Before my daughter was born, I vowed that I would not expose her to the evils of television. “Television is bad for the eyes and it rots your brain!” I reasoned. My husband claimed the banishment of television watching would be nearly impossible and he was right.
I decided that instead of removing all televisions from my home and moving to a deserted island, I would choose the programs my daughter could watch and limit her overall television consumption.
There are television stations in which the entirety of the programming is devoted to babies. I watched some of this so-called developmental baby programming and just as I was close to losing my mind from sheer boredom, I recalled what my favorite television program was when I was a little girl. I asked my trusty DVR, “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” and voila I was set up to record the very next episode that aired.
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I was concerned that Sesame Street may have lost its luster in the intervening decades since I had last watched. I need not have worried. Sesame Street has changed a great deal, of course. There was no little red puppet that speaks in third person when I was young! Yet, many of the changes that have taken place over the years have been for the better.
It is tempting to turn on this delightful show and set your little munchkin in front of the screen while you accomplish some important task like cooking dinner or doing the laundry. However, I urge you to grab a seat alongside your child and watch the greatest show on television together.
1. Sesame Street helps your child develop early literacy skills.
I am currently in my twelfth year of teaching elementary school and I have taught second, third, and fourth grade. I cannot tell you how many students I have taught over the years that have come to me and have never developed basic phonics and phonemic awareness skills like reciting the alphabet and recognizing letter sounds. It may seem unbelievable that a child of seven, eight, or nine could arrive at school without basic literacy knowledge. However, it is a sad, but true reality.
A recent article in Education Week Magazine, “Sesame Street Boosted School Readiness for Young Children” by Christina Samuels, cites Sesame Street not only prepares toddlers for preschool and kindergarten, but that it also has a lasting impact of ten years or more. The study found that children who watched Sesame Street were “less likely to have been held back in school by 9th grade”.
The data speaks for itself, but as a teacher and a mom, I ask you to take Sesame Street watching to the next level. Use Sesame’s Streets “letter of the day” feature to reinforce your child’s knowledge of the alphabetic principal. Point out objects that begin with the given letter, identify the letter in the book you read before bedtime, or make the letter out of pasta, beans, or cotton balls. Be creative! Toddlers love to point, just wait and see how they begin pointing at letters!
2. Sesame Street helps your child develop number sense.
Just as Sesame Street provides a “letter of the day”, there is also a “number of the day” accompanied by it’s own fun jingle to stomp and clap along to. The Count models how to count in sequence, but also shows what the number looks like using objects. Counting lays the foundation for all mathematical concepts. At the toddler age, counting should be fun, like a game, and Sesame Street sets the stage.
My daughter loves taking objects in and out of containers. So, I have aligned this activity with the Sesame Street’s number of the day. I vary the objects and containers along with the number. Sometimes it is stuffed animals in a basket, Legos in a bucket, beans in a cup, or pasta in a pot. We practice pointing to each object as we put it in a container or take it out.
At eighteen months old, my daughter already understands the concept of the number “one”. I give a silent thanks to Sesame Street every time she asks for one more kiss or one more story in baby sign language.
3. Sesame Street helps your child develop vocabulary.
Sesame Street now has a feature called “Word on the Street”, in which Murray the Monster introduces a vocabulary word that becomes the theme of the show. How I love a good theme! In one episode, the word of the day was “artist”. It featured Bert trying to develop his creative side along with an artist aptly named “Vincent Van Stop”. Bert learned how to paint a sign, while also learning how to differentiate between the letters “R” and “P”. The episode also explains all of the different ways someone can be an artist (painting/drawing, musical, theater) and that anyone can be an artist.
The kids on the show create art with sidewalk chalk and learn about macaroni art and paper sculptures. Naturally, after watching this show, my daughter created our own abstract works of art with crayons and sidewalk chalk. In this way, Sesame Street adds a new word to your child’s vocabulary, but it also gives the parent inspiration for a few new developmentally appropriate creative activities.
To read more about why Sesame Street is the best show this side of Oscar’s can, click here: