At our house, we watch quite a bit of TV. We don't sit in front of the TV all day, but when I really need to get something done and don't want "help," we turn on PBS Kids. SC also watches many of these shows on her iPod or our iPhones using Netflix kids, plus interacts with the games and videos on the PBS Kids website. So, I have experience with the entire morning (and at times afternoon) line-up that our local PBS station shows, and I do have "favorites" that I would rather listen to while doing the dishes over others. So, here are my top ten PBS Kids shows, along with why (though many of the reasons have to do with SC). I have also included two shows I really do NOT like, and that I actually limit SC's watching. It should be noted that when SC was asked for her favorite, she gave the politically correct response of "I like all the shows."
1. Sid the Science Kid
Sid the Science Kid is my absolute favorite of all the shows on PBS Kids. It is genuinely entertaining for both SC and I to watch. At the beginning of the show, Sid, the main character, generally has a question about something, and through both his parents and his teacher at school, he discovers the answer. The characters are likable, the show itself is upbeat, including a few brief songs, and it also shows good science habits, like taking observations and making predictions. It teaches rudimentary science in a fun, interesting manner, and always includes a "you can try this at home" experiment that uses supplies most families probably will have on hand.
SuperWhy! is a close second in the top ten list. This show focuses on reading, but in a very interactive way for a television show. SuperWhy! also begins with a problem that needs to be solved, and they gather up the "book club" members to help solve it. Each member has a special power, like 'the power to spell," and "the power to read," but the best part of this show is that they specifically "look in a book" to solve their problems. They choose a book that has a similar problem and read/interact with it in order to learn how to solve the problem they are having. So, along with teaching letter recognition (both visual and verbal), they also are teaching that you can compare your own situation with that of characters in literature and learn from them.
3. Martha Speaks
Martha Speaks is a show that introduces vocabulary words in real situations through the use of a talking dog, Martha. If it sounds odd, it is, but in a good way. The dog in the show takes the place of a young child (like SC) who has the ability to talk, but just doesn't have all the words to say what he/she is thinking. Through their various every-day "adventures," Martha and the human characters learn how to express themselves better. If this sounds boring, it really isn't, due to the chaos that a talking dog causes.
Arthur is a show that is based on the books by Marc Brown, which I remember reading as a kid in elementary school. Now, to accompany the books, they have this great tv show that expands upon the social and emotional development the books touched on. This show covers everything a younger child might encounter in his/her daily activities, including things like dealing with siblings, school, friends, wanting things, saving money, working hard, bullies, and even attitude issues. It also is a great show to bring up topics for conversation with SC. We can always talk about appropriate responses and behavior, using examples of both good and bad, from this show.
5. Wild Kratts
Wild Kratts is a show that teaches about a range of animals through the animated adventures of real-life brothers Chris and Martin Kratts. In these adventures, the two brothers actually "become" the animals they are learning about through the use of special "creature power suits," which allows them to get closer and teach deeper than a show that simply tells the facts. The brothers and their team also typically have to solve a problem related to the animal in question, be it saving them from other people who wish to exploit them, learn how to do something "like" the animal to win a challenge, or keep a group of animals together due to an ecological problem or injury of their leader. I like that it is so informative, but due to the "adventures," it is very engaging. I doubt SC realizes she is learning when she watches this one.
WordGirl is another vocabulary show, but this one is more of a super-hero adventure. The main character is a regular girl who masquerades as the superhero WordGirl when a villain attempts something criminal in her town. WordGirl is also know for her correct use of large vocabulary words to describe the situations she is in. There is also a brief game-show style review where the words are gone back over with both a definition and a visual example. All-in-all it is a fun and educational show, though I would prefer to watch Martha Speaks if I had a choice.
7. Clifford, the Big Red Dog
Clifford, the Big Red Dog is another show based on books that I read as a child. This one focuses on social and emotional development in a similar way to Arthur, though the characters are Clifford and his normal-sized dog friends that live on an island. Since in this show the dogs are actual dogs, not pseudo-people, their adventures take place as they assist their human owners in whatever is going on in their lives (though they can, of course, speak to each other). It is a fun show, but as with WordGirl, I prefer to watch Arthur because I think it handles the same issues in a better way. Arthur is also more worldly, while Clifford is very focused on their imaginary island.
WordWorld is the show I have seen the least of, because they took it off our local station very soon after SC was born. However, the few episodes I have seen, I have really loved. Each of the characters is actually made up of the letters in the word (see the image to the left). In fact, EVERYTHING in WordWorld is created from the letters that make it up. It is an entire world that has been labeled for emerging readers. In the show, the characters, of course, solve problems, that usually involves creating new words and applying them to the situation. I really wish we could get this one on our local PBS station, because SC is right at the age where this show might have the best impact.
9. Dinosaur Train
Dinosaur Train is another show that targets social and emotional development, but has the added bonus that the characters are dinosaurs and spend quite a bit of time learning about their own kind. I think that the show does a great job introducing dinosaur science facts, but it is at the bottom of the list because some of the episodes do a better job than others dealing with the family and friends aspects. I do love that the T-Rex character has been adopted into the family of Pteranodons, however unlikely that would be in dinosaur times. SC is also wishy-washy about this one, liking it for awhile, then not wanting to watch it. I think she picks up on the same issues I have, but cannot express the problems other than she is "bored" with some of the episodes.
10. Sesame Street
Sesame Street is on here, but at the bottom of the list, because I just have a hard time liking it now that the people in charge have crammed so many issues that are at the forefront of society into it (obesity, homosexuality, etc). I do not think children should be sheltered from the way things are, but I also think it is a parent who should bring them up and discuss them with their child. I do like many of the segments in an episode, and I think they do a great job providing useful information about a variety of topics, but it just seems like Sesame Street isn't what it used to be.
Now, two shows from PBS Kids I just cannot like.
Curious George, in my opinion, is a very mis-informative show for a young child to watch. My problem with this show is that the main character, George, is a monkey, and has very unrealistic adventures for a monkey. He never asks permission to do things like using sharp objects, leaving the house alone, answering the phone, turning on large, dangerous machines, and pretty much everything else he does. For a child to see George do these things, he/she could understandably think it would be okay him/her to do it. On top of the not asking permission, when George causes problems or creates a mess, someone else always fixes it, and there are no consequences, natural or otherwise. I do understand it is a fictional world, but in order for it to really be educational rather than simply entertaining, it has to offer something. This has been a huge problem at our house because SC really like to watch Curious George. I have started having to meticulously watch the episodes with her and ask her questions about what George should have done, what would happen if she did something similar, and the like, to make sure she understands that it is a pure fantasy.
Caillou is a show that originally was created in Canada (broadcast in French), based on the books of Christine L'Heureux. My biggest problem with the show is that the main character, a young boy named Caillou, whines incessantly. I cannot stand to listen to the show because of the whining. On top of that, his parents always give in to his whining. It is not a behavior I want SC to repeat. Luckily it has been relegated by our local station to the early afternoon, a time when we almost never have the TV on. I do wish I had the opportunity to view the original French-language version of the show to see if it is any different.
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