Odds are that the spread of coronavirus — and the forced family time that social distancing necessitates — are stirring up some “big feelings” in little ones. (And, let’s be honest: in their parents, too.)
Luckily, there’s a red-sweater-clad cat who’s very familiar with kids’ emotions, as well as with teaching grown-ups how to engage with them. PBS’ Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood — an animated offshoot of the classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — is a go-to for the preschool set when it comes to unpacking situations that are overwhelming (the first day at a new school), exciting (a new sibling is on the way!) and everything in between.
So TVLine talked to Daniel Tiger’s senior producer Chris Loggins about how best to address the current state of the world with kids of all ages — and the resources that might help if you suddenly find yourself headmaster of your own, unexpected homeschool.
YOU’RE GOING TO MESS UP, AND THAT’S OK | “Something Daniel Tiger says is, ‘It’s okay to make mistakes, try to fix them and learn from them, too,'” Loggins points out. “Often mistakes are an opportunity for improvement. This is an unprecedented time, and we’re all learning as we go. To paraphrase Fred Rogers, what is mentionable is manageable. When we know more about something, and can talk about it, it can make it easier to manage.”
TALK IT OUT | Kids are perceptive by nature, Loggins notes, and they’ll pick up on how you’re feeling — so keep that in mind when you’re talking to them, as well as when you’re talking to other adults within kids’ earshot. That said, “Children are going to have questions, and it can be OK to have age-appropriate conversations about what is happening.” Looking for more guidance on those conversations? “We have some good tips from child-development experts about ways grownups can talk with children during times of crisis on our website,” he adds.
SO MUCH TOGETHER TIME | Trying to meet a work deadline while your child is loudly zooming race cars by your feet can be frustrating. “Lately, one thing that has helped me cope with frustration is remembering that, right now, when we change our plans or don’t do things that have been planned, it’s not only to protect ourselves, but also to protect others,” Loggins says. He cites one of the show’s lessons on adaptability — “Things may change and that’s OK, today we can do things a different way” — as a good mantra for both parents and kids to keep in mind.
OTHER WAYS TO KEEP KIDS ENGAGED | Loggins highly recommends PBS’ resources, which include a new daily newsletter that offers activities and tips for playing and learning at home. Fred Rogers Productions, which is behind Daniel as well as Peg + Cat and The Odd Squad, is offering an activity, craft or recipe each day on its social media channels. Common Sense Media, another nonprofit organization that reviews entertainment and technology for families, has a plethora of app, game, book and TV recommendations, broken down by age group on its website. Loggins also suggests looking into scheduled livestream events, like story times with authors, teachers, school administrators, and so forth. “This is a really good idea and a great resource. It creates a semi-structured event parents and children can look forward to,” he says. “It also keeps us connected, even through the social distancing. That’s important!”