A senior lecturer in child psychology at Middlesex University and founder of the Bright Start Institute of Maternal and Child Health, Dr Harding talks Licensing.biz through the educational and developmental benefits of Nickelodeon's Shimmer and Shine among pre-schoolers.
What is it about Shimmer and Shine that you think appeals to pre-school audiences?
Young children are surprisingly perceptive about TV content and underlying messages. They may not be able to articulate it clearly, but that is not to say that the deeper aspects of a show, such as the way in which the characters interact, go unnoticed.
This TV show has subtle ingredients that appeal to children: the transformative element within the show is attractive and young children identify with the characters and have the capacity to almost feel what they are feeling.
The TV characters are determined to find a way and to manage complex situations when they go wrong (even if that is to do with the magic or sparkle) is impressive. It’s cool and ‘aspirational’ to a young child.
The music is also up to date and propels children into pop land too!
What do you think parents appreciate about the series?
Parents will appreciate that there is a strong narrative to deliver moral messages in each episode, for example, if things go wrong with the magic or sparkle, then they will find a way; when the magic has been misappropriated, they turn it around.
There is also an interesting educational agenda that fits well with the learning objectives in the early years curriculum. So, in a subtle but important way, the show supports the social and emotional messages and the ‘characteristics of effective learning’.
Does Shimmer and Shine appeal solely to girls or is there an appeal for boys as well?
The appeal is wider than might be immediately obvious as the ‘transformative’ aspect (i.e. the use of magic) is attractive to boys and girls, while the inclusion of a male character who is ‘in on the secret too’ has made this an inclusive show.
And, by augmenting the tension in the plot within the second series (by introducing the power-hungry sorceress Zeta) definitely raises the game for both boys and girls.
Do you think that Shimmer and Shine complements other series on Nick Jr. ?
For me, Shimmer and Shine stands alone in its mission to deliver a series that is both gentle and reassuring to young children and yet empowering at the same time. It compliments the other series on Nick Jr through its unique offering that provides the essential ‘glitter’ and deeper messages of moral codes of conduct.
What are the educational aspects within the property?
There are a number of embedded educational aspects within the show. Probably the most effective ‘teaching point’ is that the characters are rewarded for working together even if they make mistakes – this is a rare feature in children’s narratives but an extremely valuable one. Success is often a result of our failures on life.
This show is particularly interesting because it addresses the exact characteristics of effective learning . For example, in terms of ‘engagement’: Finding out and exploring, playing with what they know and being willing to ‘have a go’.
Meanwhile, in terms of ‘motivation’ it promotes: Being involved and concentrating, keeping trying and enjoying achieving what they set out to do.
Finally, for ‘creating and thinking critically’ it encourages kids to have their own ideas, make links and choose ways to do things.
Furthermore, the Early Learning Goal with regards to social emotional development, is also in evidence as the show supports children in talking about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour and its consequences.
In the second season of Shimmer and Shine the action takes place primarily in Zahramay Falls, what opportunities do you see this new setting offering series and product development?
Season two builds on the success of season one by deepening the world of the genies, seeing them become far more three-dimensional. From a purely educational and socio- emotional perspective, the show is now very rewarding.
It includes all the elements of season one and takes it a step forward with the introduction of new characters and even permitting a male human to be ‘in on the secret’. Also, the introduction of new characters: Samira's pet peacock, Roya; Zeta, a villainous sorceress; and Zeta's dragon, Nazboo, are now all ripe for new product development.
What types of products do you think will work well with the property?
Products that encourage particular play patterns, such as role-play, whereby children can act like their favourite genie -are perfect.
Also, tiny models/figures/dolls where children can choose outfits to match the genies (online or offline) will be relished. And, there is also the capacity to make the most of the creative opportunities – make a gem; make an outfit; create a magical garden etc and of course, digital pets and genies, -these would be awesome.
What key aspects of the series would you recommend that product licensees capitalise upon in the design of their products?
The transformative element is key. Think digital; think creative and challenge children.