As a big fan of Suzanne Collins’s book series, I love how Sesame Street transformed Cookie Monster into Cookieness Evereat, whose goal is to survive the jungle by eating his way through the “Hungry Games.” His companions include parodies of Peeta (now an animated piece of pita), Finnick (wielding a fork instead of a trident), and Wiress (who keeps staying tick tock while holding an alarm clock). For more on the names of popular characters, check out Lisa Milbrand’s “In Name Only” blog post on why names from the Hunger Games haven’t taken off.
Even though your kids might be too young to understand the inspiration behind the latest video, they can still help Cookieness as he faces challenges related to food. Kids will learn basic pattern and shape recognition by guessing which food type comes next in an apple-banana sequence and which food shape comes next after a circle-square sequence. Parents can just laugh along at the funny antics and jokes.
Plus: Sesame Street characters Elmo and Murray recently visited our offices! Below, watch a video where they give tips on tackling picky eating. And watch Elmo and Murray give more advice on bedtime routines and getting along with siblings!
Who doesn’t remember loving Sesame Street as a child? I was so obsessed that my parents got Big Bird to come to my fifth birthday party, a day that still goes down in infamy among my family.
These days, Sesame Street’s educational and award-winning story lines aren’t just for television. The show now tops children’s learning in the digital sphere as well. Parents got the chance to check out some of the program’s latest apps, all designed for children 5 and under to expand their creativity.
1. Big Bird’s Words, $0.99 Recently launched on Google Play (and soon on iTunes), Big Bird’s Words is an app that uses verbal cues to teach vocabulary. In the game, Big Bird and your child help Sesame Street’s friends find items on their lists, such as shopping for Cookie Monster at the grocery store. Once everything is checked off, kids can explore further by taking pictures of everyday objects matching each item and learning additional related words.
2. Elmo’s Story Maker, $3.99 Based off Sesame Street’s “Elmo The Musical” segment, this app for iPad and Kindle allows kids to tell a story from beginning to end. They can choose or create their own characters and pick special objects as the tale plays out. The app reads your story out loud, or you can make a special recording. Later, share with family and friends through email or social media.
3. Sesame Street Family Play, $0.99 Lacking inspiration for new games to play with your kids? The Family Play app available on iTunes features 150 ideas! Whether you’re at home or on-the-go, this generator will help you find an activity based on location, number of kids, and objects around you. Each idea encourages playtime outside the screen, proving technology isn’t totally necessary for a good time.
Also on our radar: Sesame Go, a video-on-demand service that will offer content from the show on any web-based application. Currently in Beta testing, the service will be available to fans in the next few months, proving Sesame Street really is just about everywhere you look…or click and tap.
We’ve all been there, walking through the grocery store while our kids ask us for colorful sodas, chips with cartoon characters on the bag, or cookies advertised on their favorite TV shows. Couldn’t they just once harangue us for a pear, or heaven forbid, some broccoli?
Now parents are getting some back-up – furry, funny back-up to be exact.
“Just imagine what will happen when we take our kids to the grocery store, and they see Elmo and Rosita and the other Sesame Street Muppets they love up and down the produce aisle,” said Mrs. Obama. “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips. That’s what this new collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association is all about.”
Through her Let’s Move campaign, the First Lady has been a longtime advocate for making nutritious foods more appealing, affordable, and accessible.
The fact that Sesame Workshop is licensing Grover, Elmo, Rosita and friends for free is important because unlike a lot of processed food manufacturers, apple, broccoli, and spinach producers don’t have scads of marketing dollars to appeal to our kids in fun commercials or by placing their products in family movies. But the PMA and Mrs. Obama are hoping that when children see a sticker of their favorite Sesame Street character on an apple or next to salad greens they will get more excited about eating a variety of healthy fruits and veggies.
There is research to back this up. Mrs. Obama cited a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. When researchers gave kids a choice between a cookie and an apple, unsurprisingly the vast majority chose the cookie. But when researchers placed an Elmo sticker on the apple, nearly twice the number of children opted for the fruit.
After the announcement Mrs. Obama, Elmo, and Rosita headed out to the White House vegetable garden where they welcomed students from four area schools to help with the fall harvest. The students dug up giant sweet potatoes, cut pumpkins from their vines, and pulled up dirt-covered carrots. Under the guidance of White House chefs the kids assembled turkey, hummus, and salad wraps. While Elmo and Rosita didn’t share the snack, they extolled their love of fresh produce, already doing their part to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of hanging out with Elmo and Murray, who dropped by to help spread the word about Sesame Street‘s 44th season, which kicked off Monday. (That’s me and Michael Kress, executive editor of Parents.com, proudly posing with the muppets.) The theme of the season is self-regulation, otherwise known as that thing most of our kids haven’t quite mastered. The shows will focus on helping children master skills like managing emotions, making transitions, being flexible, screening out distractions, and remembering rules–all of which will help them in school, or help them get ready for school.
We asked Elmo and Murray all kinds of questions: Do you ever get so frustrated that you want to push or hit someone? What happens when your mom and dad serve you a meal that you really don’t like? Do you fight with your siblings? (They don’t have any, but they still had a good answer about getting along with others.) You’ll see what they had to say in a fun video series we’ll show you soon–and you can show your own children as a way to get them on board with good behaviors. (I know I’ll be showing my girls what Murray had to say about trying foods he doesn’t think he’s going to like.) In the meantime, have your children check out the new season of “Sesame Street”–though I’ll bet they are already–which includes a new segment called “Cookie’s Crumby Pictures,” movie spoofs that show Cookie encountering all kinds of opportunities to show off his self-regulation skills.
