Teaching mental health coping skills in new show
Millie Davis stars in groundbreaking cartoon
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