A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this appealing series teaches fire safety to preschoolers. Sam is a colorful Welsh firefighter who's also a responsive member of his community and a loving uncle to his niece and nephew. Young viewers will be delighted by the stop-motion animation (which creates soft visuals), the colorful backdrops of the charming Welsh village, and the funny dialogue. Storylines focus on situations that require the firefighters' help, such as someone's pet dog getting stuck in a fence or a child accidentally knocking over a lit jack-o'-lantern and starting a fire. Sensitive viewers may need a parent nearby to help them understand that all of the characters are safe in the end.
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What's the story?
Created by two UK firefighters, FIREMAN SAM has been helping kids learn about fire safety since first airing on the BBC in the mid 1980s. Brave to the core -- as well as the hero next door (as described in the opening song, that is) -- Fireman Sam (voiced by John Sparkes) is just the person to help out in a crisis. Calm and cool when the pressure's on, Sam is tender-hearted around the children who look up to him, and a bit of an eccentric thanks to the oddball inventions he creates on the side. Each episode includes two stories featuring characters from the picturesque town of Pontypandy (the name is a hybrid of two real South Wales place names -- Pontypridd and Tonypandy). Viewers will meet Elvis Cridlington, another colorful firefighter; Penny Morris, a female firefighter and mechanic; Dilys Price, the gossipy town grocer; Norman Price, the resident mischievous kid; Sarah and James, Sam's twin niece and nephew; and Bella Lasagne, the town café owner.
Is it any good?
The distinctly Welsh characters, community, accents, and expressions may pose some minor comprehension problems for kids on this side of the pond, but overall it's good exposure to another part of the world. And when it comes down to it, the show's main premise is easy to ascertain, even for a 3-year old. With its fun cast of friends and engaging adventures, the show may remind parents of Bob the Builder -- albeit with a Welsh accent and a focus on fire safety instead of construction.
Fireman Sam's storylines are simple, but they do involve crises, some of which may frighten the youngest viewers if characters' safety is threatened. But never fear -- everyone always winds up safe in the end thanks to the gallant efforts of Fireman Sam.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about specific fire safety rules: the danger of playing with matches, why you shouldn't reach for hot objects in the kitchen, staying safe around fireplaces and camp fires, and so on. This discussion can branch out, too, covering everything from water safety to learning how to dial 911. Parents can also talk about the safety mistakes made by the children in the show and what their own kids should do if they see the same things happening in real life. The series' charming Welsh community, accents, and expressions may also prompt discussion about other countries and parts of the world.
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