Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an octogenarian. Well, it’s more accurate to say that Carroll Spinney, the man who has played Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch) for the past 45 years is an octogenarian. I learned this just this past week when reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new film based on Spinney’s book, I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story. The story brought back wonderful memories.
Sesame Street was a very important part of our home and our kids’ lives when they were young. Although our kids loved Big Bird and all the other Sesame “guys,” Ernie was the focus of much more attention–at least on one very memorable day in July many years ago.
Our oldest child may have been a little precocious in the area of miniature rubber figurines. Most kids who collect and play-act with little toy statuettes begin around 3 or 4 years old, but our home was a Sesame Street shrine from the moment our son started following Big Bird et al. at age 2. He was too young to even pronounce the characters’ names–Cookie Monster was “Cookiebader.” His love of Sesame Street miniatures made gift-giving easy–for about $2 each, we gradually accumulated all the critical players in the Sesame Street saga. They populated the replica Sesame Street neighborhood we all built together from recycled cereal boxes and cardboard tubes. Sesame play-acting paused only long enough for us to watch the actual TV show when it came on the air each afternoon.
We vividly recall the time we first learned that Sesame Place, the show’s theme park, was in Pennsylvania, not far from where grandparents lived. This was a nearly miraculous development for our son—and, of course, the next trip to Mema’s and Grandpa’s included a visit to SP. That may have been the most memorable vacation of our boy’s childhood. He hid behind Grover’s garbage can, climbed into Ernie’s bathtub, and ate “Cookiebader” cookies for lunch. “Do they really live here!!??” he asked incredulously. The gift shop even sold a rare figurine that we didn’t have at home–Mr. Snuffleupagus, if memory serves–for two bucks, like all the rest of “the guys.”
It’s that devotion to Sesame Street that made Ernie’s (the figurine’s) mysterious disappearance one summer afternoon a day that will live in infamy. The characters never went anywhere without our son, and he rarely went anywhere without them. But on that fateful day, as play on the windowsill stage was about to begin, all the characters checked in present and accounted for, but where was Ernie?!! Breathlessly, our little boy ran to tell us of the disaster–Ernie was missing!
And so began a legendary search through the house that turned up just about every other lost toy from the previous two years–but no Ernie! We called friends, grandparents, neighbors–it was an all-points bulletin, we explained to our distraught toddler. Just as we were about to post “lost toy” fliers around the neighborhood, our next door neighbor sheepishly called–his grandson, with whom our son had been playing with the day before, might have accidentally slipped Ernie into his pocket.
Grateful that the crisis was over, we chose not to press charges. All the Sesame guys were reunited and, although I can’t be sure, I think I saw Burt shed a tear of relief. I know our son did.
Plus: What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Photo: Image originally from SesameStreet.org
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Monday, January 27th, 2014
More than half of parents feel their children have learned a lot from educational television, apps and games, according to a new national survey
of 1,577 parents of kids
ages two through ten that is the first to quantify the amount of children’s screen time that is educational. But the time spent with this beneficial content drops sharply as children get older, even as the minutes they spend with TV, tablets, smartphones and gaming systems increases. You don’t need a math degree to know that’s a bad ratio. (The study defined educational content as material that is good for a child’s learning or growth, or teaches an academic or social skill.) ”There’s a need for parents to be more mindful when choosing educational media,” says Vicky Rideout, who directed the study for the Joan Ganz Cooney center at Sesame Workshop in New York City. So what can you do?
Turn to TV.
For every subject except math, parents were more likely to report that their child learned the most from TV than from platforms like console games, tablets or other mobile devices. This could be in part due to the fact that TV is still the primary way kids spend their screen time. But it may also be because parents have difficulty finding apps that are truly educational, or because kids gravitate to games they perceive as more fun (those Angry birds are stiff competition for Duck Duck Moose
and its top-rated learning apps). Of course you have to choose your TV wisely: In the survey, 96 percent of parents rated Sesame Street as very or somewhat educational. SpongeBob SquarePants washed up at 9 percent.
