My kids watch TV. Not a lot of TV – less than 5 hours a week, usually, but a little bit of TV pretty much every day: usually after breakfast, for 10-30 minutes on weekday mornings or up to an hour on weekends. On weekdays, I confess TV watching is pretty important to my process of getting both kids out the door without having huge screaming fights about getting dressed every morning; I dress them both while they’re zoned out in front of the tube. I like not having to wrestle clothes onto them; I’ve done it before, and it’s ridiculously un-fun.
I am, however, guilty enough about this relatively small amount of TV – and enough of my mother’s daughter – to curate their media consumption rather carefully. I don’t like shows that have villains or consistently adversarial characters. I don’t like shows that are loud, or in which everyone shouts all the time (looking at you, Dora), and I have a preference for shows with strong female characters. And then my oldest (5) has an incredibly low tolerance for suspense, dramatic tension, and most unkindness.
So what do we watch? Here’s the list; turns out it’s longer than I thought it would be:
- Blue’s Clues: I prefer Steve to Joe, but the kids like both. Sweet, fun, good animation, and generally harmless and entertaining.
- Caillou: I don’t know why everyone hates this show. He’s a little whiny but what 4yo ain’t. His flawlessly kind & patient parents rather inspire me.
- Wonder Pets: Like opera, but with daycare pets saving (usually baby) animals. Two strong female characters – Ming Ming is very brash – and a really sweet, sensitive male turtle save the day but never battle a villain. The tunes will stick in your head; for fun, sing “what’s going to work” in a room full of parents of young kids and count the seconds before someone can’t help but sing back “TEAMWORK!”
- Dinosaur Train: I thought this was too shouty at first, but dude. Dinosaurs on a train. And now I know how to pronounce all those crazy long dino names in Dinosaurumpus!
- Charlie and Lola: A brother and a sister who actually LIKE EACH OTHER. Wut. Also, great-looking animations and thick English accents. Only on DVD but totally worth it.
- Bob the Builder: I don’t like how much of a second fiddle Wendy is, and why is she constantly going on vacation? But everyone works together and it’s eco-friendly. I want to throttle Spud on occasion, but everyone on the show is quite patient with him.
- Thomas the Train: This was and continues to be a struggle for me. I like the really old ones, not the CGI ones, but capitalism and male-dominated, yikes yikes.
- The Muppet Show: Campy and fun, but wow Miss Piggy does lots of hitting! Feminism in the 70s, I know you were doing your best, but getting female characters to clobber people does not build equality. Kermit FTW.
- Little Bear: I really like these sweet little shows, but for a change the kids seem to find them too slow.
- Mr. Rogers: Land of Make-Believe opera episodes, y’all! What’s not to love about Fred R? I particularly like how his “how stuff is made” clips honor the working man and woman. Ugga mugga!
- Sesame Street: I have an irrational but burning distaste for Elmo, or as I call him, Shouty McShouterson. Pre-Elmo Sesame all the way.
- Olivia: Strong female character and patient parents. I don’t love the sibling relationships but otherwise, good times.
- Scholastic Video Collections: animated shorts of classic children’s books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Watch them; watch lots. Recently started streaming on Netflix, I think.
- Yo Gabba Gabba: I used to think this show was creepy/trippy as hell, and I still don’t love how it treats women, but the kids like the music.
What shows do your kids love to watch? What shows do they love that you can’t stand?