Song Spotlight: “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies”

Please Don't Eat The Daisies - Song Spotlight |
  • Mood: Light and playful
  • Themes: Flowers, What not to eat
  • Tempo: Moderate waltz
  • Genre/Style: 1960s easy listening

Here’s a quirky popular song from Doris Day to add to your repertoire.

“Please Don’t Eat The Daisies” is the title of a book, film, song, and TV series, created in that order, all about the funny moments of raising kids in the suburbs. Jean Kerr wrote the original book of humorous essays, sharing the shining moments of raising her four boys in the ‘burbs after years of living in New York City. Doris Day took up Kerr’s role as the newly-suburban mother in the film, and this is where the song “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies” first appeared.

As with any song, there are many ways to use this one in music therapy sessions and in routine caregiving, depending on your caregiving role. You could include this in a set of songs about flowers, or a musical biography of Doris Day, or a review of songs in a waltz rhythm. The swaying rhythm also lends nicely to movement to music experiences.

I think my favorite application for this song is in helping people who are very confused to follow simple instructions.

Here’s how (and why) this could work:

This song is in a major key and triple meter, lending to a playful, rocking feeling that nicely matches the indulgent motherly tone of this tune. In this song, you don’t hear a mother tearing her hair out in frustration or crying out in fear for her children’s safety. Rather, you hear a gentle correction of a child’s doesn’t-know-any-better behavior.

This turns out to be useful for gently redirecting behavior from people with dementia who may not know any better either. As you may already have experienced as a caregiver yourself, people in the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias sometimes attempt to eat things that are not edible. Allowing this to happen is a no-go since it can lead to choking or infections, but yanking an object out of someone’s hand may get them upset, too.

What if you could redirect them musically?

Singing in general – and this song in particular – communicates affection, care, and calm. Change out the words to match the direction you’re giving to the person with dementia (“please don’t eat the hand soap” or “please give me the glasses”), and you can communicate gently and calmly what you need them to do. Remove the object from view, then hold their hands and sway in time to the music as you sing, and you’ve turned a potentially tense moment into a sweetly musical one.

By the way, having a Carnegie-Hall-quality singing voice is not a requirement for singing this song with the people you care for, any more than you have to be a superstar to sing lullabies to little kids. So why not try singing this song with a person you care for?

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