Apr 2

Signal your ending

Young kids like structure. You’ll hear it about parenting and it is true for content too.

Hollywood movies are generally very structured and they usually follow the same format you will read about in any number of scriptwriting books. Most regular adult viewers won’t be able to identify it consciously but ask someone 20 minutes before the end of a movie how long there is before the credits roll and most will be pretty good at guessing correctly. That is because they know where they are in the familiar traditional structure, having seen it play out in movies over and over across a lifetime.

When you are in the area of preschool content, your audience doesn’t yet have a clear preconception of how structure works. And they want to know. They certainly want to know when the story ends. It can be jarring for children when the end credits roll and it is a surprise to them – they didn’t quite think the story was finished. So you need to help them out with that.

This is one reason circular stories are great in preschool. End as you began but now with a new realisation or a key change. Bringing it back to the beginning can tie your story up very neatly and kids like that. It is also why a very clear format can help children. Dora the Explorer has the β€œWe Did It” song towards the end of every single episode. As soon as kids hear that, they know the episode is coming to an end and they feel satisfied knowing they got the full story. Many other shows (including my own Planet Cosmo) now use similar song endings or key phrases that appear at the end of every episode. Many Peppa episodes end with the family falling over laughing or jumping in muddy puddles. That tells kids, okay now we’re done. Kids don’t want stories left in a limbo. They like their stories neatly packed away, as happens literally in the end sequence of Yo Gabba Gabba.

So no matter what form you are working in, when making content for preschool children try to signal your ending. End neatly and clearly. Leave them satisfied. Don’t leave them hanging.

One word of caution: don’t signal your ending too early. Once kids get it into their heads that the story is finished, they can disengage and go looking for the next story and your lovely warm epilogue will be drowned out by the argument of what to watch next.

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