Jamie Lee Hoffer is an award-winning artist, composer, teacher, and author. Now, she launches Giggles & Stardust, an online destination for preschoolers. She’s a go-getter – with a great goal to entertain and educate young minds at this new website. Here is our interview.
Disclosure: This sponsored post is one I’m excited to bring you! Giggles & Stardust provides a great balance of fun and learning for preschoolers from anywhere in the world. Yes, learning can be – and should be – fun.
Interview with Jamie Lee Hoffer
Giggles & Stardust is a fun, educational website with the warm undertones of classic shows like “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street.” The online platform features age-appropriate art lessons, book readings, music videos, original songs, endearing puppets, and valuable life lessons.
From teaching rhythm to hand/eye coordination and self-expression, there is a lot to learn here as a preschooler, all in a fun, loving way. It is both contemporary and nostalgic.
Jamie’s career and personal life have led to this new venture, from singer-songwriter and artist to mom and preschool teacher. When COVID hit, kids began learning from home. Jamie, her husband, and a team of educators, entertainment industry advisors, and programmers came together to form Giggles & Stardust. It was designed to encourage preschoolers and their families to have fun while learning, no matter where they are in the world.
OK, onto the interview!
Congratulations on launching Giggles & Stardust! What would you say if you had to describe the website in only two sentences?
Driven by love and imagination, Giggles & Stardust is a magical world where preschoolers can dance, sing, make art, go on adventures, and share stories about the beauty and wonders that exist all around them and in them! Parents and caregivers can be guaranteed safe, fun, and educational screen time, while their preschoolers will learn about the many things in life that make us good, happy, creative and caring humans.
Why is it important to you to honor the nostalgia of TV shows like ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’?
A small child is so vulnerable and precious. We take the responsibility of the time they are watching Giggles & Stardust very seriously. We develop our programs with the concrete understanding that what they learn, especially in the first years of their lives, is crucial in order to support the subsequent things they learn. This establishes a strong and healthy foundation for exponential, continued learning.
Fred Rogers understood this. Knowing that these were critical learning years, he executed high-quality programming with a strong moral compass. He slowed things down allowing quiet moments for a child to process new information and make new connections. His world existed without the bombardment of stimuli, being his genuine self, and never talking down to the child. He related to them through his own childlike sense of wonder. His success was totally based on his understanding that love, and the acknowledgment of feelings (along with a platform to share and express them), is what helps form the whole child.
What can young viewers look forward to at Giggles & Stardust?
Along with our cast of whimsical puppets, we do art activities, sing original (as well as popular) children’s songs, go on adventures, and tell stories about nature and our earth. We explore the aspects and validity of our emotions, meet interesting people in our community and we giggle a lot! Always offering carefully curated, high-quality screen time.
For parents, what can they hope that their kids will get out of the viewing experience?
Besides a lot of love and laughter, our goal is to introduce simple lessons about the world around them, inspiring curiosity, staying healthy with movement and nutrition, exercising their brain with art and music, understanding that their emotions are what makes us human and that the best learning happens when we have fun and feel safe and supported!
Have you always wanted to work with kids?
Yes, but it took a while to manifest. I loved raising my daughters. It was a home full of art, dancing, music, singing, storytelling, and love! “Mom! Do you ALWAYS have to sing?” My husband referred to our home as the “sparkle palace” due to the amount of art and crafting we did. My girls say because of Giggles & Stardust now everyone can have the opportunity they had to flex their imagination and creative exploration with supportive encouragement, patience, joy, and love. (Wonderful, right?)
Tell me a bit about what you learned about child development by teaching art to kids and as a preschool teacher
Children thrive in atmospheres that include a variety of interests and mediums. The youngest of preschoolers experience their world through tactile exploration. How something feels – in their hands and mouth – ignites a chain reaction of brain stimuli that activate the learning process, so does introducing art which is both a hand/eye coordination and tactile activity enhancing gross motor skills.
Music is extremely important. Not only does it help develop the neural pathways for speech, their auditory perception is one of the most important skills for future reading. Music fosters a sense of community and belonging, rhythm and its patterns are a big influence for the understanding of numbers and math, and music is a strong vehicle for self calming and connecting to feelings. I had a 16-month-old student who would cry every time we started to sing I Can Sing a Rainbow. It’s a beautiful song with lyrics about the wonderful idea that colors can be heard and that we can hear with our eyes. Although the melody is sweet, it induced an emotion that he couldn’t help but express. It was so heartwarming and inspired us to talk about this amazing effect of music. Children, too, are amazing teachers.
Your platform has giggles in the title. Why is laughter so important?
How wonderful and magical is a giggle? It makes us happy! It makes us smile. It can help ease pain and sadness. I believe laughter is the glue to love and happiness. And we all know how contagious giggling is!
Who inspires you, personally or professionally?
One is Shari Lewis. She was a master ventriloquist, music conductor, author, producer, and performer – she did it all! I’m sure when I was young I watched every episode of the Shari Lewis Show that ran in the 60’s! She became discontent with the way television was becoming commercial and product driven, so when PBS picked up her Lamb Chop’s Play-Along she became one of the first to “stress the joys of diversity” choosing a mixed ethnic group of on-air children and introduced songs in various languages. For me, her most inspiring contribution to children’s broadcasting was introducing situations that affect children emotionally. She was a brave, likable trailblazer and one of my heroes.
Another is Jim Henson. He believed in the importance of fostering learning, particularly among inner-city youth in a way to not just entertain, but to improve the literacy skills of preschool children. The brilliant street setting was his way of weaving puppet and human characters together with a narrative that children could relate to. Not only did the show prove to better prepare children for preschool, it courageously showed children a wide range of diversity including those with disabilities, and supported the rise of the women’s movement by showing women working in male-dominated fields.
And then there’s Fred Rogers – my ultimate hero! When he first saw the new technology of television, he instinctively understood the power of this new medium. It worried him that the “nonsense and slapstick” that children were watching did nothing for their development. He said that at that moment he knew what his life work would be all about. He hosted all 895 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, composed more than 200 songs for the show, and was the puppeteer of 14 characters. More importantly, he changed the face of children’s television and transformed the way we think about the inner lives of young children.
He believed and fought hard for the type of quality TV he knew without a doubt would benefit the future generations of our society. When funding was about to be cut for PBS he became our champion and hero convincing the head of the Senate hearings of the importance in keeping PBS. “This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique… I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.” Thank you Mr. Rogers!
What else Jamie Lee Hoffer wants you to know
When people ask me why, at this point in my life, would I want to put 24/7 into something of this scale…I tell them that although I feel this is a gift of love that I want to share, it is also something greater than myself that is urgently driving me. Funny, but true – I do believe there is an urgency – to slow down, to walk in nature, to look and explore things with wonder and curiosity and to give ourselves time to be quiet – time for our minds to be still – so we can hear what is being said within that quiet stillness.
I am at the “sweet spot” of my life, where everything I’ve done and everything I’ve been, has brought me to this place where I am capable of sharing myself in the most genuine way. I know this is what I am supposed to be doing – giving out the over abundance of love that I have, yet often wondered what to do with. Now I know.
Thank you for coming by to tell us about Giggles & Stardust, Jamie!
Check out Giggles & Stardust for preschoolers
Giggles & Stardust is a subscription model, making it a great gift for your kids or for others who have preschoolers. I love the idea that this site is fun, magical, and educational. It is inspiring the imaginations of youngsters around the world! Keep spreading the love and laughter, Jamie Lee Hoffer.