There’s a large group of kids in this country who aren’t discussed very often. They’re the 2.7 million children whose parents are incarcerated. That works out to 1 in 28 children–or roughly one child per classroom. Did you have any idea so many kids are experiencing the fear and confusion and embarrassment and sadness that come with having a parent in jail or prison? I didn’t.
When our friends at Sesame Street learned about them, they took action. “We started to realize how many children are impacted and no one is talking about it,” says Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D., vice president of Outreach and Educational Practices, Sesame Workshop. “No one is representing the needs of children and caregivers and the parents themselves.” So this became the focus of Sesame’s newest installment in its resiliency initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. Launching today, it’s an entire set of resources in English and Spanish including a DVD and video series, storybook, activity pages, tip sheets for parents and caregivers, as well as an app (available on IOS and Android platforms).
The goal of the initiative is twofold. One is to help caregivers–parents, grandparents, extended family members, foster parents–realize they’re not alone and that it’s important to talk to children about their situation. The tip sheet mentioned above provides caregivers with the best language to use with young kids and how to help them manage their emotions. The other aim is to help the incarcerated parent connect with his or her child. In the video, which includes the stories of real children, we meet a young boy who, with his father and sister, draws pictures for his imprisoned mom (that’s them in the photo above). She then colors them and mails them back, and this simple ritual has become very meaningful.
Watching the videos, you can’t help but wonder how to help these children. But it’s less about help and more about support, explains Dr. Betancourt. “This is a very isolated community–many families don’t necessarily want to talk about it. But if they do open up, the best thing you can do is simply support that family. It’s not even doing something ‘special’–it’s just being friends, just as you would with any other family.”
As always, Sesame will work hard to make sure their materials get into the right hands, giving them directly to prisons, family courts, and national and local organizations that help affected children. What’s so amazing about all of Sesame’s toolkits–and there are more than 20, on topics including divorce, healthy eating, and preparing for an emergency–is that the contents are completely free. They’re not on the actual “Sesame Street” TV show, but everything’s available online and can be downloaded here. If you know one of the millions of children who have an incarcerated parent, please encourage her caregiver or teacher to take a look.
Image by Gil Vaknin, courtesy of Sesame Workshop, 2013
When I was growing up, afterschool was for Skittles, Doritos, and 25-cent juices. When my daughter gets home from school, she pulls the bag of baby carrots out of the fridge and chomps away happily. Times have definitely changed.
If my mother offered carrots as an after school snack, I would have thought that I was being punished. Maybe that’s because she didn’t have as much support as I do. Lucky for me, our First Lady launched the Let’s Move initiative on February 9, 2010, when my daughter was only two years old. That means that I haven’t been the only one introducing her to healthy foods and exercise.
Over the past three years, Let’s Move has inspired schools, childcare providers, and business leaders to improve the health of our nation’s children.
As of January of 2013, more than 10,000 child-care professionals and organizations have registered to implement new criteria for nutrition, physical activity, and limited screen time.
Through Chefs Move to School, 2,400 chefs and nearly 4,000 schools have signed up to work together, teaching kids about healthy eating and helping cafeteria staff prepare healthier meals.
The American Beverage Association has also stepped up and fulfilled their commitment to put clear calorie labels on the front of their products to give consumers better information.
Now, in celebration of Let’s Move’s 3rd anniversary, Michelle Obama has teamed up with Sesame Street’s Big Bird to film two public service announcements encouraging kids to eat healthy and get active.
The new PSAs feature Mrs. Obama and Big Bird in the White House showing kids how easy and delicious it is to eat healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables and demonstrating fun ways to get active like dancing and jumping. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, will distribute these PSAs to 320 PBS Stations, Sesame Workshop’s partner channels as part of their Healthy Habits for Life Initiative. The PSAs are also posted on the Sesame Street and Let’s Move! websites.
You can also check out our new story, “Active Learners,” which explains just how physical education classes—which are in danger of being cut from many schools—help children perform better academically.
This week I attended an event put on by Sesame Street designed to spread the word about their newest goal, to help children affected by divorce. (That translates to 40 percent of all children, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.) This project, called “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce” includes an impressive collection of resources, all of which are available to parents, caregivers, and educators, and of course the children themselves at sesamestreet.org/divorce. This includes:
A book called Two-Hug Day, which is the very sweet way of helping a child frame the difficult transition that comes on the day he or she goes from one parent’s home to the other
A series of Sesame Street videos primarily starring Abby Cadabby, whose parents are getting divorced
A coloring book, including a page that illustrates all of the adults in Abby’s life who are there to support her
Tips for friends and family on how to help children who are going through the challenges of separation and divorce (this is available in Spanish, too)
At this week’s event, a discussion with divorced parents (some as recently as months ago, some who’ve been divorced for 6 years), moms and dads very honestly shared their painful experiences. It hurt to hear one mom of three say, “Nothing could have prepared me for the road I’ve taken,” though she also pointed out that her family has come a long way since those hardest days. A dad of two children talked about how hard pickup and dropoff has been for his 5 1/2-year-old son: “He’d have an extremely wide and conflicting range of emotions,” he said. “He simply did not know what to do with himself.” My closest friend has recently gone through a divorce and her two children are trying very hard to navigate their way through their new family life, so this hit home for me. What was encouraging, though, was that most of the parents said that things really do get better; that they and their children have made real strides. They also agreed that a toolkit like the one Sesame Street has assembled is invaluable. If you’re going through a separation or divorce and want to find ways to help your child through it, please do check out sesamestreet.org/divorce.
You’ll see and hear the show’s familiar opening credits (except everything is, of course, upside down) before two Muppets appear (Carson, the butler, and the Dowager Countess). Hilarity ensues as the Dowager Countess tries to have afternoon tea…but nothing will stay put long enough! This parody will officially air on PBS on Monday, Februrary 4.