TV viewing has always gotten a bad rep when it comes to keeping our children entertained, especially for kids under five. From attention deficit to developmental delays and everything else in between, TV watching is scoffed at and considered a sign of bad parenting (if some of the more scathing internet articles are to be believed!).
However, in today’s nuclear families where two parents have to juggle the demands of stressful jobs, run an entire household and then take care of their children’s needs, zero screen time becomes more of an idealized situation than a practical one. There are not enough hours in a day to do everything. So, some amount of screen time is the reality of many families with small children and provides a sort of much-needed breathing space for parents from time to time.
I have been guilty of using screen time (sometimes quite a lot!) during these past 3.8 years of sonny’s life starting from using his iPAD as a lullaby generator 😉 to facilitating his current obsession for all things celestial (yeah, that one which started around the time of my blog post “What a Mess!” and is still showing no sign of relenting).
I do agree with experts about zero screen time before kids’ turn two – Children that age is just too small to comprehend anything they see on screen, so surrounding them with toys and other hands-on items like play-doh, finger paint, crayons etc., is a better option – But back then also, I have used TV as a babysitter for sonny from time to time, mostly for playing music and for showing him nursery rhymes on YouTube (What can I say, sometimes you just need some peace and quiet, the unsuspicious ”I-know-exactly-what-my-kid-is-doing” kind and not the “Oh-God-I-am-going-to-walk-into-some-disaster kind!).
However, experts do concede that some amount of screen time is okay for preschoolers and may even help them in enhancing their social and learning skills, provided the content is educational in nature and devoid of advertisements and other harmful content. But, as with everything else for kids this age, parental guidance is paramount and non-negotiable. And I could not agree more! Keeping tabs on kids during their designated screen time and ensuring good quality programs is important.
So, without further delay, I am listing down my take on the Best TV Shows For Preschoolers which we (I and sonny) have viewed in the past 3+ years and think are superb programs designed to enhance kids learning of new things. This list is in no particular order and of course, I am no expert on child psychology or early education, so please do use this list with caution and monitor your child’s TV viewing like a hawk 😉
- The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That (Disney Juniors) – From learning about Pandas and their diet of bamboos to bats using echolocation and then sonny’s beloved planets, this show is one hell of a fun ride to enjoy (even for adults!). Sonny absolutely loves it and just like Sally and Nick, has learned “pretend play” to the fullest and uses our laundry basket as “thingamajigger” a lot these days.
- Little Einsteins (Disney Juniors) – Besides sonny’s favorite rocket, the music in each episode of this show from the maestros like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and so on just etch itself into one’s mind. Sonny has a keen ear for music and loves listening to and remembering the tunes from this show. Once or twice, I have even caught him humming the tunes in near perfect pitch. This one is a must watch if your kid is a music lover.
- Teletubbies (DVD) – Sonny used to watch this when he was younger. For some crazy reason (unfathomable to adults), small children just love this show. But adults – beware, don’t you dare to watch it even if your kids beg you to, otherwise you will end up having a terrible headache! Though sonny doesn’t watch this show anymore (Thank God!), he still remembers the characters “Tinky-Winky”, “Dipsy”, “LaLa” and “Po” from the show and hums the title track from time to time.
- Pocoyo (YouTube) – Pocoyo is a lovable toddler and perhaps sonny’s first online friend. Sonny learned many new words from the show and started copying Pocoyo’s actions (which was and still is….aww……so adorable!). Sonny no longer watches this show, but he still has a couple of favorite Pocoyo toys. And he still calls Elephants as “Elle” sometimes 🙂
- Blue’s Clues (Nick Jr.) – I don’t like it (I think no adult does), but sonny absolutely loves Steve and his adorable puppy Blue as they go about solving three clues in each episode to find what Blue wants to do. For some unexplainable reason, Steve’s successor (in subsequent seasons after Steve quit the show) is not as enticing to the kids as he himself, go figure!
- Handy Manny (Disney Junior) – There was a time when a toy toolkit was sonny’s favorite play thing and Handy Manny his teacher. Under his apprenticeship, sonny learned using his plastic screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches etc. and spent many hours twisting and turning nuts and bolts (not only on his toolkit but on each and every other toy in his room). Back then we were not allowed to put batteries in his toys without sonny getting his turn with the real screwdriver.
