Last month, beloved fans and National Public Television celebrated 50 years of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I don’t know about you, but I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and found comfort in his quiet demeanor and the imaginative Neighborhood of Make Believe. There was this sense that everything had its correct place, daily tasks could be exciting, and unbeknownst to his viewers, we were all secretly learning about the world around us. TV Critic, David Bianculli writes, “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood was all about encouragement and support. It loved to educate kids a little, inspire them a lot and, when necessary, calm them down a bit about what may be unspoken fears.” This sounds like a message that still resonates today. Fans of Mr. Rogers are encouraged to share the impact he had on them on PBS’s website that can be found here.
The next generation of neighbors
Much to this mama’s delight, Mister Rogers’s legacy lives on through the fun loving PBS Character-Daniel Tiger. If you have a child under the seven, you have probably heard of the animated children’s series that is based on the characters who call the Neighborhood of Make Believe home. Daniel Tiger consists of two 11-minute segments that are linked by a common socio-emotional theme. Themes such as disappointment and sadness or anger, or being thankful and appreciative are accompanied by “strategy songs,” that reinforce the theme and help children remember the life lessons introduced in the episodes. If you’re like me, those “strategy songs” get stuck in your head and you find yourself singing them even when you’re not around your child!
Do you know your neighbor?
With all the lessons I’ve learned growing up find myself teaching my daughter, I find one of the most important lessons is teaching her to build relationships. My husband and I are HUGE supporters of knowing your neighbors and joining your neighborhood association for this reason alone. Relationships with people other than family, create a community of learning, allow children to learn about other cultures/races/family backgrounds, and help my daughter to begin learning how to communicate.
We are blessed to have had the opportunity to move into my grandparents’ house, which means their neighbors of 53 years are now ours! They have watched me grow up and now find themselves–once again–sharing life with our family as they watch my daughter’s life unfold before them. We visit our neighbor, Mr. H., each week. We talked about the importance of neighbors one night during our weekly visit, and Mr. H. told me they benefited greatly from watching our little one as their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live very far and “it’s a treat to interact” with her. He also mentioned he felt it was important that children know and interact with their neighbors, as they are “examples, protectors, and companions.” We talked how not knowing your neighbors is “missing an opportunity for friendship and mutual assistance.” Communicating with your neighbor and getting to know who they are helps everyone know what’s happening on the block. Mr. H also added that neighbors are great because “they bring you cookies!”
Continuing the legacy
As spring begins to show its colors and the weather gets warmer, you will most likely be spending more time outside. Let this be an opportunity to meet your neighbors and introduce them to your little ones. It’s as simple as starting with a wave or simply saying “Hello!” Here are a few more tips on helping your little ones carve out their place within their neighborhood:
- Take a walk in your neighborhood as often as you can. The more they become familiar with their own block, the more they are able to claim their space within the community.
- Bake cookies or your family’s favorite treat! Not only does this activity get your kiddo in the kitchen, it also encourages the spirit of giving. Once the cookies are ready and packaged, bring them to fellow neighbors as a way of introducing yourself with them.
- Host a block Party! There’s nothing like a party to help ease introductions. Ask everyone to bring their lawn chair, throw on some music, pass out popsicles, and let nature be the perfect backdrop!
- Join your neighborhood association! This allows you to keep informed with a larger radius of your neighborhood. To help you find your neighborhood association, check out Next Door.
Our greatest gifts are people. Mr. Rogers knew that, and he shared that message with each episode. We can keep his legacy alive through our children and give them the gift of neighbors.