Teach­ing men­tal health cop­ing skills in new show

Mil­lie Davis stars in ground­break­ing car­toon

The Kids Post - - Disruptors - — Mackenzie Pat­ter­son

To­day’s par­ents are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly sen­si­tive to their chil­dren’s moods, emo­tions and psy­cho­log­i­cal states be­cause men­tal health is no laugh­ing mat­ter — even for tod­dlers.

Pic­ture books ex­plore themes like med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness, whereas chil­dren’s toys, such as scented pin­wheels, in­cor­po­rate calm­ing breath work tech­niques for anx­ious kids.

It’s no sur­prise, then, that kids’ tele­vi­sion would fol­low suit by ty­ing in ef­fec­tive cop­ing strate­gies for lit­tle ones.

A new an­i­mated series pre­mier­ing on Tree­house on Aug. 18, Esme & Roy, will bring up themes like deal­ing with tough emo­tions, learn­ing through play and prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness for kids as young as four years old.

The show is the first new an­i­mated series from the mak­ers of Se­same Street in over 10 years, and it stars the voice of Cana­dian ac­tor Pa­trick McKenna of Ho­tel

Tran­syl­va­nia and Cloudy with a Chance of Meat­balls along­side Mil­lie Davis.

Davis is an 11-year-old ris­ing star from Markham who voices the char­ac­ter of Esme in the show and says she’s ex­cited to be star­ring in a show that is put­ting the fo­cus on chil­dren’s men­tal health.

“I think it helps younger kids, but I think it’s great be­cause any kid can pick up on it, and even adults,” she says, adding that she thinks the show will ap­peal to a wide va­ri­ety of au­di­ences apart from just young­sters.

“Esme teaches the kids how to use house­hold items like toi­let pa­per and a blan­ket and turn them into play­things. And that’s one of the qual­i­ties I re­ally like about the show as well — learn­ing through play.”

In­deed, a learn­ing-through­play ap­proach brings calm­ing mind-body tech­niques into the realm of fun for young chil­dren who may be too hy­per­ac­tive to sit through an en­tire yoga class.

Some of the show’s sug­ges­tions in­clude slow, deep belly breaths, pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tions and a glit­ter jar — a sparkly sen­sory ob­ject meant to help high-strung chil­dren calm down.

In the show, the char­ac­ters use these strate­gies to nav­i­gate re­al­life sit­u­a­tions like try­ing new foods or en­dur­ing a thun­der­storm, which, as many par­ents know, can be le­git­i­mate stres­sors for kids.

Aside from the mind­ful­ness strate­gies that are clev­erly wo­ven into the sto­ry­line, the show fol­lows Esme and Roy on their ad­ven­tures in Mon­s­terdale, where they’re the best mon­ster babysit­ters in town.

Davis says work­ing along­side her co-star, McKenna, in the record­ing stu­dio was a high­light of the pro­duc­tion process for her.

“We had so much fun to­gether,” she says. “It was bet­ter than when I was record­ing alone be­cause we got to build that re­la­tion­ship, and do­ing it with Pa­trick, the char­ac­ters’ friend­ship re­ally shines and comes through,” she says.

Plus the show in­cludes mu­sic and song — an­other of Davis’ pas­sions.

She says record­ing a song for one of the episodes was an­other high­light, and she thinks younger kids such as her cousins will par­tic­u­larly en­joy it.

“I re­ally like the one where they’re try­ing to get one of the mon­sters to take a bath be­cause I re­ally like the song in that one,” she says. “It’s a re­ally funny song. I thought it was re­ally cute. I have two lit­tle cousins and I think they would re­ally like the show.”

Davis, who sings and dances com­pet­i­tively in ad­di­tion to her act­ing ca­reer, also had roles in

Odd Squad, Or­phan Black and the movie Won­der with Owen Wil­son and Ju­lia Roberts.

The per­former says she’s been act­ing since she was three and a half years old, and she doesn’t plan on slow­ing down any time soon.

“My brother started act­ing first, so I asked if I could try too. I guess I just find it re­ally fun,” she says. “The plan for now is to keep danc­ing, singing and act­ing. I love it. It doesn’t feel like work.”

For the fore­see­able fu­ture, though, Davis is gear­ing up to tackle Grade 7, af­ter she fin­ishes film­ing an up­com­ing movie in Van­cou­ver, of course. Esme & Roy pre­mieres on Tree­house on Satur­day, Aug. 18.

The plan for now is to keep danc­ing, singing and act­ing. I love it.”

Davis co-stars in ‘Esmy & Roy’ along­side Pa­trick McKenna

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