Problem-Solving with Dora and Kai-Lan

Recently while babysitting I caught an episode of the new childhood TV show that was described to me as “Chinese Dora the Explorer.” Ni Hao, Kai-Lan is remarkably similar to Dora–the main character is a little girl with a monkey side-kick and they work together to solve various problems.

And both Dora and Kai-Lan demonstrate different applications of what, in Jumpstart, we call the “Problem-Solving Approach to Conflict.” We use this six-step method to help kids learn how to recognize and solve problems.

  1. Approach calmly (use calm voice, stop aggressive behavior, neutralize object of conflict if applicable)
  2. Acknowledge feelings (“You look really upset.”)
  3. Gather information (Figure out “What’s the problem?” but don’t place blame.)
  4. Restate the problem
  5. Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together
  6. Follow-up support (Recognize that “You solved the problem!”)

Dora is all about problem-solving situations: How do we cross this river? Which tool from the backpack should we use to get through the jungle? How can we keep the crocodiles from eating us as we rapple through the forest? (Dora is pretty badass for a seven-year-old.)

Children will most likely not encounter these exact situations, but Dora models the type of open-ended thinking that kids need to learn how to do to solve real-life problems, such as: How do I get the glue to come out of the bottle? How do I put this smock on? How should we share these toys?

In general, there are three kinds of problems that children face in the classroom: problems with materials (i.e., opening a jar of paint), individual conflicts (ie., being in a bad mood), and conflicts between children (ie., how to share materials in play). (Whaddya know, that typology applies pretty well to adults’ problems, too.)

Ni Hao Kai-Lan is, in the words of the its trailer, about “emotional intelligence: friendship, loyalty, and respect,” because of how it applies the problem-solving approach to emotions and relationships. In the episode I saw, the little monkey Ho Ho becomes impatient and Kai-Lan has to find a way to help him be patient. She ends up asking her Ye Ye for help, which reflects Chinese culture and also is appropriate for a show that focuses on relationships.

Basically, it’s a well-designed, adorable show… And, yes, I learned how to say “Thank you” in Chinese! Score!

For more high-quality childhood (/childish adult) programming, check out these “Tow Mater’s Tall Tales.” They are short episodes about 5 minutes long using characters from the movie Cars, and they absolutely charming and hilarious. I put one on so my brother could calm down before his nap, but I was not expecting to laugh out loud. I like how fast-paced and exaggerated they are, and how they subvert the main character, Lightning McQueen, in favor of the hillbilly comic relief character Tow Mater.

“Tokyo Mater”

“Rescue Squad Mater”

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