My preschooler typically watches about a half hour of TV a day, perhaps an hour or two on weekends. He used to watch more. Obviously, we try to minimize exposure to the television for several reasons, none of which are relevant here, and he’ll likely end up watching more TV as he gets older. But for now, he doesn’t watch much.
Unless he’s sick. Then there’s nothing else to do except watch TV. Ugh. I watch with him, in large part because I want to know what kind of media he’s absorbing and, if necessary, put it in context and answer his questions. What follows is a rundown of some of the shows we watch.
Breadwinners: This is, hands down, my favorite of his TV shows. It has no educational value in either academics or ethics, which is just fine. Full of potty humor, terrible bread puns, and horrible cartoon violence. I love it. It follows the adventures of two ducks named Swaysway and Buhdeuce as they deliver bread to the hungry ducks of their world, called Pondgea. Our favorite character is The Breadmaker, the god of all bread. You don’t know funny until you hear your preschooler boom out, “Oooooh YEAHHH!” in his high little voice, trying to imitate gravelly rumble of The Breadmaker. Every episode is a classic. Five out of five stars.
Sanjay and Craig: This one runs a close second, and if baking bread wasn’t my hobby, I might like this one more than Breadwinners. Extremely gross and quite funny. The friendship between the boy and the snake is actually quite nice, and its ups and downs sometimes veer into didactics (but not intrusively so). All of the characters are brilliant, especially Remington Tufflips, whom I like to imitate when circumstances allow. It’s also not afraid to venture into some very bizarre, even psychedelic territory. The best episode is Flip Flopas for gross-out humor, satire, and weirdness. Five out of five stars.
SpongeBob SquarePants: What can anyone say about SpongeBob that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? The sheer number of episodes available at any time makes this program the Law & Order of cartoons. It’s clear that in the earlier episodes they were going for a Looney Tunes look, which altered over the years (and years) as digital technology improved. There are some very funny parts to it, and despite its age, it rarely falls into repetition. Club SpongeBob is probably my favorite episode, but there are so many good ones that it’s hard to choose. Four out of five stars.
Caillou: Every parent loves to hate Caillou, but my son just loves it. Caillou whines, he complains, he’s a massive pain in the ass, but that’s what I like about the show: it deals with real stuff with a kid who’s a lot like a real kid. Other than the lack of hair. It’s extremely inoffensive and shows children how someone like them deals with typical preschooler situations. My only problem with the show is the mom, who’s the Mary Sue of children’s television: used to be a ballerina, a ringette champion, a singing expert, an astronaut, etc., and is now just Mommy. And they make the dad seem somewhat bumbling and incompetent, but that’s typical of most television. The episode my son likes the best is, likely, Rollie Racers. Three out of five stars (my son would rate it higher).
Team Umizoomi: My son doesn’t like Super Why as much as I wish he would, but he loves Team Umizoomi. Umizoomi is about math, Super Why‘s about literacy. The songs are really quite good and there’s a predictable pattern to the events in the program so that you know what to expect each episode. It’s for really little kids, so there’s nothing in there to be concerned about. The audience participation part is good (like Super Why and Blue’s Clues), so as long as my little boy shouts out the answers at the screen, I figure he’s not too old for it. All the episodes are pretty good with no stand-outs. 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s a much different TV world out there from when I was a kid watching hours of Josie & The Pussycats, Far Out Space Nuts, and H.R. Pufnstuf.