- Garth and Bev (ZeeQ) – This is sonny’s current favorite show. The brother-sister duo solves a problem every day (for example how to stay dry in the rain, how to avoid butter from melting in hot weather etc.) and once they are successful, they are allowed to time travel to talk to the inventors who solved these questions in history (For example the people who invented rain coats, refrigerators etc.).
- Paw Petrol (Nick Junior) – Put together a show with puppies, fire trucks, construction equipment, helicopters, police cars and all such gizmos and which kid is not going to love that? Paw Petrol does just that and more. I am not a big fan, but when sonny gets up immediately after a nasty fall and says “I am okay!” copying one of the clumsy “accident prone” puppies instead of melting into tears or keeps chanting “Almost….almost there” whenever he is doing a physically exhausting activity, I know that this show is teaching him resilience if not anything else.
- Dora The Explorer/Go, Diego, Go (Disney Junior) – Though sonny has never watched Dora or Diego much, it was enough for him to pick up a few Spanish words like “Hola”, “Azure”, “Vamanos” etc. And then there’s my personal favorite (picked up from Sniper, the fox) “Oh, man!” in the face of any disappointment…… makes me smile every time.
- Mister Maker (Pogo) – Now that sonny is into arts and crafts, he likes watching Mister Maker churn out beautiful craft pieces from everyday things. And when we are working on some art project of our own, it’s always easier to take scissors away from sonny’s hands referring to Mister Maker’s pet phrase “Careful! Scissors are sharp!” than in any other way. And I love it when he says “Goopey Glue” 🙂
- Max and Ruby (Nick Junior) – This brother-sister duo’s everyday adventures are perfect for some quiet time. I love that Ruby, the elder of the two, is so well behaved when dealing with Max when he botches up Ruby’s hard work. Though I am quite sure sonny identifies more with Max and his impish ways, but I do hope that he will learn some of Ruby’s politeness and tolerance during the course of the show.
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (ZeeQ) – From learning to follow bath & bedtime rituals to sharing and helping, this show addresses many daily challenges faced by kids this age, in a fun way. The lack of pants on the boys bothers me ;), but I guess it’s something one can ignore considering the commendable way this show teaches social skills. Sonny has outgrown Daniel Tiger sometime back, but he sure has learned many good things from it.
- Jake and the Neverland Pirates (Disney Junior) – Remember my rant about this show at beginning of this year? Well, that was the time when sonny was into the show. He has moved on since then but it has taught sonny many things both pirate-y and also about team dynamics besides the obvious skill of handling coins and counting “gold doubloons”.
- Curious George (YouTube) – George is one lovable monkey. With his curious ways and the insatiable urge to learn new things, he is the perfect buddy for little kids. From copying George’s “Uh-huh” to trying to make a periscope using Pringles container, sonny has learned many interesting and useful things from George. I love this show because despite being non-interactive in nature unlike most of the other shows listed here, it strikes an amazing cord with the young ones and just opens up little kids’ inherent curiousness to new possibilities.
- Peppa Pig (YouTube) – I have many times talked about Muddy Puddles in my past blog posts. Sonny loves this pig family, their snorting, guffawing and all their adventures. And yes, part of his pancake fascination (which, by the way, is still on) has been fired up by daddy pig flipping pancakes in the show!
- Special Agent OSO (Disney Junior) – Special Agent OSO helps resolve some basic kid challenges in this age group like tying shoe laces, blowing one’s nose, pedaling a bike etc. It’s a good show to help kids learn these small, small everyday things which may seem like big hurdles at that age.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior) – One cannot forget the mouse who started it all. With sonny’s favorite characters like Minnie, Goofy and of course, Daisy 🙂 , this show is packed with nuggets of learning like counting, identification of shapes and letters and many such things. Sonny has outgrown this show, but at one point of time, it was the only show he used to watch.
- Team UmiZoomi (Disney Junior) – This tiny team holding Mighty Maths Powers is in sonny’s current watch list. Live characters, which are part of this show, have somehow increased its believability in sonny’s mind and he enjoys watching team UmiZoomi solving each crisis with interest.
- Bubble Guppies (Disney Junior) – This show is aired during lunch and I love when Mr. Grouper (or whatever his name is) says “What time is it?” and the guppies answer “It’s time for lunch”. I always switch it on during sonny’s lunch time and watch it with him while he pecks at his food.
