the patients and their visitors. Employees, including doctors, nurses, security guards, cafeteria and housekeeping personnel can all be very receptive to clown fun. They should all have the opportunity to have a clown encounter. However, as I mentioned in my “The Hospital Face” post, the clown must always be on the lookout for anyone [of any age] who demonstrates signs that they do not want to engage. It may sound unlikely, but babies do not commonly fall into this category.

Although coming across a bizarre individual like a clown for the first time should freak anyone out, infants have not had sufficient time to learn or develop a fear of clowns. Indeed, after some visits, many parents informed us that their baby had just experienced their first clown and it was a pleasant event. It is possible for things to go smoothly if the child is approached in the proper manner:

'The clown must pay close attention to a child’s (or even adult’s) facial expressions and body language. Generalized tension or a sudden negative change is a clear “do not approach” message. If there is cautious curiosity, distance clowning is advised.' “The Hospital Face” 8/3/18 post - Lucy E. Nunez

With infants, it can be kept simple. One of the first things a clown supervisor told me when I started was to always have something visual for babies. Once the approach and an acceptable distance have been established, clowns can sing gently for babies; one can play a quiet instrument, while the other can slowly wave something shiny (I always used a mylar pom pom from a dollar store) or blow bubbles. Let me take this opportunity to say that I do not approve of blowing bubbles in a hospital with one’s mouth; this spreads germs. I always use a little bubble machine shaped like Hello Kitty and tell the parents I’m giving the child a “cat scan”. But over-bubbling can cause a soapy mess, so less is best.

Possible visual aids: bubbles, mylar pom pom, bright streamer, puppets

Fun moments:

One evening in the Emergency Department waiting room, we successfully calmed a crying baby with a song and I waved the shiny pom pom. The father quietly asked me where I got that "miracle worker" and I whispered “A dollar store; two for a dollar!”

There was a visit in a baby’s room where my supervisor was playing gentle arpeggios on his ukulele. I wasn’t sure what song he would sing, so I waited. He started what sounded like a lullabye, but with these words: “...because I’m all about that base, ‘bout that base, no treble...”!

Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and an improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014.  For more information please visit:
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