In a previous blog, I’ve talked about the influence TV has over how and what children eat. Research shows that not only are kids susceptible to food advertising, but they also try to model what they see on their favorite shows. This is especially true if they really like the character.
This research is very important to me—not simply because I create TV programs, but more importantly, because I’m a mother. It’s why I’m always very careful about what Super Why and the Super Readers say and do, as well as what foods they’re shown eating. For instance, when I go about designing a season of episodes for Super Why or the new Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, I’m very vigilant that we’re not celebrating someone’s birthday with cupcakes and cake all the time, or going out for ice cream after Super Why wins his baseball game.
Instead, we’ve focused on writing compelling stories that show positive food messages because the impact of modeling good choices on kids’ TV is priceless. Take one of my favorite Super Why episodes, called “Healthy Hansel,” as an example. We turned the classic story of Hansel and Gretel on its head by showcasing how grumpy and unhappy the witch is because she lives in a candy house. But what if she lived in a house made of fruits and vegetables? Spoiler Alert! Super Why changes the story and we save the day. The witch learns how great she feels when she eats fruits and vegetables and drinks water. This episode is fun and silly, but it teaches an important lesson. Our preschool home viewers get to practice literacy skills while also learning about the benefits of fruits and veggies!
I also do what I can at home to help my children become media literate and savvy. I want them to learn to question what they watch on television. If they’re watching a commercial, I urge them to ask themselves questions like: What does the company want me to buy? Why do they need a brightly colored cartoon animal to sell it to me? If it’s a show, what is the message? Why do they want the characters to eat cake, cookies and ice cream all the time? And once that program is over, if my kids have an incredible urge for a sugary treat, there’s no better time to point out the sheer coincidence that their choices are similar to those made by the characters from TV. It’s usually then, that I’ll have my girls put on their aprons to create their own dish, which is fun to prepare and even healthier to eat.