Are you thinking I’m a little crazy right now?
Like, wow! Encouraging our kids to watch the dreaded television? You are one bad momma!
But here’s the deal. From a real moms perspective, television is okay once in a while. And I know that there are lots of parents – including Kate who also writes here – who choose to not have television in their homes, or at least not expose their children to it. That’s just not how I choose to live my life. I’m a firm believer that most things are fine, in moderation.
So, while I’m not suggesting that you sit your kiddos in front of the television to watch 3 shows a day (or even 3 a week necessarily), I do think there are some valuable Ã¢â‚¬â€ and extremely educational shows Ã¢â‚¬â€ available on the telly. Here’s my top picks.
Geared toward youngsters ages 3Ã¢â‚¬â€œ6, Super Why! encourages early literacy and language skills, as well as problem solving. Hosted by a team of three animated children, one pig, and a dog, this show focuses on solving a preschool-relateable problem that one character is having. Each interactive episode is 24-minutes long and takes place in Storybrook Village, a 3-D world hidden behind the shelves of a children’s library.
Counting and phonetical work is all part of the story and, truthfully, my nearly two-year-old loves this show. In fact, it’s one of the only shows I allow her to watch each day. A few months ago, I noticed that she was already interacting with the characters by mimicking their movements when they danced as well as answering questions like, “what sound does the ‘f’ make?” To say I was impressed was an understatement. You can learn more about Super Why! at the PBS website.
Another big hit in our house, Dinosaur Train is awesome from several points of view. Number one, it teaches kids that being different is okay and it also teaches them about the time period of the dinosaurs, which is not always discussed in school anymore. A Jim Henson production, Dinosaur Train focuses on a family of pteranodons dinosaurs that adopted a T-Rex hatchling when he was still in his egg.
Buddy (the T-Rex) has lots of hypotheses that are tested through voyages aboard the Dinosaur Train, which takes the family to different prehistoric periods. Each of the two, 11-minute episodes are proceeded by a quick lesson from renowned paleontologist, Dr. Scott Sampson.
While the show is meant to encourage basic scientific thinking skills through life science, natural history, and paleontology, I feel like the show brings so much more to the table. A sense of family togetherness and acceptance goes a long way in this very judgmental (and not always together) world we live in. Click to learn more about Dinosaur Train.
Around since my little brother and sister were toddlers (so we’re now talking 14+ years), Arthur is focused on kids a little bit older, between the ages of 4Ã¢â‚¬â€œ8. The primary goal of this show is to encourage a love of reading and writing, as well as foster an understanding of positive social skills.
Based on a book series, the show follows an aardvark named Arthur, who is eight-years-old, as well as his group of friends and their daily interactions. From the real-life situations (such as how to deal with the birth of a new sibling and how to handle bullies at school), you wouldn’t know that Arthur is a comedic animated series.
The series itself is supported through an educational outreach program which distributes supporting materials to librarians, teachers, community centers, and families. Learn more about Arthur through the PBS Parents website.
Now, let me ask, are you shocked that Sesame Street didn’t make the list? I knew you would be. But here’s why it didn’t. For the most part, parents in general support the broad reach of Sesame Street and its mission in educating children. The programs I listed above each have a more niche focus and, in fact, are shorter in terms of air time (a half-hour vs. a full hour). My own daughter knows and loves Sesame Street, but at this point, I’m a bigger fan of the Sesame Street podcasts which focus on just one number or letter and only for a 6-minute segment; these podcasts are available for free on iTunes.
Photo courtesy of PBS