If you have spent any time with a preschooler over the last two decades, you are probably familiar with Angela Santomero’s work.
The acclaimed television writer and producer has helped create some of the most beloved children’s shows including “Blue’s Clues,” “Super Why,” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
Santomero is serious about creating positive, educationally-focused and fun shows rooted in early child development. She calls the late Fred Rogers her “mentor from afar,” noting she received a Master’s Degree in Child Developmental Psychology just like he did.
Her new book “Preschool Clues: Raising Smart, Inspired, and Engaged Kids in a Screen-Filled World,” gives parents vital insight into that process, tips on instilling confidence and sparking curiosity in kids and helping parents banish the screen-time guilt.
“I talk to preschoolers all the time — one of my favorite parts of my job is writing scripts based on what I want kids to know when they are out there in the world,” Santomero told amNewYork. “It was so amazing to turn it around and talk to adults on that level. I wanted to show them this is what goes into making these shows and this is the psychology behind it.”
She noted how small details, like how characters in her shows pause and talk directly to children, is key to connecting with them and making them feel valued.
That is what Santomero experienced as a child watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
“It was huge for me as a preschooler,” she said. “I didn’t understand it then but he really talked to me like a regular person and never talked down to me. I realized when I got older, that was on purpose and it was about talking to kids in a respectful way.”
His groundbreaking show was a strong influence on Santomero when she co-created “Blue’s Clues” in the 1990s. (A reboot of the wildly popular show is in the works.)
In the book, Santomero recounts her first meeting with her childhood idol. And Mr. Rogers fans of all ages will not be disappointed with his response.
After his death, Santomero was called on by his company to create a show to honor his legacy. That’s how “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” was born.
A mom of two, Santomero wants parents to know they should not feel guilty about letting their children watch television. But they need to choose wisely.
“Think of it as opening the door to your living room or your car or wherever the kids are watching,” she said. “Is this character a friend, someone you would invite over for dinner? Or do they talk sassy and have some behaviors you may not love? Daniel Tiger is someone you would invite over for dinner.”