Tag Archives: CBeebies

Furchester Hotel – The Sesame Street Gang Come to CBeebies

CBeebies and Sesame Street


It always feels good to get a little something from CBeebies drop into my inbox.  We miss CBeebies quality programming featuring British accents and no adverts. American children’s television isn’t all bad though.  Through childhood, student years and as a mother I have always been a huge Sesame Street fan.  The wonderful documentary Being Elmo made me an even bigger fan.  The latest news from CBeebies was the most exciting I’ve received in a long while. CBeebies and Sesame Street are working together to create a new series,  The Furchester Hotel.

Filming started on Monday 24 February, and will continue for just over three months. The enormous Furchester Hotel set fills all 700 square metres of the HQ2 studio at dock10, MediaCityUK, and was transported in 10 lorries from the three construction companies employed to build it over two and half months. It shows the interior and the garden of The Furchester Hotel and is raised 1.1 metres off the floor in order for the puppeteers to perform standing in the main areas. The set is double height with a sweeping staircase that guests take to the bedrooms when the lift isn’t working – which is almost always.

How amazing does that set sound and how disappointed am I that I can’t accept an invite to visit the set for myself? It makes me want to jump on a plane right away.

What is The Furchester Hotel?

The Furchester Hotel, is about a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent Muppet monsters who own and operate an ‘almost’ world-class hotel. The proprietors are Funella Furchester, the welcoming monster owner, her loving husband, Furgus Fuzz, and their daughter, the unflappable Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. The Furchester family is joined at the hotel by Elmo, Phoebe’s cousin who is on an extended visit, and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as room service and dining-room waiter.

The Furchester Hotel aims to promote and build creative problem-solving skills for its young viewers. As the Furchester family scrambles to meet the needs of its guests, the monsters use their exceptional thinking skills to brainstorm possible solutions to problems that arise. And even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!” The daily mishaps and mix-ups at The Furchester Hotel will provide many opportunities for our young Muppet friends to model ways in which pre-schoolers’ natural curiosity and creativity can be harnessed to collaborate and solve problems.

Cookie Monster and Elmo are in Town

It takes approximately 70 cast and crew to make the series, including nine puppeteers and four assistant puppeteers. Experienced puppeteer Louise Gold plays Funella; Mak Wilson, who has been designated Puppet Captain, performs many of the guest Muppets, including resident guest Harvey P Dull; Andrew Spooner performs Furgus; and Sarah Burgess plays Phoebe. Elmo and Cookie Monster are played by Sesame Street puppeteers Ryan Dillon and David Rudman respectively and the head writer for the series is Belinda Ward.

“We’re so excited to be starting work on The Furchester Hotel. The studio set is truly amazing, and to see the puppets arriving on site really brings the project to life,” says Alison Stewart, Head of CBeebies Production. “We’re delighted to welcome The Furchester family, Elmo, Cookie Monster and their friends to Salford.”

“The excitement in MediaCityUK is palpable as we begin production on The Furchester Hotel,” says Carol-Lynn Parente, Executive Producer, Sesame Workshop. “We know this series will engage children with humorous problems and quirky solutions in ways that only the beloved Muppets can. We look forward to seeing The Furchester Family, along with their friends Cookie Monster and Elmo, delighting children and families on CBeebies for years to come.”

“Me cannot wait to ‘work’ as dining-room waiter at The Furchester Hotel,” says Cookie Monster. “Me hear their cookies are delicious. Om nom nom.”

The Furchester Hotel is co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, and the In House Production team at CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school children’s channel. The 52×11-minute series is set to debut on CBeebies in Autumn 2014 in the UK.

Hopefully I can find a way to watch it here too.



CBeebies – Magic Hands: Translating Poetry into British Sign Language

cbeebiesOften as parents we are unsure about  introducing  children to poetry, fearing that it is difficult to understand. My children however love poetry and will often choose to read it rather than prose. A new CBeebies programme Magic Hands launching soon will make poetry even more accessible to children.
CBeebies Magic Hands  is a brand new and groundbreaking series for the channel featuring poetry translated into British Sign Language.

