Behind the Scenes: The Secret Sauce of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood by Angela Santomero
We set out to create a show that would make the tenets of our socio-emotional curriculum as clear and straightforward as singing the ABC’s or counting to 10. We know that socio-emotional skills are skills that kids need for life.
But how do you teach through TV?
At the end of 40 episodes, we want preschoolers to have seen the world through Daniel’s eyes & feel what he is feeling, learn the words that he uses, care so much for Daniel, and most of all, comprehend, learn & use the strategy of the day in their own lives.
A lot to ask? Well, I’m the one who’s guilty of pushing for an entire kindergarten readiness curriculum for Blue’s Clues & to ensure that kids’ reading skills skyrocket via Super Why. So, I’m always up for a challenge. And besides, we parents know how smart kids are. If we can give them the information in a well crafted story that they are interested in, they will learn. A LOT.
The Secret Sauce: Research!
The key to creating a show that effectively reaches & engages children, is to involve the young audience in the process. We test our episodes starting very early on in the scripting stage, reading a script with storyboards to our most honest critics: the kids.
In our first episode, Daniel and his friends set out for a picnic at the Clock Factory Park. They set up a picnic with a blanket, some snacks & games to play. But, alas, it starts to rain! Disappointed, the kids run inside the clock factory.
Dad Tiger takes his time talking to the kids (in bite-sized chunks), breaking down the strategy to help Daniel & the home viewer apply it. Dad then sings the strategy to drive his point home: When something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good!
Suddenly, all the clocks inside the clock factory start to light up & chime all at once! The kids have an idea as to how to turn their rainy picnic around. “What about an inside picnic, with all the clocks?”
Hurray, the kids are not disappointed anymore.
Rachel Kalban, MA, head of Out of the Blue research held many sessions on this first script. What she found at the end of the first script testing is that the kids in research knew, after one reading of the story, that disappointed meant sad. This result came from children who didn’t have any knowledge of the word beforehand.
To continue on to see how we made this theme & strategy “sticky”, so that the lessons would play out in the viewer’s own lives go to Angela’s Clues.
Additional posts written by Angela for Bonbon Break:
About Angela: Angela has been changing the way children watch TV for over 15 years. She is a Founding Partner & Chief Creative Officer of Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC, overseeing all creative development with the vision to bring educational entertainment to a whole new level.
Angela Santomero is the Lead Creator, Executive Producer and Head Writer for Nick Jr.’s landmark preschool show Blue’s Clues. Malcolm Gladwell referred to it as “One of the stickiest TV shows EVER made” in his book, The Tipping Point. Her ability to integrate education, entertainment & active participation helped make Blue’s Clues a breakthrough program. Currently, Angela is the Creator, Executive Producer & Head Writer of the emmy-nominated and #1 ranked preschool show, Super Why!, which helps build literacy skills through fractured fairytales & interactive games. She is unveiling her latest, (the Mister Rogers’ spin off) Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood this week. She presently hosts PBS’ The Parent Show at PBSparents.org.
Angela is a Peabody Award Winner for Outstanding Children’s Programming, a Gold & Silver Parents Choice Awards recipient & has been nominated for over 35 Emmy Awards. Her blog, AngelasClues.com, approaches Parenting from her vantage point as a successful childrens’ media creator, to assist parents with the most important job of all!