Amazon’s new series gives a lesson in resilience

Author and educator Jessica Lahey dishes on why more kids series like Amazon's The Stinky & Dirty Show need to emphasize the importance of making mistakes.
August 31, 2016

Preschool series have long reinforced the notion that kids can succeed at anything they put their minds to. Slogans like Dora the Explorer‘s “We did it!” and Bob the Builder‘s “Yes we can!” are core components of these hit preschool shows. Except preschools are prone to making mistakes as they learn—something Amazon’s new series The Stinky & Dirty Show will highlight when it bows on the SVOD on September 2.

While the ultimate goal of the show is to be as encouraging as its contemporaries, Stinky & Dirty is just as interested in highlighting the blunder as it is the successful outcome.

That’s according to author and educator Jessica Lahey, who co-developed the series’ curriculum, together with Dr. Alice Wilder (Blue’s Clues) and Amazon Studios’ kids programming head Tara Sorensen.

Inspired by Kate and Jim McMullan’s I Stink! book series—and featuring the celebrity voice talent of Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Lynch, Andy Richter and Joan Cusack—The Stinky & Dirty Show curriculum is also based on Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.

It follows the adventures and mishaps faced by best friends Stinky the garbage truck and Dirty the backhoe loader. The underlying theme is about solving problems, collaborating with others and persevering through failures when things don’t go as expected. And each episode ends with a prompt for kids to take the skills and ideas they’ve learned and create their own real-world solutions.

“I was approached after the development process to help the show adhere to research on resilience… because the show is about finding solutions to a problem,” Lahey says. “The ending view-and-do is a call to action to get off-screen and try something. As a parent myself, I like the idea that a kid isn’t going to sit down and watch 20 things in a row.”

Lahey adds that it’s necessary in kids entertainment to normalize the act of making mistakes. In Stinky & Dirty, for instance, the characters often mess up a scenario and suggest ridiculous fixes—like having a moon pulling them up a hill—which fail at first before a more suitable solution is found.

“When I watch shows that are directed at kids, there is so much pressure for them to do stuff perfectly the first time around. You are a failure if you don’t,” she says. “Stinky & Dirty gets back to a place where kids understand that the best learning goes through trial and error. I hope to see more content based on resilience… that’s where the best learning happens.”

Animated by Ireland’s Brown Bag Films, The Stinky & Dirty Show was part of Amazon’s 2015 kids pilot season. It will be available to Prime members in the US and the UK on September 2, and roll out to Germany, Austria and Japan later this year. The series was written and developed by Guy Toubes (The Adventures of Chuck & Friends, Littlest Pet Shop), and features original music from folk singer and songwriter Dan Bern.

Along with streaming, the series’ first nine episodes will also be available for download to mobile devices for offline viewing through Amazon.

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