Tips for Teaching Children From Mr. Rogers in Ways That Reach Them

By Dale Hudson

Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers) hosted a television show by his name for children from 1968 to 2001.  He was also a Presbyterian minister.

Fred was displeased by the way most television shows addressed children.  So he began writing and performing local shows in the Pittsburgh area.

The new show was a big hit and gained nationwide distribution in 1968.  Fred became a television icon of children’s entertainment and education.

At first glance, the show seems very laid back and at ease.  But under the surface was a strategy for engaging kids with the message that was being shared.

Let’s take a look behind the curtain for a few minutes and see why Mr. Rogers was so successful at connecting with kids.

Tip #1 – Communicate with Attention to Detail. 

Fred went to great lengths to make sure every part of the show effectively connected with kids.  Here’s an example.  One of the episodes was in a hospital.  A nurse was inflating a blood-pressure cuff and her line was originally, “I’m going to blow this up.”  Well Fred, decided to change it to “I’m going to puff this up with some air” because “blow it up” might make kids think there is going to be an explosion.

As simple as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood appeared, every detail in it was the product of a tremendously careful, academically-informed process.

Tip #2 – Partner with educators. 

Fred often talked with academic researchers and education experts to make sure the show was effectively connecting with children based on the latest research.

A few years ago, I decided to tell the story of a man who worked at a railroad bridge.  I’m sure you’ve heard it.  The man’s job was to raise and then lower the bridge when trains came through.  He brought his son to work with him one day.  His son falls down in the gears that raise and lower the bridge.  The father has to decide if he is going to leave the bridge up and all the people on the train would die.  Or he could lower the bridge to save the train and His son would be crushed by the gears.  The father decided he had to lower the bridge to save the lives of those who were on the train.

I thought it was a great example of God sacrificing His son, Jesus, for us.  But many of the kids did not.  Some became visibly shaken and began to cry.  I had to drop the story to prevent children from being traumatized.

I could have avoided that happening.  How?  There were several teachers who volunteered with us. I could have ran the story by them before sharing it with the kids and asked if they thought it was appropriate for the children.

Mr. Rogers was smarter than me.  He asked for input from educators and other people who gave him insight.

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Source: Church Leaders