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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sesame Street is a classic preschool series renowned for its superb educational content, which supports early skills in literacy, math, and science and exposes kids to a variety of cultures through music, dance, and language. Over the years, the show has dealt with strong emotions -- missing a friend, suffering from low self-esteem, and being worried about a new sibling's arrival -- but the messages are always positive and self-affirming. A formatting change in 2015 trimmed episodes to 30 minutes, which limits the traditional literacy content (letter recognition, counting skills, and so on) to make room for stories centering on the ever-popular monster stars and recurring segments about broader concepts such as observation and investigation, as well as daily themes such as amphibians, pairs, and bedtime.
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What's the story?
SESAME STREET is a groundbreaking preschool series that introduces and reinforces early educational skills such as letter sounds, numbers, colors, and patterns and encourages kids' curiosity about the world around them. The series is set in an urban neighborhood where longtime Muppet characters like Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch live alongside people pals. Recurring segments on each episode center on letters and numbers of the day, phonics skills, and interpersonal relationships. The show's ever-evolving curriculum also instructs kids on other issues such as healthy eating and caring for the Earth, topics that are blended into the format through a range of engaging music, dance, cultural segments, and the occasional Spanish lesson.
Is it any good?
Still going strong after several decades, this show has long set the gold standard for preschool media by incorporating early educational and social-emotional skills into an entertaining show that even beckons to parents. Created by educators, Sesame Street capitalizes on kids' natural love of learning and celebrates diversity by exploring different cultures and incorporating both Muppet and human characters of all ages, colors, races, and physical abilities. Through the years, beloved characters have come and gone, but a few original favorites remain even today.
Parents who grew up with the classic Sesame Street style might find some of the show's changes through the years a little surprising -- including a revamped theme song, multiple visual styles, and even segments that alter the appearance of classic characters (Claymation versions of Ernie and Bert, for instance). Even more jarring to longtime viewers may be the 2015 formatting change that cuts the episode length in half and gives second billing to trademarks such as the letter and number of the day to make room for longer plot-driven stories starring the Muppet monsters and broader learning themes. It's unusual to wish for more time in a preschool show, but that's what these newer Sesame Street episodes leave you wanting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the topics each episode of Sesame Street tackles. What did you learn about numbers and letters today? Watching with your kids will give you many creative play ideas -- try carrying a theme from the show into activities when the TV shuts off.
Kids: How do the show's different styles and stories help you understand the featured topics? Do the songs help you remember some of what they're trying to teach?
In what ways does the show reflect American culture? How do the characters represent their cultural heritages? How do the show's music, dance, and language teach you about the world's diversity?
Sesame Street teaches many different character strengths, especially communication and teamwork. Which characters demonstrate compassion, empathy, and gratitude? What about curiosity, courage, and perseverance? Can you think of anyone who shows humility, integrity, or self-control? Why are these character strengths so important?
- Premiere date: November 10, 1969
- Cast: Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash
- Network: PBS
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along, Numbers and Letters, Puppets
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Courage, Curiosity, Empathy, Gratitude, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-Y
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Emmy
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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