How to Talk to Kids, According to Mr. Rogers

PBS Television/Getty Images
PBS Television/Getty Images

Mr. Rogers knew children well. He knew how they thought, what they liked, what they feared, and what they struggled to understand—and he went to great lengths to ensure he never upset or confused his devoted viewers.

Maxwell King, author of the forthcoming book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, writes in The Atlantic that Mr. Rogers carefully chose his words while filming Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He understood that children think in a literal way, and a phrase that might sound perfectly fine to adult ears could be misinterpreted by younger audiences.

During filming, a nurse shown inflating a blood-pressure cuff originally said, “I’m going to blow this up.” Mr. Rogers decided to edit the line in post-production, according to Arthur Greenwald, a former producer of the show. “Fred made us re-dub the line, saying, ‘I’m going to puff this up with some air,’ because ‘blow it up’ might sound like there’s an explosion, and he didn’t want the kids to cover their ears and miss what would happen next,” Greenwald told King.

Rogers was “extraordinarily good at imagining where children’s minds might go,” King said, adding that Mr. Rogers wrote a song called “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” because he knew this might be a fear shared by many children.

In 1977, Greenwald and writer Barry Head dubbed this careful manner of speaking “Freddish,” and even created an illustrated manual outlining Rogers’s code under the title “Let’s Talk About Freddish.” The show's dialogue went through nine rigorous steps of editing before Rogers approved it for broadcast. Those steps, excerpted from King’s book, are as follows:

1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street.

2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in: It is good to play where it is safe.

3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in: Ask your parents where it is safe to play.

4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of ask: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.

5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be will: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.

6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.

7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.

8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” Good represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.

9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

This attention to detail didn't just extend to language, either. Jim Judkis, who occasionally worked on the set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a photographer, recalled a time when Rogers had videographers reshoot a scene in which the trolley ran from right to left instead of the other way around. Judkis was puzzled, so he asked the show's staff why this was necessary.

“They said, he’s very particular about consistency for a child,” Judkis told The Washington Post. “When you read, your eye tracks from left to right. He was trying to reinforce that.”

More details about the life of Fred Rogers will be revealed in King’s book, which will be released September 4. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.

[h/t The Atlantic]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Harry Potter LEGO Sets to Get Fans This Holiday Season

Harry Potter/LEGO/Target
Harry Potter/LEGO/Target

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The magic of Harry Potter continues to amaze children all over the globe, especially when the cherished series is combined with the LEGO brand. And if you have a builder on your list who's obsessed with the series, we've compiled a list of 10 great sets you can pick up for the holidays.

1. Diagon Alley; $400

Harry Potter/LEGO

This set includes more than 5000 pieces to use to build storefronts, props, and the interiors of Diagon Alley. From Flourish and Blotts to Fred and George Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, you’ll be able to go shopping here every day.

Buy it: LEGO

2. Attack on the Burrows; $100

Harry Potter/LEGO/Target

Many fans will remember when the Death Eaters attacked the Weasley home in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). This set helps fans build their topsy-turvy house just before Bellatrix arrives to destroy it all.

Buy it: Target

3. Hogwarts Astronomy Tower; $100

Harry Potter/LEGO

The Hogwarts Astronomy Tower is a truly iconic location. Just below the top of the tower, fans can build the Ravenclaw dormitories and common room. Below is Professor Slughorn’s potions office, where he keeps many secrets.

Buy it: LEGO

4. Quidditch Match; $40

Harry Potter/LEGO

Throughout Harry’s time at Hogwarts, not only has he managed to save the school every year, but he also carved out plenty of time to play Quidditch. This set lets fans build the pitch, complete with viewing stands for each house; three goal posts; and all the tools needed to play the game, like a Quaffle, a Bludger, and, of course, a Golden Snitch.

Buy it: LEGO

5. LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar; $40

Harry Potter/LEGO

As we start to inch closer to Christmas day, many like to celebrate with Advent calendars. This Advent calendar made by LEGO features elements from the Potter films, including minifigures and props.

Buy it: LEGO

6. Hogwarts Castle; $400

Harry Potter/LEGO

For the ultimate LEGO Harry Potter experience, building the Hogwarts Castle is a must. With over 6000 pieces, fans can build each area the castle has to offer, from the Great Hall to the Chamber of Secrets deep below.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hogwarts Express; $64

Harry Potter/LEGO

So many great memories have happened at Platform 9¾, and now, fans can make the journey themselves with this 801-piece set, complete with platform, train, and a wall to go through. There might even be an enemy aboard, but you’ll have to find them.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hagrid's Hut: Buckbeak's Rescue; $60

Harry Potter/LEGO

Hagrid is the honorary fourth member of the gang, and by proxy so is Buckbeak, his Hippogriff. The pivotal moment when Hermione and Harry go back in time to save Buckbeak has now been transformed into a set for fans to build.

Buy it: LEGO

9. Hogwarts Clock Tower; $90

Harry Potter/LEGO

This 922-piece set shows fans everything that goes on inside the clock tower, from the Prefects' bathroom to Dumbledore’s office to the Hospital Wing. Reenact the Yule Ball with all the icy decorations and minifigures of Madame Maxime, Fleur Delacour, and Viktor Krum.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts; $50

Harry Potter/LEGO

If you are going to build the Hogwarts Express, it seems fitting to also build another iconic mode of transportation: the Beauxbatons' carriage. In the Goblet of Fire, the all-girls French wizarding school decided to arrive at Hogwarts in style with this flying carriage. The carriage even has some secret compartments that will make the journey even more fun.

Buy it: LEGO

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