Target Age Group: Preschool
Television Station: PBS
I know, everybody already knows about Sesame Street and what a great childrens show it is. After all, Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969, and has won more Emmys than any other show. Thats not to mention the other awards the show has earned, including multiple Peabodys, Parents Choice Awards, and more. But, starting in 2005, the show has launched a new, multi-year initiative called Healthy Habits for Life, and I wanted to see how effective the show is at getting the point across.
"Healthy Habits for Life" Objectives
In a press release dated February, 2005, Sesame Street stated the following about the new initiative:
Sesame Street's newest curriculum is part of a larger Sesame Workshop company-wide initiative, "Healthy Habits for Life," created in response to the growing crisis of childhood obesity among children. The preschool years are a crucial time in children's lives to foster healthy habits. Recent data reflect both the immediate and long-term consequences of poor dietary behaviors. Tackling the critical issues of health and well being, Sesame Workshop continues to set the benchmark in educational television with Sesame Street storylines that guide preschoolers and their caregivers through lessons related to healthy eating, the importance of active play and other key activities such as hygiene and rest.
Considering the barrage of marketing and advertising for unhealthy snacks coming at children from all sides, not to mention the decrease in physical activity due to TV, video games, and online activities, it is no surprise we are facing a childhood obesity problem in the US. I was glad to hear that Sesame Street wanted to address the problem, and I hoped that the message would be strong enough to get through.
Show Content Summary
When it comes to tackling the issue of eating healthy and exercising, Sesame Street is not just throwing out little snippets of advice here and there. Elmo is exercising, and even Cookie Monster is limiting his cookie intake.
In the beginning of each episode, a famous person shares a bit of health advice. Along with the "Healthy Moments," the new season will feature all-new Muppet "street" scenes, like, "The Healthy Foods Name Game," and "American Fruit Stand," Sesame's take on the 50s variety series that features a singing Miles rhapsodizing about the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables. Other segments include a song entitled, "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food," where Hoots the Owl explains that there are anytime foods (fruits and veggies) and sometimes foods. Additionally, every other show will feature a "Health Module;" a cluster of four segments related to health, exercise and nutrition.
(Information provided by February, 2005 press release.)
Sesame Street's new health conscious shows are as good of a reminder for adults as they are for children. In one episode, Elmo and Zoe decide on a snack of cookies and ice cream. Miles, who is at the fruit stand, entices them to have some fruit instead. He then launches into a stellar performance on "American Fruit Stand." Most kids today wouldn't know what "American Bandstand" is, but children will still learn about making healthy choices, while parents will get a kick out of the "healthy" reminder.
Segments like these are reinforced by the other lessons in the "health module." After children watched Elmo and Zoe make the choice to have fruit instead of cookies and ice cream, the lesson was reinforced by cookie monster, who learns that "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food."
Watching Sesame Street's health related episodes, children get a huge helping of positive examples and information. Because Sesame Street has devoted so many episodes to teaching children about health and physical activity, kids are getting a message that is strong and consistent. Just as Sesame Street excels in teaching kids about letters and numbers, they are also ahead of the game in teaching kids about diet and exercise.