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Mission Family: Muppet magic makes kids' first move easier

May. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Imagine being a 3-year-old, watching your family getting ready for a permanent change-of-station move. You sense that something’s afoot, but may not understand, and you’re probably sensing their stress.

Then a crew of strangers comes into your home and puts things into boxes — including your toys. Even if you’re not at home while the packers work, you may see those boxes at the end of the day, or you may come home to an empty house.

“The Big Moving Adventure” free mobile app comes to the rescue as only the Sesame Street Muppets can. Created by Sesame Workshop through a contract with the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, it’s for military children ages 2 to 5 and their parents, aiming to prepare these children for their first move by letting them create and customize their own Muppet friend to help them through the moving process.

While it was developed for military kids, it’s useful for all families with young children who are making a move.

Their Muppet friend can help children decide which toys to pack in a box, which comfort items to take along in their backpack as they travel; and explore ways to say goodbye to people, places and things.

Kids can choose how the Muppet friend might be feeling about the move; explore the new home and unpack toys and books from the moving truck. Children also can color in a postcard from their toys as the toys travel on the moving truck to the new home.

The Muppet friend will also meet new friends at the new home — giving military kids ideas about ways to meet new people.

A separate section for parents provides extra move-related topics and tips, including strategies for managing their own stress and feelings throughout the process.

“A parent is a child’s biggest role model. If the child sees that her parent is positive and optimistic, she’ll be much more likely to feel that way too,” states the Sesame Workshop project overview.

“Moving can be stressful, and kids need to express feelings and say goodbye to people and things,” said Dr. Kelly Blasko, a psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, in a release. “The Muppet characters in this app help make the move a fun experience.”

This app is one of a number of projects by Sesame Workshop designed to help military children deal with difficult issues, such as their Talk, Listen Connect: Deployments, Homecomings and Changes.

Elmo's back on tour

The Muppets have started their sixth USO tour, bringing smiles to military children and their parents in more than 200 shows at 69 installations in 32 states by late October.

At this writing, the schedule with dates, times and locations of performances through Aug. 19 was available on the USO website at www.uso.org/Sesame/Tour-Schedule.

In its first five years, the Muppets performed 735 shows for more than 400,000 people in audiences on 144 military installations in 33 states and 11 countries.

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