Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

How the 'Sesame Street' muppets are teaching children in the Middle East to cope with the pandemic

'Ahlan Simsim' features many of the beloved characters from 'Sesame Street' including Elmo, the Cookie Monster (Ka’aki) and Grover (Gargur)

The muppets of Sesame Street are banding together in Jordan once again to teach children how to manage their feelings of frustration, and cope with the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.

Dubbed Ahlan Simsim, the show is aimed at children aged three to eight and features many of the original show’s beloved characters, including Elmo, the Cookie Monster (Ka’aki) and Grover (Gargur).

The show, which was created by the team behind Iftah Ya Simsim and Sesame Street, is now in its second season and premiered on MBC3 on Sunday, August 30. It can also be watched on the Ahlan Simsim YouTube channel.

The new season follows Basma, a furry purple muppet, and Jad, a fuzzy yellow muppet as they sing and learn with their muppet friends. Season two has incorporated a video play date format, reflecting the way many families are staying connected during the pandemic.

The activities featured across the season’s 26 episodes aim to shape socio-emotional skills, as well as help children navigate the unfamiliar circumstances brought about by the pandemic. The season has also integrated new ‘Number of the Day’ and ‘Word of the Day’ segments.

“We designed season two to reflect the realities that young children and families are experiencing today, with new virtual play dates and storylines with strategies and activities that families can do together at home,” Khaled Haddad, executive producer of Ahlan Simsim, said. “Just when we need them more than ever, the muppets of Ahlan Simsim are back to bring early education, comfort and joy to children across the region.”

Ahlan Simsim is produced in Amman by the Jordan Pioneers production company. The team behind the show includes writers, producers and performers from across the Middle East and North Africa. The Sesame Workshop – the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street – said Ahlan Simsim is “grounded in research and with input from local early childhood development experts" and "tailored to meet the unique educational needs of young children while celebrating the rich diversity of the Mena region.”

In its first season, which premiered in February, Ahlan Simsim focused on teaching children, particularly refugees, how to cope with trauma related to displacement. The programme was created in partnership between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The series came about after Sesame Workshop received a $100 million (Dh367 million) grant by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation in 2017. The grant aimed to help the workshop reach the millions of displaced children in the region with educational resources including storybooks and games.

The show is not the first Arabic-language program from the world of Sesame Street. Children from the region have been learning from the muppets for more than four decades, beginning with Iftah Ya Simsim, which premiered in Kuwait in 1979.

Updated: September 29, 2020 09:17 AM

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