Beware age 5. It’s the time when kids’ tend to turn away from educational media as they spend more time with mobile devices. Among two to four year olds, the study found 79 percent of media used is educational, whereas among five to seven year olds the proportion declines to 39 percent. The researchers describe the drop as “alarming” and due in part to more use of mobile devices (vs television) as kids get older. Fewer parents felt that their kids learned from mobile than from television. Which leads me to…
Be a digital dragon
There will come a time when your mild-mannered kindergartener suddenly starts caring about what games other kids at school are playing. Many of these will be games that are not only devoid of educational value, but downright violent. You’ll have to set your family’s rules and expectations and stick to them against all kinds of pleading.
Choose kids’ media wisely.
Get help at Common Sense Media, which has long rated television and movies and now also rates apps, or subscribe to reports from Children’s Technology Review
. More parents in the study felt that their child learned reading or math from educational media; good science and arts apps may be harder to come by. At the CSM site you can search the database by subject category
and there are some good art apps listed there.
Don’t give up on books. While 62 percent of kids in the study had an e-reading gadget, about half of them don’t use it for reading. They may like reading on paper better, or this finding may be due to the fact that on tablets, there is stiff competition for your child’s attention. So continue to provide books on paper and expose your child to libraries and bookstores even if you also give her a device for digital reading.
Play and explore with your kids.
”A fair amount of research shows parents and kids engaging with media together enhances it’s benefits,” Rideout says. Whether you’re discussing Sesame Street’s themes with a preschooler or researching robots or iguanas on YouTube or Google with a school-age child, ask questions about what your child is seeing and reading. David Kleeman, SVP of insights programs at PlayCollective
, a research group that focuses on kids, families and play, points out that as kids get older, they may learn from sources parents wouldn’t necessarily classify as “educational” at first blush. In one previous study, he said last week at a Cooney Center forum focused on the new survey results, half of American boys reported learning valuable lessons about friendship from SpongeBob. As kids get older and the devices they use get smaller and more personal, it’s still important to engage them about what they are seeing. Who knows? Maybe ultimately this 100 percent digitally native generation will teach us a thing or two?
See Elmo and Murray from Sesame Street talk about learning in this video:
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Resiliency. It’s learning from that mistake at school or dealing with rivalry between siblings. It’s seen when a child resolves a problem with a friend or when she copes with moving to a new town. Resiliency is your child’s ability to cope with and overcome challenges, whether it’s a day-to-day obstacle or a major transition. It’s the power within your little one to understand her feelings and solve her problems, no matter how big or small. And your child’s resiliency starts with you.
But resiliency is a tough concept for kids to grasp, which is why the Sesame Workshop launched its Little Children, Big Challenges initiative to teach skills and strategies to young children—and the adults who support them—it’s designed so they can persevere through any challenge. The Sesame Street Workshop has been committed to empowering parents and children for 40 years, and their latest installment provides the tools to build important resilience skills, enabling young children to grow and thrive.
Head over to SesameStreet.org/Challenges and you’ll get access to all the fun, engaging tools and activities for you and your child. And they’re all free.
Kids can sing along to the “Bye Bye For Now Song” or play the What We Are Music Maker! game to help your child think of words to describe herself. There are activities for everyday scenarios, like drawing pictures of your morning routine, and meaningful life events, like drawing leaves on Elmo’s “new things” tree. The Sesame Street DVD features a Muppet story and music videos of real children and families. And the Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app helps children problem-solve anywhere from any tablet or smartphone device.
For parents and caregivers, the Family Guide provides tips and strategies that you can start using today to help build your child’s confidence. The resource specifically gives advice for teaching your tot persistence, patience, dealing with mean or aggressive behavior, as well as a variety of other circumstances.
Resilience is not only innate. Children can also learn problem-solving skills. Ultimately, one of the most important factors is the presence of a caring and supportive adult, which is where you come in. The Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges gives you and your child the tools to cope with whatever obstacles—big or small—come your way.
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Photo credit: ©2013 Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved.
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