Archive for the 'TV for Kids' Category

An Afternoon with Elmo, Curious George and my PBS Kid!

Danielle and PBS SoCal

Danielle and PBS SoCal

As a recent transplant to Austin, Texas, I now miss many of the top-notch blogger events hosted in California. Since I am never one to miss a party, I decided it was time to recruit a West-coast correspondent for Laptop TV Mom, and my choice was easy:my best friend Vicki. She lives in Orange County, is super-smart (engineer, MBA), has two adorable children, is married to a handful of a husband, and is a great writer. She and I love the same books, have polar-opposite tastes in movies, and we both love being Mom.

Vicki recently represented Laptop TV Mom at a party to celebrate the new PBS SoCal. Enjoy her inaugural post!

– LTV Mom

Vicki, Danielle and Elmo

Vicki, Danielle and Elmo

I had a brief moment of panic, shortly after the first of the year, when I went to turn on Curious George (aka “Monkey George” in our house) for my 3-year old, and it wasn’t there. I checked the time in my head and also confirmed it was indeed a weekday … no chance it was a Saturday and I could go back to bed. I checked the TiVo guide and none of our favorite PBS shows were scheduled for that day or any other day. PBS Kids programming has been around since before I was a kid! Could we all still live in a world without Sesame Street? What had happened? A quick online search indicated that I only needed to move four channels up the dial and all would be well again. Whew! Minor crisis averted, but I never knew exactly what had happened until this week.

My daughter Danielle and I were invited to the PBS SoCal launch in Hollywood to represent the Laptop TV Mom blog. All of Danielle’s favorite PBS friends were there, including that lovable red monster, Elmo himself. We arrived on a beautiful 72-degree January day with blue skies and a hint of magic in the air as we entered the Jim Henson Company lot. After some time in the sunny courtyard at brightly colored tables filled with crayons, activity books and games, we were entertained by an interactive Sid the Science Kid on a big plasma TV. Watching a group of twenty local first-graders “talk” with their equivalent of a rock star was a spectacle to behold. The enthralled, giggly group asked Sid lots of silly questions, tempered with a few that were science in nature. He was a master at playing along with the kids - rolling eyes, quirked eyebrows, funny facial expressions and all.

We then moved onto the Henson soundstage for a presentation by PBS SoCal President, Mel Rogers, and Jim Henson Company CEO, Lisa Henson, where they explained that KOCE is now the new full-service PBS station for Los Angeles and the greater Southland area. They will still be delivering the same high-quality local and national programming we’ve come to expect, just with a new name to represent their focus audience – PBS SoCal. During the presentation, special guests - Elmo, Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, Buddy from Dinosaur Train, and Martha from Martha Speaks - were the star attractions. The bigger-than-life plush characters kept kids and parents alike spellbound as they led the kids in a sing-a-long, skit, and brief show.

As we waited in line outside for our chance to be photographed with Elmo, I quickly realized that we needed to have a serious mom-to-kid discussion - afterall, Elmo was sitting with a very nice man (Kevin Clash) who was moving his arms and legs with plastic sticks and speaking in that lovable, unmistakable Elmo voice. Danielle nodded in understanding and didn’t seem fazed at all. I was a little sorry to have to take some of the magic out of it for her … that was, until she was sitting at the dinner table that night, retelling her adventures, and explained to everyone that the Elmo in our picture was just a puppet, but the REAL Elmo had been inside during the show, sitting up on the big velvet purple box and singing to them. A slow grin spread across my face as I realized the magic was still alive!

A big thank you to the folks at PBS SoCal and Jim Henson Company for an unforgettable afternoon!

- Vicki Halphide

Vicki and her daughter, on behalf of LTV Mom, were invited to the PBS SoCal event and received a meal and give-aways. No blog post was required to attend the event. These words are written by Vicki and are unedited.

SuperWhy is SuperWonderful

SuperWhy on PBS

SuperWhy on PBS

I grew up watching PBS television.  In fact, I vividly remember watching Sesame Street and Electric Company in my family room at home. Oddly enough, and much to my chagrin, my daughter was never into Sesame Street unless Elmo was on the screen.  But once she outgrew Elmo, we happily discovered Word World and then SuperWhy.

My kid did not watch lots of television as young toddler, but we did allow her to watch these select shows.  Looking back, it strikes me that I never questioned the quality or integrity of Word World or SuperWhy; I just trusted PBS to develop a product that was appropriate for kids.  In fact, to this day, PBS is the only network I turn on, walk away from the television, and know my daughter is watching a “safe” program.  (Before anyone asks, I usually walk away to cook dinner, wash clothes or another one of my domestic duties.)

Recently, the moms of Silicon Valley Moms Blog were invited to a special evening with the creators of SuperWhy. I tell you what, I have a whole new level of respect for the show and the brilliant *mothers* behind the educational and creative content. Here’s a snapshot of what we learned about PBS and SuperWhy programming:

  • PBS does not view kids as consumers, rather as “citizens of learning.”
  • There are more than 60 drafts of each 30-minute episode.
  • SuperWhy is designed to teach kids word strategies, and each character teaches a different critical reading skill.
  • Each episode of SuperWhy is designed to teach learning through problem-solving; in fact, “it’s not just memorizing, we want the kids to learn what we are trying to teach them.”
  • Whyatt Beanstalk is the preschool version of Zac Efron.
  • SuperWhy was created because “words don’t have power until we read them; we can change a story by changing the words.”
  • Media is a powerful force on kids; when Fonzie took out a library card, teen ownership of library cards grew by 500 percent.

Did you also know:

  • PBS wants to build relationships with parents, the goal is to develop “partners” with PBS programming.
  • SuperWhy has created reading camps to inspire kids to love reading and books.
  • PBS Kids has created online games to reinforce learning from all SuperWhy episodes.
  • There also is an online “Child Development Tracker” to help parents develop customized at-home activities for kids of all ages.

The folks from PBS also took the opportunity to ask the room of mom-bloggers what kind of tools and resources we could use to help extend learning from the television into our homes:

  • How can PBS supplement your child’s learning with SuperWhy?  Workbooks? Downloadable content?
  • They also sent us home with workbooks and resources to encourage summer reading.

If you have ideas or feedback to help PBS and parents work together, the folks at PBS are readily available. Here are Twitter handles: PBS Parents, Jeannine Harvey, Kevin Dando, Stephanie Aaronson, and Angela Santomero.

– LTV Mom