The land of make-believe is going into lockdown. When a new season of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood launches on PBS next month, the mega-popular kids’ series will tackle the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and strive to provide parents, toddlers, and preschoolers with a little bit of extra support.
On August 17, 2020, PBS will kick off the fifth season of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with a special called “Won’t You Sing Along With Me?” It’s all about Daniel Tiger having to interact with all of his friends over what looks like Zoom calls in an effort to reflect the present reality that so many families are actually facing. Here’s how a statement from PBS and Fred Rogers Productions describes it:
“In the special, when Daniel learns he can’t gather with all of his neighbors at the Neighborhood Carnival this year, it leads to a lot of big feelings and questions, including what to do when he misses the people he loves, how to keep himself and others healthy, and how to find ways to enjoy the extra time at home with his family. Mom and Dad Tiger use new and fan-favorite songs from the series to help reassure him – as well as young viewers and their parents at home, who are encouraged to sing along!”
As families grapple with hard decisions about sending kids back to daycare or school, the new season of Daniel Tiger is coming at a pivotal moment. The whole purpose of Daniel Tiger is to help kids navigate some of their big feelings. And right now, as all parents know, kids’ feelings are gargantuan.
Fatherly got in touch with Chris Loggins, Senior Producer of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, to try and get a sense of how the team navigated addressing this scary topic for kids without scaring them too much. Here’s what he told us.
“We definitely kept Fred Rogers’ advice in mind: ‘What is mentionable is manageable.’ Even young children are aware of the changes around them as the world weathers this pandemic. We chose to focus on questions children might have, like why normal events are canceled and why we can’t see our friends like we used to and also the feelings those questions might lead to. And we relied on the guidance of child development experts, just as we always do. But we didn’t mention the virus specifically in the special so as not to create too much fear about getting sick.”
So, once again, the words of Fred Rogers are helping families in a time of crisis. With all the bad news out there, it’s good to remember that the spirit of Rogers is still helping us out every day, albeit though the body of a cartoon tiger.
Daniel Tigers’ Neighborhood will drop five new episodes on PBS and PBS Kids starting on August 17. They include a 22-minute special called “Daniel’s Substitute Teacher” and the mostly-musical episode “Won’t You Sing Along With Me?” all about COVID-19 and social distancing.