Road One: I watch TV and I review it for TwoCentsTV.com. That’s what I do.
Road Two: I spend time with my kids who are 3 and 1. That’s what I do.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” and I took both.
Of course my kids watch TV. I don’t see how a TV critic could get away with his kids not watching TV. My wife and I had discussions about screen time for our kids, and we really do stick to the plan more than not.
It’s simple – we don’t use TV as a babysitter. If we’re here – we’re here – games, puzzles, trucks, dolls, coloring, books, books, and more books – not turning on the TV just to keep them occupied so we can check our phones and emails. I’ve already talked about how I avoid the siren call of the phone while with my kids.
Our kids get minimal screen time. They watch 1 show (most are 22 minutes long) in the morning while I shower and get ready for work, while my wife is already busy out on the farm. And Friday night is ‘movie night’. That’s really the deal at our home.
We also discussed that we wanted the shows to be ‘worthy’ of spending the little time they watch. We didn’t want garbage. No Spongebob. Pretty much nothing on Cartoon Network. H has really fallen in love with a few shows and I’m going to do what I do – review them for you. If you have toddlers or other young children in the house, hopefully the following blurbs about some of H’s favorites can be of use.
Mighty Machines (Stream on Netflix)
This show is amazing for kids who love machines (trucks, race cars, boats, planes, fire trucks, etc).
Remember when Mr. Rogers would use “Picture Picture” to show us a movie about how crayons were made, or the workings of a factory? That’s what Mighty Machines does. BUT they add in a dubbed over track so the vehicles ‘talk’ to the kids.
Every episode is “Hey kids, I’m (insert corny name for whatever vehicle)”. It’s Canadian and made in the mid-1990s and full of “eh”s. They even have songs in a lot of them – one of my favorites is the song the bulldozer at the dump sings – “I roll up, I roll down. I squash the garbage to the ground. Woah ya! That’s me!”
H loves the episode when the construction vehicles (excavators, bulldozers, etc) go to “school” and the one that shows how a big rig is made. There are 39 total episodes (stopped making them in 2008) and we’ve seen them all – many times. They still hold his attention and he really does learn while he’s watching, and we don’t mind watching with him – they keep us interested too.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (Stream on PBS Kids and Amazon Prime)
Speaking of Mr. Rogers – remember the tiger that lived in the clock? That’s Daniel. He’s now a cartoon and has his own set of friends and new ‘neighbors’ in the ‘hood. He wears a red sweater and puts on his sneakers at the beginning of every episode.
King Friday is still there (with his younger son Prince Wednesday). Lady Elaine is still there (but now she’s nice, she’s in a multiracial family married to Music Man Stan, and they have a daughter Miss Elaina). Henrietta Pussycat has a daughter – Katerina and X the Owl has a nephew – O the Owl. Of course, Trolley is still making it all happen around the neighborhood.
Every episode is full of songs (keeps my 1-year-old occupied too), familiar places, make-believe, and of course, a lesson.
Daniel was amazing at helping us prep H for the Big Brother role he’d have when CJ showed up – Daniel went through the same thing, welcoming Baby Margaret. CJ even had a gift ready for H when he visited the hospital to meet her – a Daniel Tiger stuffed animal. Brushing teeth, visiting the doctor, Mom has has a cold, using the potty and more – Daniel helps with it all. “When you have to go potty stop – and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.” Yes, I sing it to myself – often not even in H’s company.
The show is good. I enjoy watching it with H and look forward to sharing the original Mr. Rogers with him when he gets a little older. There are a lot of apps available to parents to play the lesson songs on command, tons of toys, coloring books, stuffed animals, clothing, etc etc etc. I have to admit, I gave in and bought the O-the owl Tree House playset.
Sesame Street (Stream on HBO GO and PBS Kids)
I always think of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers in the same thought – they were my childhood on the couch. I learned so much from these shows.
While Mr. Rogers is gone and Daniel Tiger has taken the torch, Sesame Street continues on – now in its 47th season (yes older than I am). Sesame moved to HBO recently (with episodes to air on PBS 9 months after premiering on HBO) and with that – they made it more ‘modern’. They have a revamped theme song, ‘cooler’ set and more pre-taped style ‘bits’ – yes, they just did an Orange is the New Black skit (Orange is the new Snack).
Elmo is there – and very much the centerpiece of the show. H liked him when he was little, but gets easily bored while watching the Street now. CJ never seems to get into it all that much.
Something is different on the Street – I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s never one of the first shows we go to.
Paw Patrol (Stream on NickJr)
I always loved Superhero shows or shows where heroes teamed up and had all different styles of powers – Voltron style. Paw Patrol features a young man named Ryder who has 6 puppies in a state-of-the-art HQ and they all have their own personalities. Rubble – the construction bulldog who drives a bulldozer. Chase – the German Shepard police pup. Marshall – the firefighting pup, he’s a Dalmatian of course….
The adventures have the pups saving parades, soccer games, dream-induced dinosaurs, rock concerts and a lot more. H is always excited to see which “new one” will pop up on NickJr each week.
The lessons aren’t as ‘strong’ as they are in Daniel Tiger, but you learn about teamwork, imagination, being yourself with Paw Patrol.
My biggest question is where does Ryder get all this money to build all these vehicles, jetpacks, buses, etc etc etc? My guess is that it’s from all the merchandising – you can’t go anywhere without the pups being on something.
What else do we watch? From time to time – Blaze and Monster Machines (Nick Jr.), Doc McStuffins (Disney Jr.), Spot the Dog (YouTube), Little Einsteins (Netflix, Disney Jr.), Clifford (Netflix), Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Jr.), Charlie & Lola (YouTube), Thomas the Tank Engine (PBS Kids), Magic School Bus (Netflix) and The Cat in the Hat (Netflix).
What have we tried and don’t watch? Blue’s Clues! I’m shocked too. My nieces grew up watching this (every Christmas had a notebook or thinking chair). The show is cute. You learn. They include some sign language! The theme of the show is ‘you can do anything you want to do’. That’s where our issue comes in – H takes it to heart. If we ask him to do something, he’ll say “no, I’m going to do anything that I want to do”. Maybe when I can better explain to him the overall meaning of that sentiment, we’ll give Steve and Joe and their friend Blue another try…
What shows are we missing out on? Let me know in the comments below.
[Author’s Note]: I started writing this piece days ago. Today, as I sat down (after a day full of work in the sun) to type up the rest, I found out about the passing of TV’s Batman – Adam West, and changed the title.
It seems that writing about kids’ shows on this day has a little bit more meaning. As a kid home from school (sick or summer) I loved watching the re-runs of the original Batman TV show with West. One of my favorite scenes of West in that costume is from the movie they did – where he’s running around a dock with a giant bomb over his head trying to find a safe place to throw it. Still makes me laugh.
When H gets older and more into superheroes, I’ll show him the original Batman series and let him enjoy the campiness of West’s Batman. We all deserve a Batman like that to balance out Mr. Bale and company.