Kindness, one of the three components of Sesame Workshop’s mission to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder, is the curriculum focus for Sesame Street’s 47th Season. Helping preschoolers develop self-regulation and executive function skills and strategies, as well as pro-social behavior, can help them prepare for school and life. These skills, developed early in life, have important consequences across a child’s life span: studies show that self-regulation skills in childhood are strong predictors of health, financial stability, and educational achievement into adulthood (Moffitt et al., 2011). When children can interact with their peers, regulate their emotions, and focus their attention, they are more likely to become happy, productive, and caring individuals. When they become mindful of their behavior and develop intentional self-control (ability to resist a strong inclination to do one thing, for instance, overcoming an automatic response and instead doing what is most appropriate), they are more likely to understand the perspective of others, be more sensitive to other children’s feelings, think flexibly about a situation, and form stronger friendships. This type of thoughtful behavior can help them develop kindness, empathy, and compassion and contribute to academic achievement and social success.

Fortunately, self-regulation and pro-social behaviors like kindness can be learned in the preschool years but must be modeled and practiced. It is important for children to see and understand what it means to be kind and how care toward oneself and others creates a safe atmosphere of love, warmth, and acceptance. Children can learn that kindness means responding to the needs of others and that being kind not only makes others feel good, it can make you feel good too. It means thinking about how others feel and engaging in helpful, caring behaviors: making simple gestures like giving someone who is crying a tissue, giving a hug to someone who is sad, and simply asking, “how are you?” It is also about being reflective­­: recognizing kindness in others and showing them gratitude. Friendships and play provide children opportunities to practice skills such as sharing, turn-taking, cooperation, compromise, and resolving conflicts in peaceful ways. These different activities, interactions, and mindfulness-based practices all help to cultivate kindness.

Through Sesame Street’s engaging and loveable monsters, Muppets, and diverse human cast, we can build a more compassionate, thoughtful community and help children become smarter, stronger, and kinder. By showing positive interactions and the value of inclusion, listening to and respecting others, and being empathetic, warm, and generous, we model for both parents and children how to be caring and compassionate. Young children learn best through experiences that relate to what is familiar: it is important to ground kindness in children’s real life experiences, which are often the catalyst and impetus for learning.