By Serena Markstrom Nugent,

My husband Shaun went to Waldorf school — and didn’t watch television — through eighth grade and watched TV only sparsely after that. To this day he loathes video games. Limiting screen time is one of his biggest priorities when it comes to our kids. We don’t have the same view on it, but it’s close enough that I don’t push the issue.

One of the reasons I don’t want my children to be completely screen-free is that I want them to be able to participate in cultural conversations and know who today’s heroes are. My husband isn’t convinced he missed anything major, but when we started dating he legitimately didn’t know who Popeye or Scooby Doo were.


When I heard the PBS Kids live version of the award-winning Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was coming to Eugene, I thought it would be a great area to compromise. Our preschool-aged child would know who Daniel Tiger was and it could be without screens. The show, at 4 p.m. Sunday Nov. 6 at the Hult Center, will take the audience into a land of make believe with singing, dancing, laughter and stories.




This is Daniel Tiger

My own upbringing wasn’t so different from my husband’s in terms of values at home, but I think as the years wore on and my mom was raising five kids on her own, she relented on some of the ideals. I remember always preferring to be outdoors to watching TV, but if the weather wasn’t good, a little TV was nice with all my siblings. Also Saturday morning cartoons. They’re great. Anyone without memories of sitting in front of the TV in jammies eating a bowl of cereal did miss out. No one can convince me otherwise.

Now it’s so different. You can avoid commercials entirely if you want. My family has the benefit of watching shows the rest of the world is watching without having cable. We just watch it on Netflix in the rare times that our kids are both asleep simultaneously.

Back to the little red-sweatered Daniel Tiger, who used to be merely a glimmer in the eye of one Mister Rogers’ hand puppets. (Too obtuse? Daniel’s dad was on the old Mister Rogers show.) I hadn’t planned on letting our boy watch the TV show before the live one, but some moms in an online group started raving about the cartoon, and I became more curious. 

I discovered it streams free if you have Amazon Prime, so I decided to show it to Quinn.

It. Was. Love. At. First. Sight.


Quinn on Daniel Tiger day 1. He is completely entranced.


And for me it was a day when I had no trouble lulling the baby to sleep for her nap even though we were all in the same room.

So out of the Daniel loop was I that when I heard the theme song for the first time I indignantly thought this show was a total Mister Rogers rip off. Did they not think we would remember? Basic research showed me Fred Rogers is in on it. Luckily the embarrassment was contained within my own brain.

Difference between my husband and me: it doesn’t bother him when he doesn’t know something just about everyone else seems to know. It’s a good trait, I suppose. Other Waldorf alums haven’t fared as well and regret the holes in their pop culture knowledge.

That day I first played Daniel Tiger for Quinn was a revelation. You mean my toddler doesn’t have to run his mouth the entire ten hours my husband is at work? You mean the house can be quiet when he doesn’t sleep? (And lately, it’s more difficult than ever to get him down for nap.)

You mean he can watch this perfectly innocent and charming show that teaches social skills, emotional coping and problem solving and I can clean the house while he is awake?

Dear Daniel Tiger, it’s probably good I didn’t know you sooner, but boy am I glad to know you now. I get the saintly badge of exposing my son to almost zero screen time until after two, but now I find out how much easier my life can be with only the most gentle assist from a little tiger and his ballet-dancing cat comrade Katarina Kittycat, his royal pal Prince Wednesday, his feathered friend O the Owl and sweet civilian Miss Elaina. These friends are all relatives of Mister Rogers characters who have grown up and make appearances on the show.


It just so happens that lots of the lessons in the show line up perfectly with things Quinn is dealing with in life. “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four!”

Quinn is taking lots of deep breaths around the topic of his sister Pippi getting in his personal space. I have also used this technique when Quinn fails to and knocks his sister on her head.

Watching Quinn watch the show is the cutest thing in the world. Sometimes he snuggles up to a stuffed puppy and I ask him to practice his gentleness with the puppy. As he watches, there is a usually a grin on his face. He points at things happening and narrates it in his 2.5-year-old lexicon. 


Halloween day: no pants in a trace. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gotten him into his costume when he was sedated. Alas, he never wore pants again that day.

Part of why sleep has been tough in the Nugent household is neither child accepts any of the comfort devices that are supposed to help soothe them. A lovey is a soft animal or blanket that the child can take with him to bed and have a continuous comforting pal. I haven’t been able to attach these kids to a lovey with duct tape.

Binkies? Amazon Prime thanks me very much for all my failed efforts to get them to take those. Pippi won’t even take a bottle, much less a binkie.

Other things that are supposed to help them wind down also have been mostly ineffectual, so Daniel Tiger came in at just the right time.

Yes, I understand working moms have a whole different set of challenges that I don’t understand, but staying at home with two baby-kids at times pushes me to the mental health the edge. I’m never sure when I will need a little break, and because I’ve never been able to count on nap time, it feels right and just that my son would fall in love with the first show he sees.

Daniel Tiger is like a nice little file that smoothes that edge to make it at least comfy over there.

The relationship is still very young. We are still on season one and Amazon Prime has six seasons. Like any new and exciting love, I just hope it lasts.

I think Daniel’s mom is a great parent and I’m not ashamed to say I have gotten some ideas from her.


Here is what the characters look like live

Just about anyone with a preschooler would probably enjoy this show as a family outing, but I do wish the Hult Center had a way to be flexible with its one ticket per person policy. A kids show like this should be the exception where a baby who doesn’t care about the show can just sit on a lap. I’m sure there’s some good reason for the policy, but that doesn’t stop it from being highly unpopular among parents, and potentially making enriching activities unaffordable to many.

Tickets are $25 to $39.50 before fees and you can get them here. If you go to the box office to purchase tickets, not all of the fees apply.