A co-commission with BBC Learning, Magic Hands  presents modern and classic poetry for children in a way that has never been seen before. Across the series, the Magic Hands presenting team – Ashley, Donna, Aimee and Simon – perform some of the best children’s poetry entirely in British Sign Language (BSL).

From Robert Louis Stephenson to Roger Stevens and Michaela Morgan, the programmes are fun, five-minute packages that mix sign language, the spoken word, music and vibrant animation to bring the poems to life and capture the imaginations of both deaf and hearing children.

The series is made for CBeebies by Remark Ltd, a company that is owned, staffed and run by people who are deaf.

Series producer, Judith Bunting, says: “Translating modern and traditional poems for children into BSL on such a scale is a first. There are deaf poets and deaf theatre companies but no national television company has ever tried translating children’s poetry into BSL.

The Magic Hands presenters are all new to television and have been profoundly deaf since birth. On set they worked with professional interpreters along with the series’ artistic director, Jean St Clair, and both deaf and hearing production crew.

Each episode of Magic Hands is based around a single verse, interpreted for children. The selection comes from poets including Christina Rossetti, Kenn Nesbit, Gareth Lancaster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Katharine Pyle, Charles Kingsley, James Carter, Sarah Coleridge, Maya Angelou, Rabindranath Tagore and Grace Andreacchi as well as Shakespeare.

Controller of CBeebies, Kay Benbow, says: “We are delighted to bring Magic Hands to CBeebies. The mix of sign language, music and lively animation creates spellbinding poetry that we are sure all our young viewers will enjoy.”

Magic Hands will be broadcast in the Spring.

Justin Fletcher Hands Up the Album – Review and Competition

justin fletcher hands upCall me sad but I’m a little bit of a Justin Fletcher fan.  I’m a little bit in awe of how he understands what kids find entertaining and has them eating out of the palm of his hand.  So when I was asked to review his latest CD I jumped at the chance.

My 1 year old is just becoming old enough to play with her 3 year old sister. What fun they had when I put this CD on for them, I haven’t seen them laugh so much in ages.

Hands Up is full of children’s favourites like ‘Heads,Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ and ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ but the vibrant dance beats behind give the songs added energy.  The opening Song ‘Hands Up’ had me dancing around the room with them, much to the amusement of my youngest.

The children’s favourite is ‘The Hokey Cokey’, we all joined in with the actions before collapsing in a heap of giggles at the end. I’m not usually a fan of children’s CD’s with twee tinkly music and the same songs dragged out time and time again.  Justin’s enthusiasm and well produced, energetic backing tracks makes Hands Up a refreshing change.

If you have a children’s party coming up Justin Fletcher’s CD would be perfect (there is even a calming lullaby at the end to bring the children back down to earth).

Justin Fletcher Hands Up … The Album is available for a retail price of £8.97 From Amazon.

Right from the Start readers have a chance to win a copy of the CD. Simply enter a comment asking a question relating to musical activities with children.

You might like to  request  a song idea, tune or lyric, an idea for introducing children to music, ideas for games or movement, ideas for a particular age group, how to encourage listening skills or perhaps you would like to know about the benefits of musical activities for the very young. All questions will inform future posts about music with young children.

Terms and Conditions

  • This competition is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland
  • Only one entry per person
  • Post a question on my Facebook Page for an additional entry.
  • Winners will be drawn at random at 11.59 on 16th March
  • Winners will be notified by email and names posted on this site.

Congratulations to Maya Russell who won this competition.  Maya’s question and other selected questions will be answered in posts over the next few weeks.  If you weren’t lucky enough to win there is a competition on my other site Practically Perfect Mums which runs till the end of the month.

