Things to Do - TV for Kindergartners

(I desperately need to decorate. This little set-up just looks so sad.)

My kids don't watch a ton of TV. I'm not particularly opposed to TV, but I try to encourage more interactive pursuits, hence why our kitchen table looks like an art supply store exploded all over it and why my living room looks like we robbed a library. Further, we don't have a TV on the first floor of the house, so sometimes I forget it's an option (we also only own small, old TVs which don't work extremely well). Of course, after school in winter we tend to watch more TV - because it's cold and I'm lazy and we need a break. The big problem for me is what to watch. When the kids were small almost all the shows seemed pretty good (I still think Yo Gabba Gabba might be the best show on TV), but now F wants to watch ICarly and the other Disney shows, which seem sort of old for a kindergartner (am I wrong here? help me out? Please!!). So recently I've done some research on educational TV shows for the kindergarten crowd. Here's what I've found (and, yes, a lot of this post reads like an ad for PBSKids):

1. Wild Kratts - F loves this animal show that operates as a cartoon/real-life hybrid. According to the show's website each episode "explores an age-appropriate science concept central to an animal's life and showcases a rarely-before-seen wildlife moment, all wrapped up in engaging stories of adventure, mystery, rescue, and the Kratt brothers' brand of laugh-out-loud-comedy that kids love." I actually learn a lot. And it makes you feel really smart at the zoo.

2. The Electric Company - I find this show somewhat annoying (as in, it's hard to block out while I read my book) but it makes my kids laugh and sing and have a bigger vocabulary. It also presents itself as a "cool teen show", which I think F likes. According to the website "In each episode, The Electric Company is called upon to solve a problem created by a naughty group of neighborhood Pranksters. In every instance, the Company prevails with the power of their words. While the stories can be fantastical, each episode follows a wildly creative logic that often results in the characters breaking into song."

3. Wordgirl - This show is awesome. The whole family loves it. I would even consider watching it if I didn't have kids. The theme song alone ropes you in. First of all, it features a girl as a superhero (thank you, PBS! thank you!). Second of all, it's funny (who doesn't love a monkey sidekick named Captain Huggy Face? Or a villain called Dr. Two Brains?) From the website: "Disguised as mild-mannered 5th grader, Becky Botsford, WordGirl arrived on planet Earth when she and her monkey sidekick, Captain Huggy Face, crashed their spaceship. In classic superhero form, WordGirl possesses superhero strength with the added benefit of a colossal vocabulary. WordGirl has a family and friends who have no idea of her secret identity. As WordGirl, she battles and prevails over evil (albeit ridiculous and comical) villains."

4. SciGirls - We've watched this show a few times and the girls really like it. Unfortunately you can only view it online, so we have to watch on my computer (but if we had Google TV we could watch it on a big screen - maybe one day). Each episode showcases real-life girls who want to learn more about a science-related career, so they design experiments and work with experts to discover what it is really like to "be" a scientist. The website has shows on archeology, dolphins, horses, and all sorts of other pursuits. Pretty cool.

5. The Magic Schoolbus - Apparently this was the "longest running science show ever", which (of course) is now off the air. Luckily you can buy DVDs through Amazon (we have the The Magic School Bus 3 DVD Collection and the kids can't stop watching it). The books are also really good.

6. Cyberchase - This is another fun kids show with a secret "educational" agenda (similar to Wordgirl). In combating comical villains, the cybersquad uses math concepts to save the day. And it's funny. Unfortunately, it is only on once or twice a week, so check your cable listings.

After I finished drafting this post, I came across an interesting New Yorker article about the renaissance in children's tv programming (click here to read it). The piece had wonderful things to say about the Disney's Phineas and Ferb noting that Phineas is "a cheerful, intrepid engineer, so engaged by his inventive projects that he becomes an unwitting rebel against the zeitgeist of helicopter parenting and ultra-safety." Further, the author believes that "[Phineas and Ferb] may be the first children’s series in which the moral instruction, rather than the jokes, is aimed as much at parents as at children. Once your kids have finished watching the episode, 'Phineas and Ferb' suggests, you might think about releasing them into the back yard, with a pile of lumber and a tool belt. Who knows? They might build a tower as high as the moon."

I've also heard several parents say wonderful things about Phineas and Ferb - though I hate that the "villain" is both a girl and a sibling - which makes me think I've been too narrow-minded in my approach to children's tv.

What about everyone else? What shows do your kids watch?


  1. Kane is obsessed with Phineas and Ferb and I find it not only tolerable, but pretty funny. Who doesn't love a platypus?

  2. I have been a bit scared of Phineas and Ferb though I confess I actually haven't watched it. We like the Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That on PBS. Not sure if F will find it as entertaining as we do but but we love learning and meeting different animals and exploring different places. Sometimes I want to watch instead of getting stuff done.

  3. okay i'm going to have to check out phineas and ferb, the platypus has me curious. Becca - we tried Cat in the Hat but the kids kept getting mad that the cat was "too nice" now (compared to the books). "why isn't he mean and tricky anymore? we miss him being tricky." though i liked it and thought the content was great.



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