Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TV shows for toddlers from a parent who doesn't like TV

I'm not a big fan of TV in general. It's fair to say I greatly dislike most television programs especially reality TV. I get frustrated with commercials, especially during children's shows, and I believe America watches too much TV (and video games), which contribues to our obese population among other things... In our house we watch 20-30 minutes of shows per day, TOPS and most days there is no TV. I do not have the TV on unless we are watching it. I seriously don't even know if Owen would watch any TV if it wasn't for having these two kids so close together.

Research shows that we shouldn't watch TV for the hour before bedtime because it makes it a lot harder for them to fall asleep. There is research to support that "screens" before bed stimulates our brains and make it harder to "shut down." Great series of articles here about unplugging and the importance of it from the New York Times.

In our house we don't have cable TV, we have streaming Netflix connected to our television set via a Roku box. Check Netflix site because you can find several ways to connect without equipment you might already have. I know that not everyone can "live" without TV but we can and we do happily, especially since the invetion of MLB-TV, which is a channel my husband can get on the Roku. Matt likes to keep up with his beloved Atlanta Braves and prior to this year, there was no way to do this without having an expensive monthly rate PLUS the MLB Extra Innings package. Yearly total on that was around $1,400. Ridiculous. So our compromise was to have them "put our account on hold" during non-baseball months saving us $500. However, it seemed ludicrous to pay that much money to watch a little baseball since we literally don't watch anything else.

Blah blah, back to the kids. So when we had Harper we were in a prediciment. We live in a two story house and I needed 10 minutes to put the baby down several times a day where my 20 month old, Owen, wouldn't interrupt. It seemed the baby didn't really care for her nap routine being punctuated with a loud toddler banging around in her room. I tried having him play quietly in his room or reading books on his own, but he was just too young to understand "stay here while Mommy goes here..." He wasn't that interested in TV until after 24 months, so it was a little hairy at our house for awhile. I just needed 10 minutes alone with the baby... He would watch garbage truck videos on You Tube on my laptop for 7-10 minutes but then one day he ripped off the function keys on my laptop so that failed.
When he did have more attention span, he would sit and watch a 20 minute video (often while peeing his pants, read previous post). Enter Roku's intervention. I could sit him in front of an appropriate show on Netflix with NO commercials and run upstairs to get the baby down and I didn't have to worry about him squirming around, going outside by himself, etc etc. NOt all kids would go for this. Honestly it's not as big of a deal anymore, Owen (40 months) will play by himself in his room or even play in our backyard safely while I put Harper down, it was just when she was tiny and he was still a baby too.

Recommended Shows:
Closer to 2 years old:

Kipper- This is my favorite show for parents who hate TV and don't really want their kids watching much of it. Brittish dog, Kipper, and his friends are so RIGHT on target for this age. Owen still loves it. The graphics are simple, the language clear and understandable, despite the accents and--Bonus--it's SUPER funny for kids. It's very simple and SHORT stories. One segment is about 10 minutes long. Pig, Arnold, Tiger and Kipper are very kind to one another and overall it is a huge hit. Owen watched the same episode a lot and I would hear him downstairs laughing hysterically. This show helped Owen to learn about irony, jokes, and humor in general. A+

Max & Ruby: Another simple show that features two sibling bunnies.. Ruby, the older bunny sister often "includess" her younger brother, Max, in games with her bunny friends. A lot of the plot surrounds Ruby's adventures while Max sabatoges her efforts in a way only a toddler brother can. We sometimes see Grandma bunny but strangely enough there are no parent bunnies around in any of the segments. It focus truly on Max & Ruby's relationship. Based on books by Rosemary Wells.

Closer to 3 years:

Busytown Mysteries:
This is based on Richard Scarry's books about an imaginary place, Busy Town. Huckly, Lowley, Pig Will and Pig Won't are the main animal characters. They solve mysteries during this show and it has prompted Owen to ask "what, when, where, why and how," as those words are part of the theme song. He now LOVES to discover a mystery and attempt to solve it. He adores these characters and it goes along with the four books we have with the same characters. You probably read these books as a kid, they've been around FOREVER!

Backyardigans: I'm lukewarm on this one but it's pretty cute. The animals sing and dance drawing from difference musical genres. Ex: One show will be set to all Tango music, the next all Country, etc etc. I really like the varous musical themes and the producers get clever with that. They also "imagine" things in their backyards and have multi-cultural animas and voices. Enough with the caucasian animated voices in other programs! It's a very PC from that standpoint. The animals have great pretend adventures and then at the end return to their backyard and have a snack at home.

Wonder Pets: Personally, Matt and I find the music annoying and the stories and characters sorta lame, but Owen likes it. Slightly more complex plot than the other shows. A few houspets team up: a guinea pig, a turtle and a duckling. They ride in their magical boat outside their home and "save the day" using "teamwork" and often rescue another pet or situation. The duck talks in baby talk, which I don't like. It's not bad, really, but not my favorite show.

Dora the Explorer: I'd say this is best suited for 4+ years. Latina Dora and her monkey friend, "Boots" go on adventures using a map and other magical elements to complete their journey. It incorporates minimal Spanish and requests the children to call out to help dora, paddle across the mighty river, sled down a mountain, etc. etc. Owen doesn't participate when Dora requests his help so I figure he's not that into it. There is one episode I stumbled upon that he and I both like, it has trucks, so he's in heaven. Diego is the same show with a male lead except they are rescuing rare or endangered animals in need across the globe and there might actually be some educational value to it.

Sesame Street: Oldie but gooide. Owen doesn't like it but I assume as he gets older he might. I'm not really keen on all the new animated parts of the show and it's LOOOOOONNNGGG so we've only watched it once or twice.

Shows I don't like:

Thomas the Train: I give this show a C-. Thomas the Train and friends are self-proclaimed "cheeky." I found out this means they are jerks. At first I thought their use of cheeky would mean mischievous like Curious George but some of the themes include, mean, unkind, vengeful and jealous behavior amougst all the trains. They usual resolve the plot at the end and Thomas is sorry that he was rude to Diesel 10, etc. but I still don't like it. I tried to be reasonable about this but the more I watched it with Owen the more I grew to hate it. We don't watch it anymore. Honestly the show could be so great but they based it too closely on a book written back when people didn't consider that children were as smart as they are. They didn't realize using terminology like "fat controller" or "stupid and hate" would be objectionable. I just want my children to have nice manners and the trains on this show absolutely DO NOT have good manners.

More book reviews to come and much much more. If you don't own any Richard Scarry books, time to get some!!

What shows do you like?

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