Loquax Competitions

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CBeebies -Tree Fu Tom (raising awareness of dyspraxia)

We have been  previewing a new CBeebies programme this week and we are very excited.  Not only because the wonderful David Tennant is voicing one of the main characters but also because it is well researched  and encourages children to actively participate in the story.

Former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Sophie Aldred voice the lead characters Tom (Aldred) and Twigs (Tennant) in the new multi-platform fantasy action adventure series, Tree Fu Tom coming to CBeebies in March. Twigs is a wonderful character, beautifully animated, incredibly cute and full of vibrant energy.twigs


Aimed at four to six year olds, Tree Fu Tom is set in an enchanted world where movement creates magic. Tom appears to be a normal eight-year-old boy but putting on his magic belt and performing a special sequence of magic action-movements (known as Tree Fu) transforms him into a tiny but mighty magical super-hero.
All of the Tree Fu magic moves that children are encouraged to copy are developed from therapeutic techniques that are used to help children with movement disorders like dyspraxia, but are designed to assist and enhance the development of all participating children at a crucial time in their growth.

Magic is an essential part of Tree Fu Tom and children are encouraged to participate in the movement-based Tree Fu spells to affect the outcome of each episode. Dyspraxia Foundation movement specialists Sally Payne and Dr Lynda Foulder-Hughes worked closely with the series choreographer Nick Kellington to develop unique spell movement sequences that reflect the narrative of each story-line and which have a “cool” martial-arts type feel (which is particularly engaging for boys). However the programme is equally appealing to girls with its beautiful animation, captivating any girl who is interested in fairies and elves.

My girls loved it (it even drew my 7 year old away from CBBC for a moment).  I asked my 3 year old what she liked about it

 I likeded the bit where he did magic – he crouchded down and jumpded like frogs and it went magic.

Participation in the magic spells was clearly a hit with her.  The nature of the programme also lends itself perfectly to becoming a Kinect game, imagine how magical it would be to copy Tree Fu Tom’s movements, creating your own spells and going on a personal, fantastical journey.

Tree Fu Tom has his own online section which includes 6 action packed games  developed in consultation with a Senior Educational Psychologist.  There will also be further support in the CBeebies Grown Ups Section.

Tree Fu Tom and Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia and coordination difficulties are common, life-long conditions that affect up to 10 per cent of school-aged children (two per cent severely). It is an impairment of the organisation of movement and is the result of an immaturity in the development of the nervous system. This means that nerve signals are not transmitted effectively from the brain to muscles, affecting a person’s ability to perform movements in a smooth, coordinated way.
Understanding of the underlying causes of dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder) is limited but children who are born early, who have a low birth weight or who have a family history of dyspraxia are more likely to have the condition.
Sally adds: “Awareness of dyspraxia remains low in comparison to other common developmental disorders. Tree Fu Tom offers a unique opportunity to raise the profile of this much missed and misunderstood condition.”
Children with dyspraxia have difficulty developing the movement skills that come naturally to their peers. They often have poor balance and postural stability; find it difficult to move their arms and legs in a coordinated manner; and struggle to use both sides of their body together. Without these foundation skills it is hard for them to carry out everyday activities such as walking up stairs without tripping, bending down to pull on socks, making marks with a crayon and using a knife and fork.
Their difficulties with movement skills can often lead to children with dyspraxia falling behind at school (despite, often, having above average IQs) and having additional social challenges at school – this is especially apparent for boys whose early social interactions tend to involve physical skill-based activities such as sports.

Having worked with children with Dyspraxia in the past, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and support children with the condition.

Tree Fu Tom starts on Monday 5th March on CBeebies .

Love to Learn on CBeebies

I don’t generally recommend young children learn by watching television but I am human and like the rest of us appreciate a bit of respite from time to time.  Now that my 3 year old no longer naps during the day, after a busy  morning at playgroup an hour watching television helps her to relax.  I don’t agree with young children watching commercial channels so always put my trust in CBeebies.

The quality of the early learning programming is generally of a high standard and well researched, we particularly like Something Special and Driver Dan’s Storytrain (especially as we are on the lookout for the episodes featuring her big sister).

At the end of February CBeebies are launching a new cluster of programming entitled  Love to Learn. This will bring together a number of programmes, which are designed to give the younger members of the CBeebies audience an introduction to literacy and numeracy. Programmes will include the new shows, Numtums and The Lingo Show, alongside new episodes of established favourites Alphablocks and Abadas. These programmes will be scheduled together allowing children to have fun while they learn their letters and get to know their numbers.
The Numtums  are cuddly Numbats (rare marsupial, native to Western Australia) each with a number on their tummy. Combining a troop of animated Numtums, children, sing-along songs and a distinctive, mixed-media style, the programme introduces the basics of number recognition and then gently moves on to counting objects and identifying amounts in a variety of fun scenarios. The series is reminiscent of the animated snippets that were a key feature of my favourite children’s programme, Sesame Street. I’m sure these will keep the children engaged and make learning fun.
I’m really looking forward to The Lingo Show .  This began life a year ago as an online brand to introduce children to a variety of languages.  It is a long time since I visited the CBeebies website, so I wasn’t aware it existed but I was very excited to see that the languages featured include Welsh. Growing up in Wales I have a very basic knowledge  of the Welsh language, but my children were captivated.  My 7 year old even wrote down a list of words to remember ( we looked at the food section). The variety of languages featured include Polish, Somali and Punjabi and this could be a really useful resource for nursery workers to learn basic vocabulary when teaching children with an additional language. The TV series will continue to introduce children to words in different languages – specifically French, Spanish and Mandarin .
The episodes see host bug Lingo send Mandarin bug Wei, Spanish bug Queso and French bug Jargonaise off into the real world to choose everyday objects and props to include in their grand finale – The Big Bug Show. Each episode focuses on one language, introducing children to six key words, plus examples of everyday vocabulary like ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’. There are opportunities for children to develop both speaking and listening skills as they are encouraged to repeat words with the bugs, voiced by native speakers of the target language.  I’m  definitely    going to make time to  watch  this with the kids.

The new episodes of Alphablocks are in a slighter longer  format than in the past and will continue to use best-practice phonics teaching to help young children develop engagement and confidence with reading and making words.  For those unfamiliar with the series  Alphablocks are 26 living letters who fall out of the sky and discover that if they hold hands and make a word, it comes to life.

Abadas  aims  to help children to learn new vocabulary that corresponds to objects they come across in their everyday lives.
The new episodes feature the familiar fun faces of Hari the hippo, Ela the fox and Seren the bat (all with Welsh accents) who come to life when a pop-up book is opened. Once the book is opened, the Abadas’ world comes alive and it’s playtime for the three adventurers. Through these adventures the Abadas encourage the young audience to re-tell a story and be able to ask questions and tell others what they have learned.
The season of programming will also include repeats of the popular numbers series Numberjacks.

I hope that by scheduling these programmes together, children will become naturally inquisitive  about letters and numbers. The 5 minute programmes are perfect for young children’s attention spans and this short concentrated burst of literacy and numeracy programmes could serve as a great introduction to other hands on activities. Pre-school children do not need to learn to read, write and count but the programmes could introduce the concepts without any pressure. Take the lead from your child, if they are showing an interest you can develop it further.  The Grown Ups section of the CBeebies website has excellent articles about how to support your child’s early learning including phonics , numeracy, story telling and mark making and includes many additional activities. Over the next few weeks I will also be sharing literacy and numeracy ideas here. If there are any particular areas you would like inspiration for add a comment and I will follow it up.

The Love to Learn programmes will be on air from 27th February every weekday on CBeebies. The scheduling is 09:00 Numtums

09:05 Numberjacks

09:20 Alphablocks

09:25 Abadas .

The Lingo Show will air sometime during March.

The timings are perfectly placed just after the school run , before we go out and explore  numeracy and literacy in everyday situations.