If you have school-aged children, like I do, you may have missed the news that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street’s first television broadcast. A new season with updated characters and segments will begin broadcasting next week, giving preschool parents tired of re-runs something to look forward to on November 10.
I wouldn’t have known about this major anniversary in children’s programming if I hadn’t randomly used Google yesterday. The Google “doodle” featured Big Bird, which made me search Sesame Street news to find out what was up.
As a child, I well remember watching Sesame Street. I loved that little kid John-John with the massive chubby cheeks who would sit on the wall and talk to Herry Monster about numbers and letters. I adored the Twiddlebugs so much that my parents nicknamed me Twiddlebug. I did not like Bert – he scared the dickens out of me.
This was back in the days before Elmo, Zoey and celebrity/political/pop artist cameos (that I can recall) – and before anyone on Sesame Street met or even believed Big Bird’s best friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus, existed outside of the tall yellow guy’s imagination. This was also back when kids growing up in Atlanta had only four television channel options – 2, 5, 8 and 11. We had Sesame Street, Electric Company, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, Saturday morning cartoons and little else in the way of children’s programming from which to choose.
By the time my children came along, Elmo and Zoey had become regular “people in my neighborhood”; everyone could see Snuffie; and bands like R.E.M. were dancing around, singing “Furry, Happy Monsters” on the Street. All of my kids enjoyed Sesame Street for a while. But with so many children’s programs on so many different channels, Sesame Street faced stiff competition and was never really the favorite.
My older daughter probably watched Sesame Street the longest. The younger girls always wanted to watch what the oldest watched and quickly learned that certain shows (like Sesame Street by that time) were considered “baby” shows by the number one Big Sis in the house. Even early on, however, Big Sis often preferred other children’s programs to Sesame Street if given the choice. In fact, Arthur and Teletubbies reigned supreme in our house when my oldest child was a preschooler. My middle daughter loved the Tweenies, Blue’s Clues and Franklin. Our youngest was enthralled by Barney and a Scottish show we stumbled upon called Balamory. When we couldn’t find Balamory on the schedule any more, she moved on to Sid the Science Kid and Toot and Puddle.
All of this has gotten me thinking, what do you as parents think is the best children’s (preschool/early childhood) program out there? And which programs do your (or did your) young children prefer? What were your prerequisites for children’s shows? Do you go for maximum educational value? Maximum social learning? An even balance? Pure entertainment value? Do you ever steer your children away from programs that annoy you personally, or do you let them make their own choices as long as they are age-appropriate?
Do you still enjoy watching Sesame Street with your kids? How do you think Sesame Street has changed – for the better or worse – over the years? How has children’s programming in general changed – again for better or worse – in the past 40 years?