Mental health needs to be addressed from an early age, and Fred Rogers was on the forefront of preschool mental and emotional development. His neighborhood was integrated in a time when the world around it wasn’t, and he recognized that playtime is preparation for the real world.
Key to Rogers’ approach was the idea that a healthy child should play, feel, and be able to inhabit a Land of Make-Believe where creativity reigned, emotions could be discussed, and supportive adults listened. It was the quintessential modern interpretation of Progressive-era ideas that children were, in fact, different from grown-ups, and need a gentle-but-firm hand for guidance. Rogers also subscribed to a school of thought that proper behavior—marked by being in touch with one’s feelings and thinking about others’—could be taught. For every emotion, there was a strategy to deal with it. When you are angry, Rogers told his young charges, you don’t have to knock somebody down. –Cynthia R. Greenlee
There is still (and probably always will be) debate over screen time for children. No media can replace adult guidance, but shows, books and games can be used to supplement what many adults either do not know or have time to convey. Rogers’s make believe neighborhood is now on the next generation, and still eagerly watched by young kids daily.
We need teach the youngest members of our society to think about what they feel and how their actions affect others.
Long Live Mister Rogers’ Quiet Revolution by Dr Greenlee goes into more detail on Mr. Fred Rogers’ vision, and is a must read.