Now, as part 3 in the “Toxic Television” series, I’m covering the shows we love. You’ll see there are many more great shows than there are toxic shows, so that’s reassuring in the grand scheme of things, for sure!
These are shows that I feel consistently showcase the values and lessons that we do want to encourage in our home. Many of them model the behavior we want to see and we have learned to look for these shows and use them as tools, not as babysitters or teachers. We share the knowledge to teach him lessons and to reinforce ideas we want him to understand. Here are our Top 21 awesome shows for the moment.
1- The WotWots
Out of the Weta Workshop in New Zealand, (anyone familiar with the LOTR film legacy should know who this company is) the WotWots are two alien twins, Dotty and Spotty. They fly around in a Steampunk spaceship run on steam and they learn about animals and the Earth. They land their ship in a giant zoo in New Zealand and discover animals by listening for their sounds, seeing parts of them and going back to their ship to look up what they are called and learn all about them on their ship’s computer. This show teaches SO MUCH! It teaches names of animals and animal parts, there is drawing, there is smoothy making, there is sister and brother cooperation, there is fixing broken things, compromise, consequences and it’s all targeted to the 4 years and UNDER age range, so it’s amazingly educational in its simplicity. It can be especially beneficial if you actually watch it actively with your child, helping them sound out the names of animals and reinforcing what the aliens learn alongside them in the real world. The worst thing about this show has been recently fixed- it used to not be available in the US, but has since been released on Netflix AND Hulu+! We are very happy here! Although- merchandise costs a FORTUNE because no one sells it in the US, so that’s a HUGE bummer.
2- Baby First TV
ANYthing on this channel is awesome. Granted, some of it is really annoying… but it’s great as far as learning and positive influence. In fact, I’d be so confident to say that there isn’t a single thing on this channel that I have questioned for attitude, behavior or lessons of any kind since we discovered it. Basic skills, language/motor and social are explored through different means on this cable channel and each is age appropriate for birth right up through about 5 years. It’s all sweet, loving, kind, positive thoughts. There’s story time, baby exercise circle time, learning colors, shapes, numbers, there’s songs and music time with instruments and telling time with toy clocks, calming down time with their nighttime shows that are just sand painting and digital mobiles with soft music. Many of these shows are on Netflix, as well as Hulu+ and we watch them together to get the most out of the lessons they offer. Our favorites- The Notekins (all about music), Rainbow Horse (all about colors), Color Crew (another about colors), Shushyby Baby (nighttime show with gentle music and fun, soft characters who sing), VocabuLarry (a talking parrot, all about language) and Mio Mao (clay kitties who explore their world).
3- Peppa Pig
A great show from the UK, Peppa is a little pig in a family of pigs who live in England. Her Daddy pig works as an architect and her Mommy pig is a party coordinator and works from home. Her grandparents tend a beautiful vegetable garden and have a boat that they take out to sea. Peppa and her brother George love princesses and dinosaurs and they love school and their teacher, Miss Gazelle, who is.. you guessed it.. a gazelle. She has a neighbor named Wendy Wolf and her house is made of bricks. The show is very sweet, teaches great lessons about new things, celebrating one another’s differences, teaches about the importance of taking turns and following directions and being kind to one another. It’s also very soft animation and not too loud or crazy, so it’s a great quiet time show.
4- The Wonder Pets
This show can drive the most patient parent insane with its constant, monotonous songs and that darn bird with the speech impediment, but really, I can’t deny that it’s awesome. They are kind, inventive, they sing, they save animals and they teach kids about team work. There are no bad attitudes, no meanness, just a challenge that they work together to overcome with songs and good decisions. Also, they eat celery as a treat after each mission, so celery is now awesome in my house. Can’t go wrong with that! A potential con to this show- one of the three main characters has what I call a “baby talk” speech impediment (it probably has a more technical name, but I’m not a speech pathologist). He “tawks wike dis an it cwood be weaweey annoying if that habit is picked up. So as always, it’s up to you. This show also has an issue with a lack of merchandise, but it’s because it is a pretty old show. Usually if you can find toys and games related to these characters, they are on Ebay for a considerable amount of money.
5- The Backyardigans
Another parental nightmare, this show has some annoying qualities and absolutely zero cons to encourage you to turn it off. Their songs are repetitive, sometimes enough to drive you nuts, but the lessons include kindness, sharing, problem solving, making friends, imaginative play and team work. They also listen to their moms and go in for snack time which is usually some healthy treat of some kind that they share together. Aside from the songs being slightly annoying, I can’t find anything wrong with this one.