- Peg + Cat (ZeeQ) – This is a maths show and the use of a maths workbook pattern in the background is just superb. The jokes between Peg and her cat always make me laugh out loud while sonny enjoys their adventures to the fullest. The use of contemporary kid-speak and the “freaking out” part is awesome. The title song stays in your mind for a long, long time.
- Word World (DVD) – This show teaching reading skills to preschoolers is one I cannot stop gushing about. It’s such a unique concept to stick together a few letters to form the noun they represent. Sonny just loves it when it’s time to “build a word” and absolutely enjoys watching that word “come alive” literally 🙂
- Super Why (DVD) – Super Why was perhaps sonny’s first exposure to a superhero. From giving interesting twists to classic tales to the amazing superpowers of the Team, this show has always piqued sonny’s interest, though it is aimed at slightly older kids who are learning to read words and sentences. I have seen the “comet going round and round the sun” episode so many times with sonny that I have put a temporary ban on this series at home for some time 😉
- Bite Sized Adventure of Sam Sandwich (Disney Junior) – This is a mini-series of 5 minutes duration each during which time Sam Sandwich and Salad Lad fight villains in the form of different junk food items. Sonny likes the superheroes while I like the fact that this series promotes healthy eating and discourages junk foods.
- Can You Teach My Alligator Manners? (Disney Junior) – Again, a mini-series of 5-minute duration each which promotes good manners in different situations like how to sneeze, how to behave during group play etc. This is a fun show to learn about good behavior and manners.
- Disney Silly Symphonies and Other Classics (YouTube) – When we get tired of all new age cartoons, we always love to go back to the classics once in a while. Be it “The Ugly Duckling”, “Lambert, The Sheepish Lion”, “Elmer, The Elephant” or “Ferdinand, The Bull” each story has amazing values for impressionable minds to imbibe without needing to “teach” anything.
- Barney and Friends (YouTube) – Though sonny has never watched a full episode of Barney, he likes copying the dance moves from the songs in the show.
- Sesame Street (YouTube) – Again, sonny has never really watched a full Sesame Street episode, but he loves Elmo and especially likes to dance to “Elmo’s got the moves” video! Also, there are a couple of live shows on YouTube that he enjoys watching occasionally. His love for Elmo has now translated well into his love for all audio e-books from Sesame Street, which is great 🙂 now that he is starting to identify individual words.
- Yo Gabba Gabba (YouTube) – Sonny doesn’t watch this show much but some of the songs in it are very catchy. The one about “Party in My Tummy” is just perfect for lunch and dinner times and helps make eating fun for my picky eater.
- Masha and The Bear (YouTube) – This is a Russian show (I have no idea which specific region) with a very spirited girl Masha and chronicles her many acts of mischief, targeted mostly at the bear who is the hapless suffering adult in the series (All parents will relate to The Bear!). We ran into Masha during an afternoon of undirected YouTube surfing and sonny was hooked. This is a very funny series which has both of us in splits every time we watch an episode. But a word of caution: This series is not really “educational” and may teach your kid one or two things about being naughty. But we watch it anyway, although very rarely these days, just for the humor factor and because I like seeing a girl deviating from stereotypical “good behavior” and being mischievous for a change.
- Tom & Jerry (Cartoon Network) – I avoided showing sonny Tom & Jerry almost until very recently because despite the fun factor, it’s kind of violent! Now that sonny is grown up enough (I hope!) to understand what actions are allowed and what are not, I do let him watch it with me occasionally (After all, all education and no play isn’t such a great idea). And he sure does seem to appreciate the humor in the show! (Of course for people of our generation, this show has as much nostalgic value as its fun quotient).
So there you have it – sonny vetted exhaustive viewing list (more or less) for little kids (Check out this Wikipedia link to learn more about these shows).
Although, it is premature for me to extol the virtues of TV viewing for preschoolers without knowing its long-term effects, but as I said in the beginning of this post, with nuclear families, it is a necessary evil and there is no escaping “The Screen” in our kids’ lives.Then again, when sonny says “thank you” or “please” instinctively (without ever being taught to) or stumps us with words like “galaxy”, “ni-hao” (Chinese “Hello”) etc. or correctly names complex shapes (for his age) like “trapezoid”, “hexagon”, “semi-circle” and so on, I cannot help but feel slightly less guilty about using screen time as my proxy/babysitter for one or two hours a day.
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