When we were kids, one television program that our parents would never complain about my brothers and I watching was Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I have not watched the Mr. Rogers in probably over three decades, but it left an indelible impression on me. Even now I can picture Fred Rogers, the show’s mild-mannered, slow-talking host, entering his home, putting on a cardigan sweater while singing a song inviting me to be his neighbor and then interacting with puppets, his neighbors and friends, and doing art projects. Yet the show ran counter to nearly everything that is billed as children’s programming today – the nature of the host and the show was much like Mr. Rogers’ sweater – comfortable and soothing without the fast-paced sequences and loud soundtracks that accompany modern day programs. That combination appealed to parents and kids alike as the award-winning show ran for 33 years on PBS from 1968-2001.
After the birth of my daughter, I began to lament the absence of Fred Rogers from television as I believe there is little out there for young children that can compare to the educational quality of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. That was until I stumbled upon Ruby’s Studio: The Feeling Show (USD11.99). In this pilot program created by The Mother Company, the host, Ruby (played by Kelsey Collins), is a young woman who arrives at her art studio to set it up for four kids who are coming to join her for an art project on the theme of feelings. Ruby, who I instantly adored, seems a kindred spirit to Mr. Rogers. She has an easy way of talking with kids that feels genuinely born out of care and admiration for her young co-stars and the viewing audience at home. The show has sequences involving the art project, music, puppets, and even story telling done by the voice of Mel Brooks. There is also an impressive musical number that takes place outside of Ruby’s Studio during the Happiness Song. All of this, and more, takes place with the show’s mission of fostering “social and emotional learning for kids” squarely in mind.
We learned about Ruby’s Studio from A Little Book About Feelings, a storybook app based on a sequence taken out of the pilot episode of Ruby’s Studio (you can read the app review here). When Reina watched Ruby’s Studio, she immediately wanted to share it with all of her friends and for more than a week would not watch anything else if given screen time. Even after owning it for more than a month, she still likes to revisit numerous sequences in the program and sings several of the songs. Most importantly, she began to model some of the language used in the program that encourages children to talk about their own feelings and to empathize with the feelings of others.
The only downside to the show is that it remains a pilot program at this point and costs USD11.99; a steep price compared to per episode pricing for shows on iTunes that normally cost USD2-3. But considering how much our family has gotten out of Ruby’s Studio: The Feeling Show, I think it is worth the price. By supporting the program now, they can develop more episodes for the future and, with luck, the show will get syndicated and that should bring the price down too.
You can, watch a preview, purchase Ruby’s Studio or other items, and learn more about the Mother Company and read their excellent blog here.
Photo courtesy of vimeo.com