Sunday, March 9, 2014

Kids TV


I'm not a mom that's super-crazy about limiting my kids' screen time. S watched her first Notre Dame  football game when she was 3 months old-- and she loved it. My kids regularly watch between 20 mins- 1 hr 20 mins of TV each day, based on how bad the weather is, how much active play time we've had, how much work I have to do and all sorts of other variables.  We could debate the merits/demerits of screen time and it would take the rest of our lives-- but at some point each mom just has to decide which battles she wants to fight and for me, that isn't one of them. And it hasn't really been an issue yet.

Lest you think I'm totally negligent, though, we do have plenty of rules about what we watch and when. For example, we *never* watch kids programming with commercials (DVDs, Netflix, Amazon Prime offerings only!)  The only time they see commercials is when we have a game on, and even then they hardly pay attention because it's "grown up TV." Whenever I detect a sense of entitlement creeping in with regards to TV shows, we take a couple of whine-filled days off and things get back to normal. I never watch any of my shows in front of them, just in case adult themes pop in and surprise me.  There is no TV during meal times, no TV while friends are over and a few minutes with the iPad is a rare treat.  

The biggest struggle, though, of trying to figure out TV time is What To Watch.  I don't know if you've sampled the latest offerings, but I find it hard to find quality programming for kids that isn't annoying for me to listen to or simply pandering to the children.  We used to watch Madeline, the animated show from the 1990's featuring Ludwig Bemelmans' beloved literary heroine.  

This show is great because it features a little girl with a Big Imagination, who learns all sorts of lessons about courage, finding creative solutions to problems, following rules and the value of friendship.  The animation is simple, pleasantly-paced and charming, unlike so many other shows that flit about from scene to scene with garish colors and barely-identifiable human figures.  The first few episodes are even recited in verse! ...But Netflix got rid of it a couple of years ago. We have some of the episodes on DVD, but to fill the Madeline gap we next moved to... 

The de Brunhoffs' world of the Kingdom of Elephants is wonderfully depicted in this early 90's series about Babar and his family. What I love about this series is that it is also simply illustrated-- but the soundtrack is just wonderful! What other children's show features a string quartet for the opening theme? I also love the characters, who for the most part embody a very well-functioning family.  The kids are generally respectful of their parents and Babar and Celeste (the king and queen) have incredibly even temperaments and show each other quiet, though endearing affection.  But alas! This was also recently taken away from Netflix. So next up was Angelina Ballerina.

If you search for "Angelina Ballerina Show," you'll most likely find a hideously CG-animated show that features characters equally as annoying.  We tried watching it when Netflix cancelled the "old" series (ARE YOU SEEING A THEME?!?!), but even the girls thought it was atrocious and asked me to turn it off.  So if you are looking for the DVD version (Amazon Prime also has a few episodes on instant play), be sure to find the HIT Entertainment version, made in the UK.  The animation, dialogue, music and plotlines are just enchanting and everyone has a British accent. What's not to like? They even feature little ballet class clips between episodes, which S loves to dance along with.

Now, here's a brief list of the movies we've had success with:

Disney's Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are remarkable attention-grabbers for my kids.  When I put in either of these films, I can count on BOTH of the girls sitting still for an hour and a half.  They are quiet. And they are listening to classical music.  E can recognize the Pastoral Symphony.  S loves Pomp and Circumstance.  This is a parenting "win."
I was skeptical when we got one of these CG Tinkerbell animated movies for the girls last Christmas, but WOW-- it was great! There are four movies in this "Tinkerbell and Friends" series and every one of them is bright, beautiful and sweet.  Tinkerbell et al have their flaws, but these friends stick together, help each other and learn lots of valuable lessons, including the importance of family.

I don't need to say anything about Toy Story-- you already know that it's wonderful.  The girls love all three (can you believe there are three?? I feel so old...) movies.  As a matter of fact, they have loved almost every Pixar movie we've watched (the same cannot be said for the princess movies, which feature dark and scary villains).  A Bug's Life is a regular in our rotation, as now are Wall-E and Up.  S also *loved* Frozen and let's face it: Pixar films are great fun for the adults, too.

So there it is. No big treatise on screen time or the role of technology in brain development, but just a few ideas of what works for us and how we're slowly learning to navigate and regulate what will undoubtedly be a big challenge in raising our kids.

What about you? Do you have go-to shows when you're desperate for a few quiet moments? How do you choose what to let the kids watch? Or, if you don't have kids, what are your favorite shows from growing up? 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Christina! So happy to be reconnecting with you via your blog!

    We have a similar approach to TV. I feel like it's been creeping closer to that over an hour a day limit we had set for ourselves, but it is the end of a very long, very cooped up winter so I remind myself not to be too hard on ourselves and that soon that extra TV time will disappear with outdoor adventures and playtime again!

    We watch a lot of Curious George - available on Netflix. I also like that it is not too busy or overly animated. We really love Word World and Super Why! for early literacy lessons. They are both computer animated, but I think Word World is done really well. The stories in Super Why! aren't my favorite, but the lessons they incorporate are. Word World is available through Amazon Prime, but you need to purchase episodes. We've bought whole seasons we like it that much. Super Why! is available on Netflix. Is there any chance you and Andy have a Roku? You can sample some of the World World episodes/clips on the PBS Kids channel. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is another popular show in the Maher house these days. It's an animated offshoot of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and has great sung one sentence lessons that are repeated over two 10-15 minutes episodes (ex. "Making something is one way to say, I love you!" or "When you have to go potty, stop! And go right away! Flush and wash and be on your way!" or "First you get a turn, and then I get it back!")

    I'm not sure if these shows will meet the Valenzeula ladies' tastes, so let me know what you think!