By Alicia of alburnet.wordpress.com
Now, before I start writing this, I’ve got to make a confession. I watch television with my two and a half year old daughter. For some people, this may not seem like much of a confession. However, I must note that according to the experts, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids under two aren’t supposed to be watching TV. The AAP encourages doctors to ward parents away from allowing television in the house, warning that “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” They also advocate creating screen-free zones of the house, getting rid of televisions, computers, and video games in kid bedrooms.
Petals has exactly two games on my iPhone (ABC Flash Cards and a coloring book) so the videogames aren’t much of a problem. But, for reasons, the “No TV under 2” rule was quickly broken. The Kid has known Elmo’s name since she could talk and before she began requesting shows by name, she and I had watched Baby Signing Time videos and scoured YouTube for videos of cute puppies and baby animals. And admittedly breaking all the rules of good parenting, I’ve been regularly watching (and talking about) TV with my kid. For example, Dora has taught my kid how to beg for help in Spanish, with rather hilarious results. But, the repetitive nature – say backpack, say backpack – drives me up a wall. And Dora isn’t the only annoying show out there. There are a host of other shows she loves that irk my nerves. If she tries to force me to watch the poorly written Lego Girls movie one more time, I may scream. Dinosaur Train drives me bonkers, I cannot with that show. And even though he’s oh-so-special, Special Agent Oso’s tendency to never listen to instructions really irks me.
So when Dora left Netflix, I was only too happy to find other shows to replace it – shows that she and I can watch, and enjoy, together. Here are our top four:
1. My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic
What it is: This show is one that I actually enjoy and that I would probably watch without her! Basically, the show centers around the exploits of one pony who is tasked with figuring out the most powerful magic of all – the power of friendship. It sounds hokie, I know. But hear me out. The show focuses on six ponies – though it occasionally dips into the lives of secondary characters – and deals with all the issues that maintaining a friendship entails and just how rewarding being a true friend can be.
Why I like it: There are many questions explored in the series that Petals and I actually come back to in real life situations. What do you do when a friend annoys you? Or lets you down? How do you stand up for your beliefs in the face of great adversity? And, they’re all girls! AND, they’re all different TYPES of girls. AND AND AND despite the pastel colors and the female main characters, there is no reason why any guy-child couldn’t identify with any of the ponies. And on top of all this, the show is genuinely funny and well-written.
2. Sesame Street
What it is: umm…classic! There are muppets, there are humans, there are even muppet humans. Can’t be beat.
Why I like it: Sesame Street manages to take big issues and bring them down to a kid’s level. My favorite episode has to be the one in which one of the muppets, Baby Bear, finds himself having to deal with gendered societal expectations and discovering that it was way more fun to be himself than to be worried about whether or not what he was doing was girlie. The show has dealt with death, adoption, making new friends and saying good bye to old ones. Besides that, numbers, letters, shapes, and color recognition are all top priority in the programming. Also. It’s funny! Those muppets make some pretty snide comments, occasionally, and also allude to grown up stuff giving me something to laugh at (I don’t think she thought that the Pox News or the Law and Order: Special Letters Unit parodies were funny, but I did) while my child enjoys the slapstick humor.
3. Super Why
What it is: Super Wyatt and his team of friends, Alpha Pig, Princess Pea (A Black – and possibly biracial – Princess!) and Red Riding Hood, use “the power to read” to solve problems, learn morals, and improve the outcomes of traditional storybooks.
Why I like it: Though occasionally Red Riding Hood’s complete cluelessness annoys me (Really, Red, you can’t figure out why Grandma doesn’t want your muddy boots in the kitchen? You tried it?!), in general, the message of the show, that having the power to read can help kids find the answers they seek in old stories, is a good one. And the idea that a person can change a Big Bad Wolf into a Big Good Wolf with the stroke of the pen has encouraged my child to be more critical of the books she reads – and has given her an interest in figuring out just how those letters work. Granted, she has quoted the show, retorting that trying to potty or going to bed “isn’t in her story” occasionally…
4. Sid the Science Kid
What it is: Sid has lots of questions – and he and his friends hit answer those questions by conducting research.
Why I like it: I have taught way too many kids who would rather have an answer handed to them than to figure things out for themselves, so I really appreciate a show in which the main character not only has a stellar imagination (every episode, Sid discusses his ideas for a fantastical invention) but who also embraces research, observation, questioning, and experimentation to find answers to questions he has. What is a seed? How do birds fly? Where does rain go? Also – Sid’s friends are obviously multicultural, and Sid himself is biracial. Of course, both of his parents are orange…but Sid’s mom is definitely a black woman with locs, and his dad – with slightly lighter orange skin – is more than likely White. Or perhaps I’m reading it that way because this is what my family looks like. Whatever racial makeup Sid’s parents are supposed to be (or not be) they don’t “match”, but they do go together perfectly.
Well, I should note that there was at least one study by the University of London asserts that television watching, especially educational television watching, won’t have too many horrible side effects. This is good thing – because other than reading, watching television is my second favorite hobby. And perhaps, using television shows like My Little Ponies and Sesame Street to engage and share experiences with my daughter may keep her thinking about television instead of being a passive consumer.