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Why kids love ‘CoComelon’ | Borneo Online Newsletter

Mary Beth Gahan

THE WASHINGTON POST — It was 2018. I had a husband who was deployed half the time, a toddler, and a newborn. I clung to whatever got me through from 6am to nap time, and then through the impossibly long afternoon hours that followed in our duplex.

I often needed 20 minutes to feed the baby, or use my remaining brain to create a semi-intelligent work email, or just stare into space. So when my daughter came across an obscure show with weirdly slow songs that caught her attention, I accepted it, and CoComelon became a part of our lives.

It wasn’t until another mom mentioned her fervent wish never to hear Johny Johny Yes Dad again that I realized we were part of something much bigger.

According to figures recently released by Nielsen, CoComelon is an extraordinary streaming success. The second most-streamed show among titles acquired in 2021 (Criminal Minds was first), CoComelon took the top spot in Hispanic, Asian and Black households, easily beating out other kids’ titles, such as Peppa Pig. And while Criminal Minds had over 300 episodes available to stream, CoComelon only had 15, indicating an impressive number of repeat views, which totaled 33.3 billion watch minutes.

“In its core viewership of 2 to 5, the average viewer watched every episode nearly three times in the fourth quarter alone,” according to Nielsen, information that won’t shock any parent of a three-year-old.

There are no sharp corners in CoComelon. PHOTO: MOONBUG

The explosive appeal of CoComelon is not obvious. The animated series, which started on YouTube and can now be streamed on various services, features a baby, JJ, and his family singing songs such as Wheels on the Bus and The Boo Boo Song. The characters pick up sand on the beach, eat lunch at school, and throw trash into the correct receptacles, all in a trance-like state underwater. Unlike other popular shows aimed at young children, it lacks a plot, character development, and spoken dialogue.

But for those who study children’s media, its success status comes as no surprise. A lecturer in the Department of Child Studies and Human Development at Tufts University, Julie Dobrow compared CoComelon to The Wiggles, a hugely popular show about 20 years ago.

There’s no set formula for what makes something a smash hit with kids, Dobrow said, but CoComelon “actually follows a long tradition in kids’ media of having very colorful songs and characters. who dance.

“You have to have really good production value because the kids notice it and the adults notice it too,” Dobrow said. “Ideally, you have something that works on two levels simultaneously. So kids like it, and it’s not too painful for adults to watch.

“Everything grew organically week by week. There wasn’t a moment of, ‘Aha! This works. Over time, it grew,” said Patrick Reese, who is part of the show. since 2018 and is the Managing Director of CoComelon.”There were a lot of ‘Wow, this is bigger than we ever thought’ moments.”

To develop new episodes, writers take experiences they’ve had with their own children or other family members and try to turn “mundane activities into positive growth opportunities,” said Lead Creative Executive for CoComelon. Lizzy Easterday.

In one episode, JJ and his brother take a bath with too many bubbles. They wash their arms, hands, knees and toes to the tune of Baby Shark:

“Wash my hair, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. Wash my hair, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. Wash my hair, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo -doo.

“It has slow tempo songs that are really distinct on the brand,” she said. “The camera is at eye level with the preschooler. We are in the experience with them and see it at their level.

In this fantasy world inspired by real events, there are no sharp edges – a parent’s dream.

Even the subtitle lettering is rounded. On-screen words encourage parents and caregivers to sit down and sing along to the songs with their children, even though after the 10th audition, “Clean up, clean up, we all had fun today,” the adults no longer need subtitles to end aloud: “Now it’s time to clean up and put everything away.”

Despite the fact that parents likely still sing these songs as they try to fall asleep, this interaction is important, Dobrow said.

“There’s a lot of really compelling research on joint media engagement when kids consume media alongside someone else,” she said. “There are a lot of really positive outcomes that can happen, and the learning seems to stick better.”

The repetitive nature of the show and the propensity for children to want to replay episodes add to CoComelon’s appeal. In the same way that children ask to hear a certain book night after night, seeing the show more than once stimulates their brains. It’s not like when mom and dad turn on an episode of Seinfeld they’ve seen 12 times.

“Practice makes permanent,” said Calvin Gidney, associate professor in Tufts’ Department of Child Studies and Human Development. “This repetition teaches them early literacy skills. It helps them learn new words and internalize what story structure is. There’s an educational element to wanting to watch them over and over again.

As for the plot, there is none. There is no season or series premiere. It all started with a family doing routine things around the house; later other characters were added.

How do you explain the success of CoComelon, with its particular aesthetic, its repetitive songs and its lack of story, with the success of something as different as Moana, the second most streamed film of 2021?

“What makes children’s television great is that it is suitable for children of different ages. It’s toddler versus preschool versus tween,” Gidney said. “Moana had broad appeal among different ages of children.”

“And when Lin-Manuel Miranda does the music,” Dobrow added, “that helps too.”