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Helping kids cope: Special episode of ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ deals with pandemic

A special episode of the PBS animated series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will air at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 17, on New Mexico PBS. (Courtesy of PBS)

As we live through a pandemic, answers to questions change daily.

That’s why the creators behind the Emmy Award-winning PBS animated show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” decided to come together to produce a special episode.

The 30-minute episode will air at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 17, on New Mexico PBS. It will air again at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, and Friday, Aug. 21.

In each episode of the series, there are two distinct stories starring 4-year-old Daniel Tiger and his friends, who invite viewers to join them on their adventures as they explore the colorful Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

The new season of the hit show opens with “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Won’t You Sing Along with Me?,” a timely, music-filled special that helps address some of the challenges and disappointments “little tigers” and their families may be experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the special, when Daniel learns he can’t gather with all of his neighbors at the Neighborhood Carnival this year, it leads to a lot of big feelings and questions, including what to do when he misses the people he loves, how to keep himself and others healthy, and how to find ways to enjoy the extra time at home with his family.

Mom and Dad Tiger use new and fan-favorite songs from the series to help reassure him – as well as young viewers and their parents at home, who are encouraged to sing along. The special was created with major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Chris Loggins is the supervising producer for the series. He says production started in late March for the special.

Keeping in mind that production was underway for the fifth season of the hit show.

“Planning was key on this one,” Loggins says. “We were happy that we were able to do it. It’s important to us. We wanted to show that Daniel is experiencing the same things that children and parents are going through at the moment. This opens up the conversations for parents to ease into these talks with their children. In this time, parents don’t have the answers because none of us really do. Life changes daily and we’re trying to keep up with that.”

In addition, five new episodes, including a 22-minute special, “Daniel’s Substitute Teacher,” will premiere throughout the week.

A new digital game – “Dance Party” – from the series will be available later this summer on pbskids.org and the PBS KIDS Games app.

A special episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” dives into how children are handling life in COVID-19. (Courtesy of PBS)

“Season 5 of ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ will showcase even more relatable storylines and fresh musical strategies to help keep preschoolers learning, growing, and navigating the world around them,” says Paul Siefken, President and CEO of Fred Rogers Productions. “In addition to the upcoming special, the season will include episodes about sudden changes at school, separation from family members, staying safe, hospital stays, respecting one’s personal space, disappointment, generosity, and grown-ups taking care of you.”

Lesli Rotenberg, chief programming executive and general manager, Children’s Media and Education at PBS, says that as COVID-19 continues to pose challenges to families across the country, PBS KIDS is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of children, parents, and caregivers.

“Learning lies at the heart of our mission, and we’ve been proud to be able to step in and offer at-home learning solutions, content and resources, like this timely special from “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” that reach kids where they are with age-appropriate lessons – especially in areas where families may have limited or no access to broadband internet,” Rotenberg says.

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