6- Yo Gaba Gaba
Okay, I LOVE this show. I mean, love, love, love this show. I could, and have, watched this show even when the kids are asleep. It’s fun, bizarre, creative, musical and is packed full from one end to the other with excellent lessons. Each episode has a handful of different lessons, all in a theme. Some are related to family, to sharing, food, exercise, sports, good listening, safety, team work, playing with friends… too many to name. Each lesson is pared with excellent songs provided by some great bands and guest singers, with visual cues for children of all ages so each developmental group can get something positive out of the story. Amazing guest stars facilitating learning using the goth, punk, mod and various other counter culture personalities really can’t go wrong in my opinion. And seriously… Mark Mothersbaugh. In the show. Daily. Enough said. Okay, one more thing- they have a live stage show that I am DYING to take the kids to, I’m really not sure if I want to go more for them or for me and I’m totally okay with that.
7- Special Agent Oso
AWESOME show. Teaches great lessons, kids are nice, polite, helpful and it focuses on both solving puzzles and problems and teamwork, but also following directions and doing what you are told. There are consequences when directions aren’t followed and once the lesson is learned, the directions are followed and the situation turns out just right. It’s a great show to teach kids the value of paying attention, following directions, working things out, asking for help and solving problems. The BEST part about this show- in almost every other show when a character does something they weren’t supposed to do, it’s because they were being actively defiant and deliberately disobeying. Oso simply forgets what to do and does the wrong thing, so there’s no modeling bad behavior issues here. You STILL get the lesson of following directions and doing what you’re told, paying attention and following through, but without the nastiness that most other shows give you in order to get to the lesson. It’s a really creative way to accomplish that goal and I totally appreciate it.
8- Thomas & Friends
This is an old standard full of thousands of items you can purchase to create Sodore in your very own home and that’s great because what child doesn’t go through a train obsession at some point in their toddler years? Great lessons on team work, consequences, it’s relatively calm with a catchy tune and a consistent meter of calmness throughout, so it makes a great calm-down show. Meaning, your child won’t likely start jumping off bookshelves or hitting people with sticks because of something they saw in this show and its overall predictability makes it a reliable choice for quiet time TV. Downsides; Some of the trains are mean, have mean faces and say mean things that could be repeated out of context. Also, some trains misbehave and do the wrong thing on purpose or are just kind of bullyish, but the lesson is always pretty clearly identified. You be the judge on that with the development of your toddler. When Liam was really into Thomas, he wasn’t even to the point where he recognized the bad behavior was there because it’s all through dialogue that was a bit too mature for him. All he saw was trains with faces and that was awesome. Now that he is almost 4, he really doesn’t watch it much, but I’m more guarded of certain episodes because of the bully trains and the bad attitudes in some of them.
Footnote- There is a HUGE difference between the original Thomas the Tank Engine and the new Thomas and Friends shows. The original show is based in the UK and is done with real, model trains with a narrator. The new show, has animated trains and they have their own voices, rather than a narrator speaking for them. It does make a difference, because the attitude and bad behavior is much clearer when it’s their own voices. As he got older, I liked this show less and less- (I know, I am the only parent on the planet who doesn’t like it) The show is actually full of disobeying “adult” trains, getting into trouble because poor choices were made, bullying and meanness. There are plenty of good points, but for super conscientious parents, you may want to take another look at it before you let go and have them watch it anytime they want to.
Another great train show with a tremendous merchandise line to follow it. Chuggington teaches team work, being humble, honoring your commitments, following through and following directions, value of friendship and exploring the world. Some potential issues; some of the trains have a little attitude, they misbehave and don’t follow orders and it gets them into trouble. As long as the child watching understands that the misbehaving is the reason they got into trouble, it’s great but probably not a show to watch alone.
10- Sophia the First
Mostly sweet, sometimes annoying, overall very good. Social lessons and importance of family, forgiveness and team work are a common theme, as well as accepting help and learning it’s okay to be wrong as long as you do the right thing in the end. There is a little attitude from time to time because Sophia’s step-sister is kind of a jerk, but it’s not too bad and lessons always come with the bad behavior that are simple and easy to understand. An all around good show, but younger toddlers will probably get really bored and could model bad attitudes. Liam liked her and he thought the songs were fun, but it really wasn’t consistently entertaining enough to hold his attention throughout the whole show until very recently. So this one might be better for older kids, pre-school/4-6 years’ish.
