Somewhere on the continuum between Señor Wences and the Muppets lie sock puppets, those mutable moppets that transform humble materials -- castoff nylons, mismatched argyles -- into toys that encourage theatrical, even therapeutic play. And while manipulating traditional puppets and marionettes can require months or sometimes years of practice, operating a hand puppet is as easy as flapping your fingers open and closed.
Oakland's nonprofit Museum of Children's Art continues its irresistible series of family activities with "Sock It to Me," an afternoon of sock-puppet creation (all materials provided) followed by an improv puppet theater performance starring the newly born characters. Make like Shari Lewis starting at 2 p.m. at 560 Second St. (at Clay), Oakland. Admission is $7 per child (adults play free); call (510) 465-8770 or visit www.mocha.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
While toy trains have long been a favorite childhood diversion, the growing popularity of children's book and TV show character Thomas the Tank Engine has caused the average preschooler to venerate the locomotive with roughly as much adulation as Hindus have for Lord Krishna. Let your own li'l engineers indulge in their preoccupation at the Great American Train & Hobby Show, a scale-model enthusiast's mecca that includes nine operating model railroads and a special hands-on play area for kids. The whistle blows at 11 a.m. at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 404-4111 or visit www.greatamericantrainshow.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Girl & Guitar
Looking up to a virtuoso
It must be hard for smart girls right now: They're faced almost exclusively with pop singers and movie stars as role models. One antidote to anti-intellectual disease is Greek guitar virtuoso Antigoni Goni. Now a teacher at Juilliard, Goni began winning international classical music competitions as a teen, and today is a highly respected musician all over the world. She spends two weeks a year in the Bay Area teaching and performing, and this afternoon she appears with some of her students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
So don't despair, bright chicks. There are talented, dignified women out there for you to look up to -- they're just not on television. Goni's "Family Matinee Concert" begins at 2 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $7-15; call 398-6449 or visit www.performances.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser