• Broadcaster: Orient tv

    Afraa Aljoul, Presenter of Yalla Nehna (educational show for Syrian children)

  • Target group: 6 to 12 years
  • Format type: magazin with double moderation
  • Coved countries: Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Iraq
  • Language: Arabic
  • Link: Orient tv

What is most important to keep in mind if you are a presenter for children’s TV ?

Being a presenter for children’s TV is really different from being a presenter for adults. For children you really have to focus on your information. The information you are giving your young viewers has to be correct. There should not be any wrong or false information because it will stay with them their whole life.
Adults already have a basic knowledge about a lot of things and they learned throughout their live to contextualize. Children are not yet able to do that, so you have to be very aware of what information you provide and how.
Also you have to be very creative, you have to be crazy, you have to a have a lot of imagination. Just the dry information won’t stick to the children’s mind.
When you are doing e.g. physical experiments you have to keep one thing in mind: Children like the BIG stuff. Big numbers impresses them and they really like superlatives. The tallest building, the fastest animal, the tiniest tree and so on.

As a presenter for children it is also important to be aware of the fact that you should not be just presenting. Children won’t like that. We as presenters for Yalla Nehna try as much as we can to be their friends. We are not just someone who they see on TV. We try to make them feel involved and that we are directly talking to them. Communicating directly with the children is very important. We want them to think that there is no screen in front of us. We talk directly with them. We want them to do the same things we are doing e.g. try out the experiments or do handicrafts. You can address them directly by sharing your ideas with them and by talking to them on eyelevel. And what is very important: Be yourself. Be natural. Do not act. Children will realize that in a minute and they do not like that.

  • Information, especially facts and numbers must be correct!
  • Use colloquial language. No special terms if you explain things.
  • Talk to the kids on eyelevel, but don’t be too babyish.
  • Address them directly!
  • Be natural. Don’t act too much.
  • Use numbers and superlatives. Children really like that.

How does a good opening / closing for children’s TV look like ?

First of all the opening of the show is very very important to catch the children’s attention. The opening introduces the topic of the show and tells the viewers why they should stay tuned and not switch the channel. You have to get the children hooked from the beginning.
Actually when we started with Yalla Nehna we were really shy in the first few months especially in the opening. Maybe our openings were too simple. But now we try as much as we can to get a smashing opening. We try to hook the kids with something very funny and crazy. And we also try to say in the beginning what will come up within the show to attract them.

  • Opening is related to the topic of the whole show.
  • The funnier/the crazier, the better.

The ending is also important. After the show we always have outtakes! I really like that part. It is very funny, even as an adult it always cracks me up.

We also have a let’s say “formal good bye” where we tell them that we will see again in the next episode. But usually this formal goodbye will be combined with something funny. With a joke for example or we remind them of things we have been doing in the show: an experiment or some handicraft. In one episode we made a lantern in the action corner. So in the end of that episode we use the lantern (acting a bit crazy like always). The ending should better be good because viewers remember it!

  • End with a joke and hope.
  • Tell the children directly Good Bye through the screen.

As you said style of presenting for children should be a bit crazy and hyped up. How does it feel while you are presenting? Doesn’t it feel like you are overacting ?

That is a very good question. We learned that the hard way. As a presenter when you are in a good mood and when you are enjoying the recording of the show then you can really see that afterwards on TV. These episodes end up being the best. It might feel a bit hyped up or like overacting, but you should not question yourself too much: When you do not feel confident and have doubts then you can really see that on the screen. I had that in the beginning. I was not sure whether I could be a presenter for kids because that is BIG. The other presenters and I hated seeing ourselves on TV in the beginning and I thought if I were a kid I would not like that. But then we got better and more confident.
The kids in front of the TV want to have fun, so I thought why don’t I have fun with them. If we have a lot of fun in front of the camera, if we laughed and enjoy the show then the kids will also have fun in front of the screen. This is how it works. It is that simple!
And the best thing: The more the children enjoy the show and have fun with us presenters the more information sticks to their mind.

What about the team? For producing children’s TV you need a lot of dedication and team spirit. It is not just like a random job ?

We presenters couldn’t do anything without the teams help. And right now I am not talking about all the work they do, all the research and preparations for every single show.
I am talking about the team spirit. We are all directed to one goal and this is why we succeed.
And by the way: Other people working for our broadcaster, for example in the news department, they always ask us: „Can we please join the Yalla Nehna team?“
In the beginning lot of them said: „This is a kids show. What can you expect from that?“ They were not taking us seriously but this has changed in a very short time. And now they want to join because our team is so much fun and the atmosphere is great. But don’t get me wrong. Times are not always easy. The team really holds everything together. Because we all agree on one goal and that makes us a great team.

What is the difference between working for a children’s program and working for a program for adults ?

Working as a presenter for children you have to focus on so much stuff. Before Yallah Nehna I had my own small Internet show. It was about football and addressing young adults. I didn’t really care about details like my gestures and facial expressions very much. Adults care about the content but less about how you present it.

Which kind of humor works best ?

The best humor will be the spontaneous humor. Try to improvise. Children love reality. The joke is real when the situation is real. Be spontaneous. For us it often works very well when the team interferes while we are recording, this helps to act spontaneous.

Is there something you MUSTN’T do ?

When it comes to sensitive topics for example handicaps you have to be very careful. When we did an episode on handicaps we called around 19 experts to make sure that we do not hurt anybody and that we deliver the information in a correct and sensitive way.
When you are talking about these topics to children you have to deliver a certain message of hope: something like “although you are in bad situation don’t let your fears and doubts eat you up”. Tell them that is a lot hope and joy in the world.
And a very practical advice for experiments and things like that: Please do save experiments for kids. That means: NO fire, NO poisonous things. Even if you tell them NOT to try things out them selves, they might try that at home if they find the materials. So don’t show these kinds of experiments, if you don’t want them to redo them by themselves.

How do you explain complex issues? For example in your “Action Corner”?

We work a lot with props. That is essential to visualize biological or physical processes, which you cannot see with your bare eye. We had a show on pottery. Did you know that there are little air filled bubbles inside pottery? The bubbles are one reason why warm stuff in it stays warm a long time. But these bubbles are so small. You cannot show them. So we thought about it a lot and then we brought big sponges to explain it. So basically what you have to do is think creatively. Think of what is the closest thing to the children’s mind. In another show we wanted to show how water molecules hold together. So my co-presenter, one cameraman and me acted as the molecules and we hold on to each other like molecules do. That worked quite well.
We also often use magnets, plastic dough etc. to visualize and make the children understand complicated things.

  • Start from zero. Do not presume that there is a basic knowledge.
  • Find an explanation that is close to their mind.
  • Use props. Be creative.

Very important is also to NOT presume that the children know something about the topic you are presenting. Always start from zero. And keep it as simple as possible.

Thank you for the interview!

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