(CNN)Elmo and Cookie Monster will be joined by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross and actress Anne Hathaway on “Sesame Street” to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sesame Street: Elmo’s Playdate” airs today across all WarnerMedia’s television networks, including HBO, HBO Latino, TBS, TNT, truTV, Cartoon Network and Boomerang. (WarnerMedia is the parent company for CNN and HBO, which has a deal to show new “Sesame Street” episodes.)
The new “Sesame Street” special follows Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster and others as they figure out new ways to play together given the constraints of social distancing. The program highlights the roles of EMTs and doctors helping us all through this public health crisis, as well as those can help us bake cookies at home.
Miranda leads rounds of singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and Hathaway sings “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with Elmo.
Ross joins “Sesame Street” regulars singing in a video chat chorus. The episode also features sing-alongs, games, and virtual snacks with Cookie Monster.
“This special will bring family members together for a unique in-home viewing experience that will provide laughter, joy and relief during this challenging time,” Bob Greenblatt, the chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, said in a statement.
It’s no surprise that Sesame Street, the children’s show which has explained racism, death and other societal troubles in past episodes, would tackle how the pandemic is affecting little ones.
Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the show, recently launched its Caring for Each Other initiative, which provides “ideas to help your family find ways to breathe, laugh, and play together” during the pandemic.
Besides providing entertainment for kids, the special also offers caregivers ways they can create playful learning opportunities at home.
Seeing familiar “Sesame Street” characters adopting their lives to living safely — and cheerfully — during the pandemic is a way of setting a tone so that families can do the same together.
Just watching gentle shows like “Sesame Street” could help your children, says Alan Kazdin, a psychology professor at Yale University, who noted that sheltering in place at home means adjusting your parenting style to help children cope and thrive under these unusual circumstances.
“Keep them away from scary TV,” said Kazdin, who wrote about the challenges of parenting while social distancing in a recent blog post.
The news right now is obviously a significant source of anxiety for many. But uplifting or altruistic shows can be important for fostering positive mental health.
And maybe even more than the content of the show could be the time spent together. “It could be time that we’re sitting next to each other and actually touching,” Kazdin said.
Beyond the show, “Try to set tone that fosters calmness,” he said. “Modeling is really, really important.”
If children see a certain emotion in their parents, they’re bound to start exhibiting version of it themselves. One major way to do that is to create a system of rituals and routines that parents and children do each day.
Kids may not remember everything that happened during this period, but the emotional feel of the time could imprint on them for many years to come.
They will remember “how you were as a parent, how you handled it,” he said.