Reimagining the future of parenting, with a little help from Elmo and his mom

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, families around the world are facing new and evolving challenges every day — even on Sesame Street. Elmo’s mom, Mae, like many caregivers, is juggling having Elmo home fulltime and adjusting to new family routines. Elmo has also struggled to adapt to his new reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elmo misses seeing his friends on Sesame Street and going to school. But together, Elmo and Mae make a great family team — Mae carves out time to play with Elmo every day and helps him set up safe playdates with his friends, while Elmo gives his mom the love and hugs she needs to get through challenges, big and small.

A new parenting partnership between UNICEF, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation launches on World Children’s Day

These are just some of the educational messages and coping strategies that Elmo, Mae and other Sesame Street characters will be delivering to parents through a new partnership, between UNICEF, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation, that we are launching on World Children’s Day.

Supporting parents like Mae to provide the best possible care for children is the greatest investment any society can make during normal times, and this has become even more true during the global pandemic. Parents are spending more time than ever before at home with their children, and we must give them the tools and support they need to contribute to their children’s healthy development.

Over the next six months, the first phase of our organizations’ new Parenting Partnership will roll out around the world, with newly created Sesame Street content to address the specific needs of parents and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial content, which will be made available in ten languages, serves as the foundational phase of a broader partnership through which UNICEF and Sesame Workshop will continue to support the evolving needs of parents around the world.

Here’s a first look at one of the new resources we’re creating together:

In addition to providing advice and practical support, we will also help parents promote their own physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, which we know is key to their success in fostering their children’s healthy development. Harnessing our combined global reach, we’ll provide parenting support at the global, regional and national levels and advocate for the importance of play, nurturing caregiving and quality learning for every child. Our three organizations have long been focused on the needs of children, but today we’re redoubling our efforts – together – to focus on the critical role that parents play.

UNICEF, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation

This innovative partnership also leverages the work all of our organizations have done over the past six months to help families cope with the effects of this pandemic. UNICEF’s COVID-19 parenting guide is a reference point for millions of parents around the world and continues to be updated with the latest information and expert tips to help navigate the pandemic. Together with the LEGO Foundation, UNICEF has co-created playful parenting content, such as Playtime, Anytime and Indoor Play Ideas, to raise awareness about the power of play on children’s development, as a way to cope with these uncertain times, and practical ideas on how to put it into practice. The LEGO Foundation developed an online library of fun learning through play activities called the PLAYLIST to support parents and children during the pandemic.

Sesame Workshop’s Caring for Each Other initiative is also supporting caregivers and young children around the world, with content designed to help them stay healthy, manage stress and anxiety, and foster playful learning at home. Elmo’s World News, a Sesame Street family special that launched in June, was made possible by the LEGO Foundation. The half-hour program models playful activities for children and caregivers to do together at home and has aired in over 50 countries in 14 languages, with additional short form content rolling out regularly to help families through the different challenges and transitions they are experiencing during the pandemic.

The new Parenting Partnership launching today is grounded in a shared commitment to the importance of learning through play.

When parents have interactions that are meaningful and actively engaging, when they help their children develop and interact with others, and when they bring joy to the bond they have with their children, they help their children to develop their full potential. For children this is an engaging motivational process, and home is the place where this begins, with simple playful activities with their parents. This is even more important now, given the challenges we face with an unprecedented global crisis. Many parents around the world now find themselves in a demanding situation where they have to adapt to working from home, and at the same time, with schools closed, they have the additional responsibility of taking care of the learning needs of their children.

A day to reimagine a better future

By joining hands with UNICEF and Sesame Workshop, the LEGO Foundation is exploring new and innovative approaches to supporting parents and caregivers and equipping them with skills and resources to engage children in learning through play.

At a time when parents and caregivers are facing unprecedented uncertainty, we must all come together to support them in their efforts to give their children a strong, healthy, and playful start. This 20 November, we want to make World Children’s Day a day to reimagine a better future for children, parents and families everywhere — on Sesame Street and on every street the world over.


Paloma Escudero is Director of Communications, UNICEF.
Henriette Ahrens is Deputy Director, Programme Division, UNICEF.
Danny Labin is Vice President of International Projects, Sesame Workshop.
Sarah Bouchie is Head of Global Programmes, The LEGO Foundation.

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