My 4 year old son has spent the last few days going round the house yelling in each room and I'm delighted - well sort of. It turns out he's trying to see if any room echoes after being introduced to echoes by Messy goes to Okido.
He and his 2.5 year old sister have become big fans of this new Cbeebies show, choosing to watch each new episode instead of their previous favourites as one of only one or two things they watch each day.
Why am I so pleased? Messy aims to enthuse children about science - a subject close to my heart. I did an Engineering degree (an unusual degree for a British woman I know) and loved science at school. For a show to be encouraging an interest in Science at such a young age is fantastic in my opinion and I really hope it results in a generation of children retaining a love of science.
I can't think of another fiction based Science based TV show for pre-schoolers and it now amazes me that this hasn't been done before. Children are naturally interested in 'discovery' and understanding the world around them so a show that translates this into learning about science is clearly a fabulous plan - isn't it? I remember reading 'How Babies Think' by Alison Gopnik some years ago she talked about how the way children develop "parallels the methods of scientific discovery" . It seems such a shame that for many this natural skill is overlooked until it becomes a lesson in school.
As my colleague Anna Taylor, who specialises in child development and play, says in a recent article on Fundamentally Children:
"Science is important not just as a key National Curriculum subject, but also as an area that nurtures a curious mind." Anna Taylor, Fundamentally Children
Shows like Nina and the Neurons are great but being fact based they appeal in a different way to fiction. For older children I know that the statistics show that fact books and shows appeal more to boys and fiction more to girls. I therefore wonder whether a fictional show discussing science may also help encourage more girls into science. We'll have to wait and see.
For anyone who hasn't come across Messy Goes to Okido yet, it's about a charming blue monster called Messy who goes to the fictional world of 'Okido' to find answers to one science question each episode. He is helped along the way by his friends Zoe & Felix and the scientists Zim, Zam and Zoom. Subjects covered so far include: how voices work (and how people lose their voice), why there are floaty and non-floaty balloons, why we need rain, echoes, gravity, floating and sinking and how taste buds work. We look forward to seeing what's to come!
My only criticism so far is the mix of fact and fiction - I'm slightly worried that along with learning why balloons float my son may now also believe there is a valley of lost balloons out there! But hey, it's a lovely concept.
I realise that science isn't for everyone - after all, despite being raised in exactly the same way my 2 siblings remain utterly baffled by my interest in science! However, I wonder whether programmes like Messy Goes to Okido will only appeal to children who would have been interested in science anyway, or whether they might just encourage science to have a wider appeal.
I really do hope that the show establishes a lifelong interest in science for my children and encourages them to ask why and how things work. I look forward to continuing to find myself humming the theme tune at work and hearing my children saying Balabalaboomboom! for the foreseeable future at least.
For more discussion on Science for Kids see Fundamentally Children's articles: