Kindergarten can be a scary place for children. For most, kindergarten is the first time that five-year-olds are away from their parents and home for an extended period of time. It can be an unfamiliar place filled with strangers and loud noises.
That’s where Opie comes in. Created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Opie is the five-year-old puppet star of Hi Opie! a 39-episode series targeted at kids aged three to five that introduces them to the world of kindergarten and all that comes with it. Brightly-coloured and with a shock of yarn-like hair, Opie is a friendly fellow who interacts with young co-stars who immediately accept the puppet as a real character.
“It’s the power of a puppet who is designed in a particular way to get the attention of a child and make them feel comfortable,” says Pat Ellingson, creative Head of Children’s & Parents’ Media for TVO. “And a puppeteer [in Jordan Lockhart] who is able to make them take that leap of faith that this is a real character.”
Developed in partnership with TVO and produced by marblemedia in association with The Jim Henson Company, Hi Opie! aims to entertain as well as educate families as their little ones prepare for full-time kindergarten, something Ellingson explains was an important part of developing the series. Math, science, social skills, patience, teamwork and interaction with peers and teachers are all addressed in upcoming instalments. Ellingson says Hi Opie! has a three-pronged message aimed at children about to start full-day kindergarten, parents new to the environment and for children already in the program.
TVO is offering a sneak peek of Hi Opie! on Monday, Aug. 25, at 7 a.m. and noon ET, and Friday, Aug. 29, at 7 a.m. ET.
Meanwhile, Opie took some time out from his school preparations to answer a few questions from us:
Opie, are you excited to go into kindergarten, or are you a little nervous?
I’m really excited to start kindergarten! I can’t wait to meet new friends and play games. Doing crafts and playing with dinosaurs are my favourite.
If you are nervous, what are you nervous about?
I’m a little nervous … I’ve never been to school before and the school is really big!
What do you think your favourite part about going to school every day will be? Is it learning? Seeing your friends? Snack time?
I can’t wait to meet new friends.
What would you say to any kids that are nervous about going to kindergarten for the first time? What would you tell their parents?
I’m practicing how to introduce myself so when I meet new friends I’m going to say, ‘Hi, my name is Opie. What’s yours?’ I’ve also been practicing packing my backpack with my lunch, favourite toy and an extra change of clothes. I’m going to pack these on the first day.
Hi Opie! debuts on Monday, Sept. 1 and will air Monday to Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. ET on TVO, Monday to Friday at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. CT on City Saskatchewan and Monday to Friday at 11:50 a.m. PT on Knowledge Network.