Posts Tagged With: television

10 Life Lessons I Learned from Kids’ Shows

As I struggle through my first few years of adulthood and what I have dubbed my “quarter-life crisis,” I have come to realize how many valuable life lessons can be found in television shows and movies that were written specifically for the pint-sized people in this world 🙂  I hope to shed a little light on some lessons that are taught to children but are beneficial for adults, too.

1. Knowledge comes one step at a time

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This is an interesting, sort of hidden lesson from every episode of Sesame Street. The beloved series began airing back in 1969 and has affected generations of children over the years. I don’t think I watched very much TV as a child (I certainly have many memories of playing with my family and being outside), but I do remember watching Sesame Street before afternoon kindergarten, and I assume I watched it when I was younger than that. Sesame Street takes an interesting approach to teaching by focusing on just one letter and one number per day. Short, sweet, and simple. Children don’t just see the letter and number once and then move on; instead, they are exposed to the number and letter repeatedly, adding associated words, counting games (don’t forget Count von Count cheerfully and dramatically saying, “One! Ah ha ha! Two! Ah ha ha!”), and songs. The next episode does the same thing, but this time with a different “Letter of the Day” and “Number of the Day.” As an adult (and maybe as a child, too), I have the tendency to pick something I want to learn, and then I want to be good at it immediately – not because I think the new skill is simple, but because I don’t have the patience and perseverance to take it one step at a time. Think how much more I could accomplish in my life if I set short, attainable goals that ultimately lead to a life of fulfilled ambitions and successful pursuits!

2. Seize the day

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There’s a song in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that is quite possibly the happiest little song I know. It’s called, “This is Just the Day,” and it goes like this:

If you’ve got an hour,
Now’s the time to share it.
If you’ve got a flower,
Wear it.
This is just the day.


If you’ve got a plan,
Now’s the time to try it.
If you’ve got an airplane,
Fly it.
This is just the day.


It’s the day for seeing all there is to see.
It’s the day for being just you, just me.


If you’ve got a smile,
Now’s the time to show it.
If you’ve got a horn,
Then blow it.
It’s the minute to begin it.
This is just the day.

To top it off, it has this jazzy little background track. Check it out here.

3. Love people who are different

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The PBS show Arthur has always been one of my favorites. The beloved and calm aardvark, Arthur, is surrounded by a myriad of interesting characters. His friends include a science genius (the “Brain”), a tomboy who doesn’t mind getting dirty (Francine), a class clown (Buster), a dramatic and spoiled rich girl (Muffy), a bully who has been held back a grade (Binky), a poetry buff (Fern), a world traveler who is into martial arts (Sue Ellen), a shy boy who talks more through his ventriloquist dummy than through his own mouth (George), and a yoga-loving, fortune-telling eccentric (Prunella). Similar scenarios can be found in shows like Recess, Phineas and Ferb, Garfield & Friends, Dragontales, and My Little Pony. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are extremes of four very different personalities. I think writers try to create unique characters so that every child can relate to at least one of them. But the underlying message is clear: you can be different from your friends and still have great adventures together. After all, wouldn’t life be boring if everyone were exactly the same?

4. Make room for everybody

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Do you remember The Muppet Movie? Released in 1979, the film starts with Kermit alone in a swamp, singing his classic Rainbow Connection. Then his journey begins, and he meets all of our favorite muppets as he travels to Hollywood to make a name for himself. His first new friend is Fozzie Bear, and the two of them borrow Fozzie’s uncle’s Studebaker (while his uncle is hibernating) to get to Hollywood. As the story continues, they pick up more and more new friends, and eventually end up trading in the Studebaker for a station wagon so that they can fit everybody. I love the lesson this teaches, as the characters create room for their new friends, rather than telling the newcomers that there simply isn’t enough space for them. One of my favorite parts of the movie is the song entitled Movin’ Right Along. You can watch it here, if you’d like. During the song, Kermit and Fozzie drive past Big Bird, who is walking down the street. They ask if he wants to join them (somewhat concerned that he is simply too big to fit in the Studebaker), and he tells them he’s not going to Hollywood because he’s trying to make a name for himself in public television. Despite his size, they still offered him a ride!

5. Sometimes the best part of an adventure is arriving home again

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Here’s a classic from Sesame Street. Read the lyrics to Ernie’s I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon:

Well, I’d like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don’t want to live on the moon

I’d like to travel under the sea
I could meet all the fish everywhere
Yes, I’d travel under the sea
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
I might stay for a day there if I had my wish
But there’s not much to do when your friends are all fish
And an oyster and clam aren’t real family
So I don’t want to live in the sea

I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar
Go back in time and meet a dinosaur
There’s so many strange places I’d like to be
But none of them permanently

So if I should visit the moon
Well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I’ll wish I was home once again

Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go I’ll be coming home soon
‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon
No, I don’t want to live on the moon

Through all my adventures and travels, I have thought of this song many times. I think it’s important to have a home base to return to – a place where you belong at the end of the day.

