When I heard last year that the beloved Sesame Street was moving to HBO (for first-run only, then on to PBS) and making some changes, I felt a pang of nostalgia for the good old days of Big Bird, Luis, Maria, and Mr. Hooper (RIP). Why did they have to change the Street? Oscar in a recycling bin? Progress, right?
The good news from earlier this year is that the gold standard of preschooler programming, PBSKids, is expanding its offerings and its availability in a variety of ways so that kids can learn and sing and laugh with their favorite characters. PBS stations across the country will now be able to broadcast children’s programming 24/7 and stream it via pbskids.org and an app.
I no longer have a preschooler, so I’m a little out of touch with what’s happening in programming for the youngest viewers. My teen daughter says she still likes to watch clips of the little kids’ shows Super Why and Wordgirl, and of course, those of us who grew up with Mr. Rogers are deeply imprinted by that gentle neighborhood and the sound of the trolley bell. I decided to check on what’s new, good, and streaming for the under 5 bunch—things I hadn’t heard of before—and here’s what I found. I hope you’ll comment on any favorites you have and share with the rest of the Alt Ed Community.
(If you don’t subscribe to the streaming services, never fear: all three shows are easily previewed in clips on YouTube.)
Word Party (coming July 8)
I’ve always heard that the best way to really learn something is to try to teach it to someone else. So now the Jim Henson Company is creating a TV series in which the kids who are watching teach baby animals new words. I can’t quite figure out how this one will work, but can’t wait to find out. Plus there’s singing and dancing, and the panda looks criminally cute.
I happened to be a big Blue’s Clues fan back in the day, so the fact that its creator, Angela Santomero, is involved in this one gives it some points out of the gate. The show is also fresh and fun because it veers away from the usual preschool fare of numbers, shapes, and reading readiness. It’s about art as the solution to life’s problems! Arty the Alien and his friend Epiphany search the Creative Galaxy for tools and ideas for making their artistic solutions. And eventually real-life children try his cool art projects too. Mini bonus features that accompany the show suggest ways parents and kids can find art in unusual places—like the kitchen and the back yard.
Guess with Jess
A cat with a British accent and a sly wink? I’d say it’s purrfection if I didn’t think the pun police would arrest me. This is a show in which Jess the cat and his friends on Greendale Farm solve mini mysteries like why acorns are buried under a tree and what makes a rainbow. They tackle all their Big Questions together. This one is heavy on the joy of friendship and little songs that any three- or four-year old will love.