Already the place to go to slip into a world of pretend pizza baking, farm work, digging for dinosaur bones and banking or fishing jobs, KidTime Discovery Experience added to its arsenal of creative fun this week with its very own dentist's office.
The exhibit opened Saturday morning complete with two dozen stuffed animal "patients," a tidy row of little white lab coats, two exam chairs and a battery of X-rays, dental displays and moldings of teeth ready for various types of repair.
Five-year-old Jack Joy, treated to a preview of the tiny clinic, completed X-rays on a brightly colored dog while an elephant and a bear waited their turns.
The boy patiently looked at a patient's chart, then donned some goggles before scrubbing some plaque — by way of magnetic substance and a toothbrush more fitted for a horse — under a bright light.
"These are pictures of people who broke their teeth and have to get them fixed," he said. "We like doing all this 'cause it shows you how to brush really good."
KidTime director Sunny Spicer said the simple yet educational play opportunity is exactly what exhibit designers try to create throughout KidTime.
The dental clinic, a partnership with Central Point Family Dentistry and dentist Steve Nelson, was a needed addition to the 18,000-square-foot, two-story facility chock full of learning and play opportunities. Spicer said the space, while it boasts a veterinary clinic, could use some additions where medically related jobs are concerned.
Spicer said she hoped the exhibit would spark other ideas and potential community partnerships.
Nelson said it was exciting to see what was a fun idea come to fruition for the popular museum.
"We started talking about this about six months ago. My kids had played here and I approached them and said why don't we create a dental exhibit," said Nelson, replacing a gigantic crown on a display tooth.
"I had approached a couple pediatric dentists and orthodontists and no one really jumped on it. I felt like we really needed something like this and that it would be a really cool thing for the kids."
Nelson said the clinic was a no-brainer.
"I have little girls and they always played dental office for pretend. We designed the different stations but before it was ready to go the kids gave us final approval and told us how everything should work."
Spicer said Nelson was thorough in his design ideas and worked with the museum's exhibits team. She said the exhibit is valued at $18,000-$20,000, counting donated time and materials.
"He had a lot of great ideas and worked with our team. We basically took, like with a lot of our other job-oriented exhibits, an industry-specific task and made it kid-friendly," Spicer said.
"We built a lot of it. Dr. Nelson provided the exam chairs. It just all came together. It's a fun way to teach kids to take care of their teeth. You really have to make it fun so this was a good fit for KidTime. Every morning, we had been having to put things back together because we had kids sneaking in to check it out."
Five-year-old Angie brushed the teeth of a fuzzy rabbit while wearing one of the tiny white coats — intended, she noted, "for when you're fixing teeth."
"The giant teeth are ones that need brushing," she said. "This is where they show you how to take care of your teeth and brush them a lot of times."
Peeking through curtains and an "under construction" sign on Thursday, Rogue River resident Barbara Reed ushered her 6-year-old granddaughter over to the veterinary clinic to "take care of patients over there."
"We'll come this weekend to check this one out," she said, noting that she enjoyed the always-changing displays at the play space.
"They do a great job and we love coming here. It's fun but it's educational so it exposes them to so many different things."
Reed said the dental clinic would be a fun way to gently remind — versus nag — her grandkids to brush their teeth.
"It's a fun way to reinforce something that's important," she said.
KidTime is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission and membership details can be found at www.kid-time.org.
— Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.