If you’d like to listen to the song, you can do so here.

6. The first step to ending your fear is to increase your understanding

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My example comes from Monsters, Inc., which tells the story of monsters who gain their city’s energy (electricity, if you will) by scaring children and collecting their screams (an ingenious storyline, by the way), but who are actually terrified of the children they scare each night. When Mike and Sulley end up with a small human girl (“Boo”) in their care, they are more afraid of her than she is of them. In fact, Boo seems to think Sulley is a big, fuzzy teddy bear. As the tale progresses, they learn that there isn’t anything dangerous about her, after all. As their understanding of human children increases, their fear subsides.

Humans–and monsters, apparently–are afraid of the unknown. Thus, the secret first step to being brave: increase your understanding.

7. You are always connected to those you love the most

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This is another one of my favorites. In the 1986 animated movie An American Tail, a family of mice takes a long journey from Russia to America to escape cats. On the trip, the son, Fievel, is separated from the rest of the family. In a heartwarming moment, while looking at the stars, Fievel sings the song Somewhere Out There and is joined by his sister Tanya, who is singing the duet from far away while also gazing at the night sky. These are the beautiful lyrics that have always stuck with me:

Somewhere out there,
Beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone’s thinking of me 
And loving me tonight.

Somewhere out there,
Someone’s saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another 
In that big somewhere out there.

And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star,
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby,
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky!

Somewhere out there,
If love can see us through,
Then we’ll be together 
Somewhere out there,
Out where dreams
Come true

You can watch the whole touching scene here. So the next time you feel far away from those you love, remember that you are sleeping underneath the same big sky. And chances are, they’re thinking about you, too.

8. The best understanding comes when you change your perspective

01b81751-b6ae-4a56-af70-9457002c2029Do you remember The Magic School Bus? Ms. Frizzle takes her small class on many adventures, as her magic school bus changes into a submarine, an insect, a spaceship, an airplane, and more to accommodate their rides through the ocean, space, and even the human body. The bus changes shapes and sizes so that the kids learn about the human body by being in it. They learn about space by flying through it and landing on planets. They learn about plants by traveling through the stem of a flower. And the children learn quickly because Ms. Frizzle understands something most of us don’t: changing your perspective is the best way to understand. It’s an important lesson that applies to real-life situations – even after we’ve graduated from elementary school science class.

Also worth mentioning: In each episode of The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle tells her class, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” It’s a great little piece of advice for how we ought to live our lives.

9. Use your imagination
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Children’s television, movies, and books are phenomenal at teaching this lesson (As an avid reader, I actually find myself reading youth fiction 90% of the time because of the imaginative plots). As adults, we transition from “imagination” to things like “creativity” and “innovation” – traits that are invaluable to employers and clients alike. And yet, how often do we hear adults talk about using their imagination? How quick we are to forget the important lessons of our childhood play. Watch Sesame Street’s It’s A Circle. I especially love the “argument” Bert and Ernie have at the end of the song. The whole world could use a little lesson on loving people despite having different views, don’t you think?

10. Don’t hide your talents

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Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb is only a few years old (began in 2007), but it is creative and witty, and I have enjoyed watching it as an adult. The two main characters, Phineas and Ferb, are young boys who are step-brothers. They are geniuses who want to make the most of each day of summer vacation by creating an outrageous adventure for themselves and their friends. Each day, they do something impossible for two kids their age: build a roller coaster through the city, create a beach in their backyard, travel to Mars, etch their sister Candace’s face into Mount Rushmore, etc. Candace is always trying to get them “busted” by their parents, but at the end of each episode, something equally outrageous happens, and the whole contraption they’ve built throughout the day disappears just before their parents see it. Candace is convinced that her brothers purposely hide their evidence–but being good, honest boys, they aren’t trying to hide anything. In fact, a repeated line in the show (by various strangers) says, “Aren’t you kids a little young to be _____?” (fill in the blank with whatever impressive feat they’re accomplishing). Phineas always replies, “Why, yes. Yes, we are.” and continues working on his project. He and Ferb are unashamed of their talents. They are open, honest, creative, friendly, extremely intelligent, and humble to boot! They are great role models for kids and teach the all-too-valuable lesson of excelling in whatever you do without hiding those talents.

 

Do you have any to add? What life lessons have you learned from shows written for children? Let’s not forget books, games, and personal experiences with children, as well! We have so much to learn from the smallest, most innocent members of the human race.

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