Sesame Street has been on television screens since 1969 (that's almost 50 years!), so there’s a good chance that you become nostalgic when you hear that familiar theme music.
The show might look a bit more modern these days, but the premise and many of the characters are probably the same as when you used to watch it as a kid.
The great news is, you have a legitimate reason for letting your child watch this popular show. It’s not just so you can relive your own childhood, or to save your sanity instead of watching today’s most popular show, it’s because Sesame Street is good for kids.
A recent study has confirmed (yet again) that watching Sesame Street can give children long lasting educational benefits. The study by economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine looked at the long term impact of viewing Sesame Street.
To do this, the researchers determined the quality of television signal in different neighbourhoods. This allowed researchers to determine which children would have had access to Sesame Street. They found that children with access to Sesame Street were more likely to be in the right grade for their age years later.
The study found that Sesame Street improved outcomes for boys, non-Hispanic African American children and children from economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These results go some way to proving that the makers of the popular show went some way to achieving their goal.
Sesame Street was thought up in the 1960s by Joan Gantz Cooney, a television producer who wanted to create a show that would improve numeracy and literacy in preschool children. With the help of Gerald Lesser, a Harvard University psychologist, and Lloyd Morrisett from the Markle Foundation in New York, Sesame Street was born. Their aim was to create a television program that would teach children, kickstart learning and be fun to watch.
The educational benefits of watching Sesame Street are well documented, and you can find details on the show’s website here. This new study, however, is one of the first to access the benefits over such a long time frame.
At the very heart of Sesame Street is education and an emphasis on closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. It’s important to remember that watching television cannot replace child-led learning. That said, Sesame Street may be a good starting point for getting children excited about maths and literacy.
There are a lot of follow-on learning materials produced by Sesame Street for use in classrooms and the home. Using these materials allows children to get even more from the show, and to practice new things they have learnt from each episode.
The show is aimed at children aged three to five years old, but this doesn’t mean the show will have the same educational benefits if you show it you to your baby. In fact, screen time can actually have a negative impact on very young children. So it's important to limit screen time, and carefully select what you do allow them to watch. For more information on how to choose what to watch and for how long, check out BellyBelly’s article on how screen time can affect your child in the first two years of life.