What Do You Think Of Preschool TV?

BlogHer Original Post

Ask a mom of preschoolers what she thinks of preschool TV, and you're likely to get a strong reaction.  Some of the shows the under-five crowd are positively grating.  Fox News reported last month that military interrogators have actually used the Sesame Street and Barney theme songs in their interrogations! 

Audra of Land of Aud, for example, has this to say about PBS's Caillou:

Am I the only mom who forbids her child to watch Caillou? I seriously can not stand that cartoon. It makes no sense. The kid whines non-stop and the mom is always cheerful and ready to explain every last little thing to him.

But what about the preschool shows we love to love?  Especially in the last ten years, thanks to a shift often credited to Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, preschool has become more interactive and engaging, offering some options to parents (and kids) that are wildly popular and entertaining.

Amber of A Classic Housewife lists her family's top ten list, including this observation about Disney's Charlie and Lola:

L.O.V.E. it. First, this was created from a book series. My kids like the books and I like that the show and the book series encourages them to read more. Secondly, I love that they kept the animation looking like the illustrations you find in the books. Thirdly, I adore Lola. Lola is the embodiment of 4/5 yr old girls. She’s alot like my own 5 yr old girl. Fourthly, I enjoy listening to my kids copying Lola’s British accent. But the BEST PART, hands down, is that Charlie models the ideal older sibling, the way that I want my kids to treat each other, especially the older ones when the younger ones are just down-right annoying. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but kids copy what they see and it would be nice if they copied Charlie. I’m just sayin’. 

Another clever preschool programming option is PBS's WordWorld, which is actually my own daughter's favorite.  It's been getting critical acclaim from educators and parents alike.  An Island Review had this to say:

What I liked best about this show is the way they teach word recognition. When the letters are put together and the word comes to life, the visualization helps to reinforce it. I think this is so important in the learning process.

Close Academy offers a very thorough list of preschool TV favorites, offering the following additional suggestion:

If you do not want your children to be exposed to commercials then I would buy dvds for shows that are on NickJr and Disney.

Preschool television viewing is not without its conflict for parents, of course.  Our Life Upstate addresses this dilemma:

I mean you wake up in the morning and need to breathe so you put on PBS. It is all good programming and you really need the kids to be busy so you can get settled. If your kids are like mine they are up at 7am. Starting at 7am there is five and a half hours of good shows on. So, when does it get turned off. You get busy doing laundry,paying bills, cleaning the bathrooms, etc and let them watch tv while they eat breakfast. The next thing you know it is 10am. So, when does it get turned off. At 10am, but that is Sesame Street. It's educational. So, you let them watch, right? Who wouldn't? And even if you turn it off after that you realize that you have just allowed your child to watch four hours of tv.

Daddy Diary advocates vigilance in what we let our preschoolers watch but offers another, positive view of preschool TV:

By comparison, our kids are glued to the cable channel Noggin, which bills itself as "It's like preschool on TV." All of the shows are excellent, educational and promote learning. No violence. No mayhem. No high-speed chases. Lots of love, and lots of great stuff.

I'm inclined to agree.  I think that preschool television, used wisely and in moderation, is a very visual way to reinforce what we're teaching our kids away from the TV.  My own four-year-old daughter rarely watches more than an hour a day, but I've seen her already apply some problem-solving skills (thanks, at least in part, to Dora) and some phonics (courtesy of WordWorld). 

What about you?  What are some of your favorite options for preschool television viewing?  How have you gone about establishing limits for your own kids?

Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post.

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