As a liberal, Berkeley attachment-parenting type, I’m loathe to admit this, but my son watches TV pretty much every day. Of course, when I say “TV”, I’m using the term pretty loosely. When you don’t have a television, it’s pretty hard to watch TV proper. Instead, Wyatt watches DVDs and an occasional download on my laptop.
In general, I think this is a pretty good compromise. We get the convenience of using movies as a distraction technique when we’re giving him his nebulizer or trying to get dinner on the table, but we also have absolute control over what Wyatt watches. He never accidentally turns on a violent show like the Sopranos, for example, and he rarely sees commercials. The one notable exception to this is the commercials on the DVD’s themselves. Even there, we usually can skip ahead to the menu to bypass the “previews”, but Nickelodeon DVDs don’t allow you to do that. I find that to be particularly unfortunate because Nickelodeon has some of the most irritating shows. And by the most irritating shows, I mean Dora the Explorer. Dora is one of Wyatt’s favorite shows and the one I most despise, but that’s a different topic for a different day.
Here are some of the shows our whole family enjoys:
Bear in the Big Blue House
This was the first plot-driven DVD we ever bought and despite lots of viewings, we all still enjoy it. We started with the Potty Time with Bear DVD in a futile attempt to get Wyatt interested in toilet training and later purchased Sleepy Time with Bear.
Wyatt likes: Luna, Ojo, and Treelo are his favorite characters. We all call the moon “Luna” and the sun “Ray” because of this series. He sings the “Goodnight” song.
I like: All of the characters are likable and speak in modulated voices. It’s a good teaching show and we use some of the plot points to encourage desired behaviors (using the potty, brushing teeth, post-nightmare recovery). The songs are excellent — something that is unheard of in most kids shows. I also like the episode where Bear’s girlfriend, Ursa visits.
Potential parental annoyances: Tutter is a totally neurotic nutter and has a grating voice. Shadow’s laugh bugs me a little too, but I think her stories are pretty funny. Trying to figure out the relationship between all the characters can be a little trying. Is Bear Ojo’s dad? It doesn’t seem like it. Why does Tutter live with Bear if he has a grandma? You get the picture.
Wyatt likes: Mater, Kachow and the Combine are his favorite characters. He likes seeing the cars race. He gets some of the sillier scenes with Mater.
I like: Excellent animation and a strong story. I like the emphasis on community, being kind to others and thinking about people other than yourself. I tear up every time I see Lightning push The King across the finish line in the final race.
Potential parental annoyances: Don’t think too much about the anthropomorphism of cars.
Curious George (movie)
Wyatt likes: He thinks George is hilarious. The Man in the Yellow Hat is pretty funny too.
I like: The animation on this movie is really cute, it has a good story and there are jokes for both kids and adults. The music is good too — I’ve got the soundtrack on my iPod. David Cross. “You gave a monkey a latte? Who gives a monkey a latte??”
Potential parental annoyances: Wow — I can’t even think of any.
Curious George (TV show)
Wyatt likes: George, of course. Seeing an animated version of the stuff in the books.
I like: Every episode teaches something about math or science, but in a fun way. They’ve incorporated a lot of stuff from the books, but reworked them so the pieces that are inappropriate for toddlers are gone. No more ether, broken limbs, prison, or exploitation of monkeys.
Potential parental annoyances: Pretty much all of the boys on this show are boorish, at least in the episodes I’ve seen. Sometimes I can’t believe the stuff The Man in the Yellow Hat lets George do.
Wyatt likes: Nemo and Dory. All orange and blue fish are named Nemo and Dory now.
I like: Finding Nemo will always have a special place in my heart because Nemo, Marlin and Dory lived with us (via Wyatt’s Uncle Bon Bon) for a long time. As with all Pixar movies it has great animation, great story, good humor, blah, blah, blah.
Potential parental annoyances: There are a lot of scary parts in this movie for a two-year-old. Also, I know dead/missing parents provide a lot of dramatic interest for kids, but I don’t particularly enjoy it.
My Neighbor Totoro
Wyatt likes: “Totororo” The little totoros. The cat bus. The scene with the umbrella.
I like: This movie has a great story. The kids act like kids, not like stereotypes of kids. The scene with the umbrella is my favorite too.
Potential parental annoyances: Sick mom, but this movie is autobiographical and she comes home in the credits so I’ll let it slide.
Pocoyo is a computer animated show for preschoolers. It’s not available in the U.S. yet as far as we can tell. Zach came across a clip on YouTube one day and when he showed it to me I instantly loved it. When Wyatt saw it, he instantly loved it as well. Somehow, some episodes automatically downloaded to my computer when I was connected to the internet one day and now I can’t figure out how to get them off.
Wyatt likes: Pocoyo and Ellie. He enjoys dancing along with Pocoyo and answering the narrator’s questions.
I like: The animation on this show is great, the music is catchy and cool and Pocoyo’s dance is cute as hell.
Potential parental annoyances: The episodes are really short (6 or 7 minutes) so I have to pay close attention and start new ones frequently — not always very convenient when the reason Wyatt is watching TV is so I can accomplish something.
Thomas the Tank Engine
Wyatt likes: This show is all about trains — a super favorite of Wyatt’s.
I like: I love the detailed little sets. The stories are pretty good and attempt to teach moral lessons that I generally agree with.
Potential parental annoyances: The Thomas the Tank Engine marketing machine is a force to be reckoned with and these videos are the strongest weapon in their arsenal. The more we watch Thomas videos, the more Wyatt wants to acquire Thomas merchandise. The faces on the trains creep Zach out.
Toy Story (original and sequel)
Wyatt likes: Animated toys — what’s not to like? He especially likes Buzz.
I like: These are Pixar’s best movies — great stories, likeable characters, funny, ground-breaking, etc. Confirms my long-held suspicion that toys come alive when we’re not around.
Potential parental annoyances: None.