I must admit: I never expected to learn anything about education from a cartoon. And instead, to my surprise, during the period of isolation caused by Covid, it happened.
I'm talking about Bing, one of the most popular and beloved in the 6 and under age group. Bing is an English animated series produced by Acamar Films, Brown Bag Films, Tandem Films, and Digitales Studios, created by Ted Dewan and broadcast for the first time in 2014 in the UK. In Italy it aired for the first time on Rai Yoyo in 2018.
If children's problems are taken seriously
The protagonist is a bunny in pre-school, who has a typical childhood: time to play, to make new discoveries, and face obstacles, difficulties, fears, disappointments, and quarrels with his companions.
The situations that Bing faces in the eyes of an adult may seem of little importance (such as the loss of his favorite stuffed animal or a fight over the swing); instead they have an effect on the lives of children.
In this cartoon, not only are the events absolutely realistic and close to the experiences of the young viewers (what child has never been bullied at the playground?), but the proactive attitude of Flop, a stuffed animal that helps Bing in his big adventures, is also interesting.
The adult as a wise guide
Those who have an educational role (dad, mom, grandparent, teacher, tutor, babysitter) can identify with Flop, a figure who accompanies the protagonist: helping him to overcome his fears (like when Bing doesn't find the courage to come down a very tall slide or feels embarrassed to have to sing in front of an audience), correcting him and encouraging him to tell the truth or apologize (like when Bing breaks a cell phone and then throws it in the trash or like when he takes candy without paying for it).
Flop has a calm temperament, he is clear and firm, but not authoritarian, he does not scare Bing, nor intrude without explaining: he warns the child of dangers, advises him with love, and makes him realize his mistakes, so that he can grow to have the utmost respect for himself and his neighbor. He sets limits for Bing but, when it is possible, he lets him explore, so that he understands that you are better off when you share what you have, that you are more at peace when you are free from lies, that you can always make up for behaving badly.
Flop is very present, but not imposing: he spends quality time with Bing, playing with what his buddy likes, reading stories to him, taking him to the park or through the woods, but he also encourages him to socialize with his peers or cousins, often organizing meetings with Sula (a sweet little elephant), Pando (an exuberant panda), Coco and Charlie (two silly bunnies).
Empathy and encouragement: an important pairing to educate
Something quite interesting is the fact that Flop shares Bing's sadness. He is neither superior nor distracted: he is empathetic. At the same time, however, it helps him to look on the positive side, even in the moments that are hardest for him: like when he makes Bing realize that a picnic can be done at home if it's raining outside, or that the broken train now looks like a spaceship.
Flop teaches Bing to accept that things don't always go in the direction we would like them to, that you can't change everything you don't like, that the past can't be changed, but that you can appreciate what you have or have had, instead of regretting what is no longer there, like when the little butterfly that Bing would have wanted to keep with him dies.
If children learn while playing
This cartoon, in its simplicity, reminds us that you can be good educators without yelling and at the same time without giving in to fits. It also is a reminder that you can accompany your child’s growth with responsibility, sensitivity, and attention – without denigrating or discouraging the child, but by making him understand his mistakes.
It must be said that there is no lack of controversy related to the fact that the cartoon does not "explain" who Flop is and why Bing's parents are not incorporated in the show. However, there is an important pedagogical lesson about this “talking stuffed animal”: children do not use toys "just to play”; they are tools of great value in the discovery of the world. Frequently, psychologists use puppets to explain things to children that are difficult to understand. It doesn't seem to be a coincidence, then, that the authors use a stuffed animal to deliver messages to very young children...
Every educator is in continuous training
Some say it would take a grade to be a parent, someone else says that being a parent is the most difficult "job" in the world. Yet, there are no courses, no schools to attend before having a child.
What is certain, however, is that you can "train" yourself over time – that you can refine the art of educating.
If you have small children, it can be useful to consult older and more experienced couples; you can turn to your relatives or people who are experts in education. You can attend meetings with psychologists or pedagogists - read articles and books.
Yet, it was nice for me to see that also thanks to a cartoon that children from all over the world follow, a parent, a grandparent, or aunt or uncle can reflect and improve their approach to the world of childhood.