Guys, sometimes, I just want to sit. That’s it. I want to sit and not have to do anything for an hour. And I don’t care what your attitude is toward screen time, but come one – those are the moments television was made for.
With a pre-schooler, though, I have to be careful what I put on. We do have a small repertoire of “adult” shows that we can watch around Bear (we are very conscious of on-screen content (violence, sex), but are more lenient on curse words – if you want to know my philosophy about kids and cursing, here’s a great article on Scary Mommy that sums it up pretty well), but more often than not, it’s just easier to turn on a show for Bear and just veg out. But man, some of those shows will drive you up a wall. Like, I literally watched one episode of Word Party and swore – out loud – “Never again!”
I’m always on the lookout for good shows for Bear that won’t drive Andy and I up a wall. Here are some we’ve found so far, and if you have a favorite or two, please share with me in the comments below!
Peppa Pig: I was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – when I learned that Peppa Pig was a divisive show. Some people think it’s cute and charming, and some people seem to think that the show (or at least Peppa) is obnoxious.* Personally, I love how simple and linear the stories are, how they’re just small, simplified, slices of life that are easy for even the littlest kids to appreciate and relate to. The animation and character design is very reminiscent of the drawings of young children (lines are always just a little hastily drawn, done in bright primaries, and heads attach directly to bulbous middles, with stick figure arms and legs), and the stories are very, very small (in both scope and length) and self contained (and minimally narrated), so that even the youngest viewers can follow them.
*Honestly, I find Peppa to be probably one of the more honest portrayals of a pre-schooler I’ve ever seen. She’s not especially twee, she’s not incredibly precocious, and she’s mostly well-behaved with a bit of a bossy streak (if anything, maybe too well-behaved). You want an obnoxious children’s show character? Watch Callilou. Lord. I never understood the Callilou hatred until I had reason to watch the show. He is obnoxious, shrill, and unbearable.
Sarah & Duck: This is a show from the BBC that we stumbled upon on Netflix, and it’s wonderful. Sarah is a little girl who seemingly lives alone with her duck companion, Duck, in a quirky, pastel-shaded world of magical realism: ordinarily mundane things like a trip to the park, visiting a neighbor, or buying bread are livened up by charmingly odd characters and idiosyncratic storylines: objects spontaneously gain sentience, neighbors live in houses constructed of knitted wool, noisy pipes take to being conducted like an orchestra, etc. The animation and characters designs and unique and dreamlike, and when we first discovered it, Andy and I watched this show long after Bear had gone to bed.
Peg + Cat: This one is a lot more blatantly “edu-tainment,” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; honestly, Sesame Street is technically “edu-tainment,” and it’s a cultural touchstone. Peg is a young girl who solves logic, math, and various mechanical problems using reasoning and trial and error, along with her pet cat, Cat, and an eclectic cast of characters (including Beethoven, Cleopatra, a pair of giants, and a opera-singing pig who loves triangles). It’s quirky, has fun musical numbers, and can be surprisingly clever. I also love that Peg eschews feminine stereotypes (she enjoys and is good at math, etc.) and has moments of true gender-nonconformity (wear suits instead of dresses, etc). The show airs on PBS Kids and can be watched through their (free) app.
Puffin Rock: Surprisingly educational and full of lovely Irish accents (including narration by Chris O’Dowd, who I have loved since The IT Crowd) and sweet stories, I love Puffin Rock for the same reason I like most of the shows on this list – it’s a nice break from the frantic, fast-paced media I feel like kids are confronted with all the time. I mean, there’s a time and place for that stuff, I’m not “morally opposed” to it or anything, it’s just… nice to have a break from it. The stories are simple narratives with clear problems and solutions, and introduce and teach about a number of animals that are native to the region. The stories are about problem solving and friendship without being preachy or overly sentimental.
True and the Rainbow Kingdom: This, I think, is also going to be divisive, but I think this show is a-freakin’-dorable. The animation style is somewhere between Japanese “kawaii” design and an Emoji aesthetic, full of vibrant colors and cute creatures. The show is a faster paced show and a lot more visually busy than many on the list, but it really is super, super cute, with fun songs and enjoyable characters. True solves problems through the use of wishes, little creatures that serve very specific purposes according to her very specific needs, but really, she solves problems by taking a step back, clearing her mind, and talking through the problem at hand. That’s nice. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the heros who charge ahead with no forethought and no plan, and I think it’s important that my son sees someone who makes it a point to center herself and reason through things before charging ahead.
What are your favorite shows to watch with your kids? Old favorites, new finds? Please let me know!