File this under things I never thought I’d say: if I had it all to do again, I would let my preschoolers watch more television. At least, that’s how I feel after meeting some of the great minds behind CBC children’s programming.
I love meeting people who are infectiously enthusiastic about their jobs, and that was very much the case at CBC Kids’ Days when I met Kim Wilson, creative head of CBC children’s programming, and Dr. Lynn Oldershaw, child psychologist and children’s’ programming consultant for Kids’ CBC. They were introducing three new shows coming to CBC Kids– Chirp, The Moblees, and You & Me–and they invited 4Mothers along to their Very Important Picnic, where parents and kids could mix and mingle and meet some of the people in front of and behind the camera.
(Confession: I have a crush on Mamma Yamma and I got to meet her! In the potato flesh!)
Almost as exciting as that celebrity spotting, I learned a lot about their whole child approach to children’s programming and how their shows fill their mandate to educate and empower children.
“We are not just making content, we are making a difference.”
Both Kim and Lynn emphasized how television can make a positive difference to preschool-aged viewers, and, I confess, I was a bit skeptical at first. As a rule, I place tight limits on screen time because I’d prefer my kids to be active, but as Lynn pointed out, preschoolers do not watch television passively in the way that adults and older children do. Their minds are constantly working as they watch, and they are active consumers of what’s on the screen. If you make sure to put them in front of quality, interactive programming, then they will engage and learn.
The team at CBC ensures that learning happens with their Whole Child Development Approach to programming, in which five areas of development are being targeted in shows that are very interactive:
1. Cognitive Growth (science, spelling, numeracy, learning to read; Bookaboo, Monster Math Squad)
2. Social Skills (equally important in preparing for academic success is how to get along with other children; Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood)
3. Emotional Intelligence (empowering kids to identify and regulate their emotions and then problem-solve to cope with powerful emotions; Poko, The Adventures of Napkin Man)
4. Creativity (music, art, storytelling–children have an enormous capacity for creativity, and quality programming will stimulate it, not stifle it, by enabling kids to extend on what they see and hear; Artzooka; I noticed how simple the monsters in Monster Math would be to draw ourselves)
5. Physical Development (many aspects of the programming encourage, and even require, kids to move in order to propel the story; Bo on the Go)
I was thrilled to learn that John Mighton, of Jump Math fame, was a consultant on the numeracy content in Monster Math Squad, and Mary Gordon, who founded Roots of Empathy, was a consultant for the emotional intelligence content of The Adventures of Napkin Man. These are thinkers and activists whose work I have long admired, and to hear that they are contributing to children’s television is nothing short of delightful.
We had a great day at the CBC studios, and I left feeling really grateful to have had the chance to look behind the curtain. It has given me a much rosier view of how the small screen can be a positive part of at home learning.