Won't You Be My Neighbor Day
Won't You Be My Neighbor Day is observed next on Monday, March 20th, 2023 (165 days from today).
Won't You Be My Neighbor Day is observed annually on March 20th. It is a day to remember and honor Fred Rogers, the popular host of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
Origin of Won't You Be My Neighbor Day
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood may not have aired in 15 years, but that's still the standard by which I measure all other kids' shows.
Television began as a rainy day gift. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages device use before age two, a 2007 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reported reports that 90% of children 24 months of age and younger regularly watch television or videos. I held out for 16 months, but as we used up the library, painting with our fingers, reading, listening to music, and baking muffins, at some point the resistance seemed futile.
So I started looking for a quality program that we were both satisfied with.
In a report to their 2015 media research symposium, AAP wrote, “media content is more important than media platform or time spent in media. If quality content is available, a child's interactions with media can have a positive impact.” Not that I live or die by the AAP device time recommendations, but this seems like pretty solid advice.
As we immersed ourselves in the vast, over-stimulating world of multimedia aimed at children, we tried out a few of the shows that are currently popular. For the most part, they would turn my son into an immobile or inattentive zombie for a few short minutes. Let's just say I'm not impressed.
Then I discovered that Mister Rogers, a personal childhood favorite, was available to stream. I haven't watched the show in over 20 years and I'm not sure how my kids will react. It's not flashy. Slow speed. There's music, but not huge amounts of choreographed pop beats. However, my son was approved. And not just staring blankly at the screen - he's engrossed in it and excited about what he's seeing.
Fred Rogers said that play is often recommended about as if it pays attention on learning seriously. However, for children playing is serious learning. Play is really for kids. And in the first episode we watched, he was there, on the plane or playing with blocks. It seems as simple as that. Silly, almost - a lone adult man is playing with blocks as he talks directly to the kids on the other side of the screen as if they were on a play date. But as my son excitedly pointed to our television, I realized that Rogers was watching something.
Because of the way Mister Rogers engages its audience directly, it becomes a more interactive experience than most TV shows.
However, for all that he talks about the importance of playing, Mister Rogers also addresses serious issues with caution and sincerity. In an episode from 1981, Rogers had an open, honest, and respectful conversation with a child in a wheelchair about how great his chair is but also why he needs it. And in Land of Faith, the adults help the Fourth Prince deal with his grief over his parents fighting, and the fear that they will divorce and it will be his fault. I mean, damn it. I don't mean old, but they just don't do kids shows like this anymore.
Mister Rogers honors the importance of all professions from worker to astronaut, it doesn't seem like he's trying to fill some quota. The program also gives children the opportunity to experience an impressive culture. Through Mister Rogers, my son watched a rehearsal of the Dance of Harlem Theatre, sat in on a talk with Wynton Marsalis, and was mesmerized by a performance by the University of Westminster Bell Choir.
Fred Rogers understands the power of television and it is here to stay. When he disliked something what he saw, he decided to make it better. In the thought of the young, he said once in an interview, parents can be as interested in what is on television, just as they choose what is in the refrigerator or on the stove. That is why we make television for children to be especially careful.
Now, at 21 months old, my son begs for Mister Rogers and is also falling in love with the contemporary Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood animated series. And while I'm certain in setting limits on his media consumption, I also feel confident in these choices.
How to celebrate Won't You Be My Neighbor Day
- Channel Mister Rogers by tearing down your favorite cardigan today
- Watch an episode of Mister Rogers (available to stream on Netflix and Amazon, with full episodes on PBS and YouTube)
- Talk about prejudice, acceptance, managing your emotions, or another difficult topic you want to deal with your child.
- Be a good neighbor - do something nice for others
- Take a moment to appreciate the little things or think about how something you take for granted was made.
Why not put on a style 70 sweater today and talk softly to your partner? Notice how you can show kindness and patience when explaining a simple concept to a child (or maybe even to a work colleague!) After all, it was a beautiful day for a child with a neighbor and to become neighbors of each other!
ObservedWon't You Be My Neighbor Day has been observed annually on March 20th.
Saturday, March 20th, 2021
Sunday, March 20th, 2022
Monday, March 20th, 2023
Wednesday, March 20th, 2024
Thursday, March 20th, 2025