11- Doc McStuffins
REALLY cute show- again, nothing but sweetness, no attitude, no darkness, not a single, negative thing that I can think of. Well, except that it’s pretty boring to a young toddler, so wait on this one till the littles are closer to 3 and above. Oh, one thing- the anti-vax crowd REALLY doesn’t like the episode where Doc sees her own doctor and gets a shot. It does normalize the issue of vaccinations and makes it okay. If your’e an anti-vax family, it can create questions because in the show they talk about how a shot is okay, just a pinch and it keeps you healthy and you NEED it to stay well. Some of the moms who are against vaccinations have stated they have had to have conversations with their children about how they will be healthy and well even if they don’t go get a shot. It created fear in anti-vax families by basically saying, without vaccinations, you can get sick and die. I personally didn’t think it was all that bad, and we don’t have an issue with those things anyway, but I read all about it on several message boards, as well as on Facebook the day after it aired, so you be the judge on that.
12- Sid the Science Kid
I love Sid. He’s adorable and his show is intelligent but not so much that a younger toddler can’t enjoy it. Liam loves Sid and even though he’s a little too young for many of the lessons, he still loves it and sings Sid’s little songs with him. Some things to consider- Sids parents are both working and he goes to a preschool all day, then gets picked up by his grandma. This showcases an alternative family lifestyle that, while is very common, some more conservative families don’t appreciate. Just keep that in mind if you’re not into that, this may not be the show for you. Personally, I think Sid is awesome. Also- Sid always eats breakfast in EVERY episode. This is great for littles like mine, who sometimes reject food. When Sid is eating, Liam wants to eat, too.
13- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
I am a HUGE fan of shows that link back to older shows or other ideas and this one is awesome because it ties directly into my generation’s Mr Roger’s Neighborhood. Remember when Trolley would go to the Land of Make-Believe and visit a shy little kitty in a tree? Daniel Tiger of the new show, is THAT Daniel Tiger’s son. This show is another fantastic one with great lessons, cute songs, easy to digest lessons by even very young toddlers and is a calm, consistent show with no bad attitudes and no scary danger. A great choice with nothing dangerous, inappropriate or wrong that I could find.
14- Tayo The Little Bus
Tayo is a cartoon from South Korea featuring a little blue bus who is learning how to be a big, passenger bus. At first, he is in training to do all the “big bus” duties and as he goes along, he makes mistakes, learns from them and with the help of his friends and his teachers, he always ends up happy at the end. Eventually, he takes his big test and becomes a passenger bus, but still makes mistakes and learns lots of great lessons. Tayo’s big lessons are similar to Chuggington and the two shows have strinkingly common themes. The biggest one, is that friends are always with you no matter what and if you have a problem, try your best, but don’t be afraid to TELL someone so you can get help, instead of trying to do the impossible on your own. Tayo is very sweet but he does, at times, put himself into dangerous situations. He forgets to follow the rules and he disregards traffic laws or he forgets his duties. This puts him and others in harm’s way as he darts through traffic, races other cars, gets distracted and rolls through stoplights, but all of these issues are addressed with VERY CLEAR consequences. The potential issue with Tayo is, as he misbehaves, the other cars and busses on the road sometimes yell at him and make angry faces, so it’s not all perfect, all the time. Also, the song is extremely catchy and Liam sings it at the top of his lungs aaaaaaaallllllll day.
Another South Korean toddler show, Pororo is a sweet little penguin who has some great friends. They play together and learn lessons, make mistakes and discover new things. This show teaches great lessons about teamwork, compassion, overcoming fears, solving problems and being kind to everyone. The most consistent lesson is about kindness and being understanding of friends and being there for them when they need a hand. There is some bad attitude, sometimes a friend is being selfish and a fight occurs, but it’s typically the point of the show and the resolution is through cooperation and kindness.
This is an awesome show from the UK. The Waybulloos are small animal-like creatures who are peaceful, loving, playful and inquisitive. They live in a beautiful, lush forest and they practice an art they call “yogo” similar to yoga. They solve problems, learn to work together, share, play and be at peace with those around them. This is one of my favorite early morning shows, we play it and do the poses together while talking about what lessons they Waybulloo are learning that day. It’s a calm, kind and soft show with peaceful music and an overall feeling of being relaxed. Perfect for just waking or to calm down before nap time.
17- In the Night Garden
This show, yet another out of the UK, written and produced by the same husband/wife team that created Teletubbies 20 years ago. What is so magical about this show is how so much learning and understanding can be expressed and retained with so little dialogue. The show was written by people who understand the child’s developing mind and you can guarantee that each situation that occurs and every sound that happens is for a reason, specifically targeted to attract and mentally stimulate a child of toddler age. Liam began actively watching the show when he was about 5 months old and it would hold his attention for most of each episode. This was unheard of and was the only show he would watch from start to finish until about a year ago. The show follows a little, blue guy with a red blankie who takes a boat ride to a magical garden in the night. There, he sees many friends, all different shapes and sizes and they play together. At the end of the show, everyone goes to bed and you see each character going to sleep, all tucked in their beds and closing their eyes. This was my go-to pre-naptime/calm down show for a great, long while. It’s very sweet, never a bad trait to be picked up, only sweetness, kindness, kisses, hugs and love. Amazing show and I love it. Unfortunately, it’s only available on YouTube here in the States. It did enjoy a short stint on The Hub network, but it didn’t last long. Because of this, again, it’s VERY hard to find merchandise for it and when you do, it’s in the UK and is insanely expensive, not to mention shipping costs… Oh, there IS also a stage show for this one, too- but only in the UK.
