7 Times Sesame Street Taught Kids About Real Life

Children's Television Workshop, Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop, Courtesy of Getty Images

For 50 years, Sesame Street has taught kids how to count, how to spell, and that not all vampires are scary. But the lessons have gone far beyond the academic. From racism to death, the iconic series hasn’t shied away from broaching tough topics and letting kids know that life isn’t always full of sunny days.

1. Mr. Hooper dies

If you were a kid in the 1980s, you likely remember Thanksgiving 1983—the day that Sesame Street confronted the death of Will Lee, who spent 14 seasons playing Mr. Hooper. Big Bird draws a picture of Mr. Hooper and wants to show it to him, but the human cast members remind him that Mr. Hooper died—then try to help Big Bird understand what that means. Parents watched with their kids and answered questions they had about death.

2. Telly learns about racism

In 1993’s “Racism on Sesame Street,” Gina (who is white) gets an upsetting phone call from a stranger who is angry that she is friends with Savion (who is black). Telly Monster witnesses the incident and is confused. “What does color got to do with being friends?” Telly asks. “Nothing at all,” Gina tells him. “That’s the point.”

3. Elmo reacts to 9/11

Sesame Street calls New York City home, so it made sense that the show would address the September 11 terrorist attacks—but they had to do so carefully. They used a fire in Hooper’s Store as a metaphor. To understand his fears, Elmo visits a firehouse and learns just how dangerous—and important—a firefighter’s job is, which makes him feel safe again.

4. Snuffy shows himself

The idea of a child—or an enormous yellow bird with a childlike sensibility—having an imaginary friend isn’t problematic. But after 14 years of milking Mr. Snuffleupagus’s consistently imperfect timing for comic relief, Sesame Street’s producers realized that Big Bird’s insistence that Snuffy was real, and the human cast members’ belief that he was imaginary, could lead some kids to think that adults could be dismissive of the truth. So on November 18, 1985, Snuffy finally got the chance to meet all of Big Bird’s friends and was welcomed into the family.

5. Kami is HIV-Positive

In 2002, Sesame Street introduced Kami—an HIV-positive Muppet whose name comes from kamogelo, which means acceptance in Setswana. Though she was created for Takalani Sesame, South Africa’s version of Sesame Street, she has become a global symbol of the importance of HIV/ AIDS education.

6. Buffy breastfeeds her baby

It’s hard to imagine a children’s show today that would address breastfeeding as directly as Sesame Street did in 1977. When Big Bird sees Buffy Sainte-Marie nursing her child and asks what she’s doing, Buffy says, “I’m feeding the baby. See, he’s drinking milk from my breast.” Big Bird’s reply? “That’s a funny way to feed a baby.” Buffy explains that lots of mothers (but not all) feed their children that way, normalizing nursing for a new generation of kids.

7. Julia has autism

In 2015, Julia—a preschooler with autism “who does things a little differently when playing with her friends”—was introduced as part of a digital campaign. But her popularity grew, and in 2017, she became the first new Muppet cast member in nearly a decade. Big Bird was there to greet her; he asked questions that kids might have when Julia wouldn’t shake his wing or got visibly upset at the sound of a siren. Her family was introduced in April 2019.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Feel Nostalgic With the New Hello Kitty-Themed Tamagotchi

Bandai America/Amazon
Bandai America/Amazon

Back in November 1996, Bandai released the cult favorite Tamagotchi, a tiny virtual pet that users could feed, play with, give medicine to, and more. The name itself is actually a combination of two Japanese words, tamago and tomodachi, meaning egg and friend—and it was the toy's egg shape that was key to its distinct design. They could fit in pockets, on keychains, and inside the backpacks of any kid who wanted a distraction during the school day.

According to NME, more than 82 million of these egg-shaped digital pets have been sold since their initial release in the ‘90s, with 10 million of those coming within the first year alone. Now, the handheld pets are back again in the form of a collaboration with another famous Japanese creation, Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty first took over hearts starting in 1974 when a Japanese company called Sanrio put the design on a vinyl coin purse. More than 45 years later, Hello Kitty (her real name is actually Kitty White) has been developed into video games, cafes, hospitals, wine, and more. This new Tamagotchi is the perfect mixture of two of Japan’s most famous brands, both of which have reached a global audience.

Bandi America/Amazon

In these new editions, Hello Kitty will help you raise your Tamagotchi. You’ll be able to feed them Hello Kitty’s favorite foods, like apple pie or milk, and play a balloon game and piano game. Based on how well you raise your Tamagotchi from an egg to an adult will determine which of the seven surprise characters you receive.

These new Tamagotchis will be released on December 1, 2020, and are available to pre-order in red and white on Amazon for $20.

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