For those of us living well north or south of the equator it’s a time of change as we swing between seasons. As a Londoner transplanted to New Zealand, I still find this the most disorientating time of the year, made even more so by the impact of seasonal stories coming from the northern hemisphere where the focus is on shortening days and long evenings indoors.
Then in April, as we move into our autumn, we will be watching shows encouraging us to get trim and get outside onto the beach to jog and sun worship. In children’s shows there is less of this seasonal material now as producers recognize that broadcasters around the world cannot schedule to the seasons, and the best that can be managed is for seasonal celebration stories to take place as close to holidays like Christmas or Halloween as possible.
But as we move into our summer ‘down here’ there is one issue that every producer and broadcaster silently acknowledges – how do we encourage children to get outside and play and enjoy the long evenings away from the TV? That’s a classic conundrum when our business is to make compelling shows that children won’t want to miss.
In our preschool show, the WotWots, we have tried to do this in our second season by linking outside and inside play. We have the WotWots going out around the farm and the beach exploring and playing, and returning to their spaceship to make drawings and check facts on their computer. The intention is to represent playing outside as a compelling activity that children will want to replicate.
Now with mobile devices there is a wonderful explosion in ways to integrate outdoor play with a child’s favorite TV characters. Most companies are exploring how children can be encouraged to get outside with their TV friends playing all kinds of games from treasure hunts around the garden to larger outdoor adventures that engage the entire family.
It’s a very exciting time as these devices are becoming more than just babysitters for long car and plane journeys, they are a magic box of play companions who can dance, exercise, treasure hunt at any time, inside or out. Just ask any parent who has to negotiate having time back on their own mobile device.