18- Guess With Jess
Okay so obviously, we really love UK shows. This one is another fantastic show produced by CBeebies, the children’s BBC network, also the home of the last two shows we discussed. Jess is a cat who, originally, was from the show Postman Pat. He got his own gig with this awesome show about exploring the world around you by “guessing, testing, find a way”. He searches through each episode for “THE QUESTION” to explore and answer and once he finds the question, he sings a little song and begins exploring to find the answer. No attitude, no darkness, no meanness or fighting, it’s just a great learning show with absolutely nothing wrong with it.
19- The Hive
Currently being featured on Disney Jr, but originally a show that aired in the UK, (again, I know) this show is about a family of bees and focuses primarily upon the life and struggles of Buzz Bee, a young, school age bee who learns some great lessons through each episode. He has an older sister and a baby brother and two loving parent bees and they all live in a beautiful hive community with a kind and benevolent queen who visits them from time to time. This show teaches compassion, kindness, taking turns, being patient, working with others and accepting circumstances gracefully. There is a little attitude and whining in this show from time to time, but in context and with conversation, it’s okay because it is very minimal. I also think as my kids get older, it’s easier to handle this because we can actively talk about how Buzz Bee’s attitude and behavior was not appropriate. The bright colors and large eyes of the bees make it particularly interesting to very small children. We love this show and Liam is able to actually absorb the lessons it’s teaching. Great for ages 2-4, and beyond.
20- Jake and the Neverland Pirates
I should first mention here, that I am biased toward anything that involves Neverland and/or pirates, so this was a clear match in my book from the beginning. A great show on Disney Jr, Jake and the Neverland Pirates packs a punch and is chock full of great stuff. Jake is a pirate kid who, with his friends Izzy and Cubby, protect the Island of Neverland for Peter Pan when he is away on the Main Land. The show takes place primarily on the ocean, on their ship, Buckey- who is alive and has feelings and can transform into all sorts of awesomeness, Skull Rock and Pirate Island. They occasionally go to Neverland, but we’ve never seen fairies, nor the Lost Boys. They solve problems, evade Captain Hook and save the day while gathering gold doubloons for their pirate treasure chest. The show teaches team work, friendship, problem solving, turn taking, patience and some basic lessons in shapes, numbers, letters and all is done while talking to the audience, Jakes “pirate crew” for help, so kids really feel part of the experience and talk directly to him to help him out. This show allows pirates to be introduced to young children in a way that is not scary or with messages that have to be overlooked in order to enjoy it. There is also a pirate band, “Sharkey & Bones”, and they play pirate rock. You can buy these CD’s and even music videos! They’re catchy tunes and are just silly, good fun. One of the best parts, is that because it’s a Disney show, there is a TON of merchandise for it, so there is no shortage of play sets and accessories you can get for your child to go with his or her favorite characters.
21. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Learning show with the “Fab 5″ and other, supporting characters, featured on Disney Jr and the Disney Channel early in the morning. This is the new generation of Mickey Mouse. A kinder, more education-driven depiction of our favorite Disney troup than we’ve ever seen before. The episodes are all about cooperation, learning shapes, letters, colors, numbers, counting, and problem solving. Donald is still difficult, but he isn’t mean. Pete is still a bad guy, but he’s almost always redeemed at the end for doing the right thing and learning a lesson. Goofy is still silly, but he’s not dangerous. Minnie is still prissy, but she’s not a snob and that’s important. Daisy is still kind of a diva, but is more compassion driven than she used to be and Pluto, Chip & Dale are all nice and don’t punch or hit or bite one another. This is a great show to introduce your littles to the world of Mickey Mouse in a filtered, safe way that is educational and engaging while still being true to the characters we all know and love. There is also a stage show featuring these and many other Disney Jr characters at the Disney’s California Adventure theme park that our family adores. It’s a great way to bring a sense of reality to a show they watch almost daily.
Okay, there are actually more, but this is all I’m going to cover for now. What are some of your, and your child’s favorite shows? Do you agree with these evaluations? Or do you see these shows in a different light? I love hearing other’s opinions!