I have personally watched most of these shows, with the exception of Handy Manny because we don’t have cable anymore. I actually choose from among some of these to allow my two little ones to watch. I would recommend these as solid educational and appropriate entertainment for your young children.
As far as my older children, I try to focus on reading for enjoyment, homework or studying a topic of interest, and doing outdoor or active things like running, walking, bike riding. When we do watch television, we borrow movies from the library or just have minimal screen time.
Here is an excerpt from the article and list I wanted to share (source: http://www.babycenter.com/0_what-to-watch-the-best-childrens-television_64207.bc?bclink=top&scid=preschooler_20120925:2&pe=MlV4S29GUXwyMDEyMDkyNQ..)
Allowing a little tube time isn’t a parenting crime, as long as you’re careful not to let TV gobble up more than its share of your child’s precious waking hours.
Experts agree that kids should watch no more than one or, at most, two hours of TV a day. (Learn more about limiting TV time.) Your job as a parent is to make sure this limited quantity of TV is maximum quality.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic like Sesame Street (which first aired in 1969). But there are other gems you may not be so familiar with. Here are our picks.
Between the Lions (PBS)
These lions don’t just grace the steps of the library, they run the place. Theo and Cleo Lion and their cubs, Lionel and Leona, offer fledgling readers a leg up on literacy and give their parents a few laughs along the way. This feline family and their animal friends live in a magical library where stories spring to animated life as they’re read. Each episode focuses on a letter sound or combination (short “u,” “ip,” or “oo,” for instance), which is highlighted in narrated books, songs, live-action skits, and animated segments. Clever jokes will keep you interested, too. One segment, “Gawain’s Word,” opens with the electric guitar licks of Wayne’s World.
Dinosaur Train (PBS)
This entertaining show introduces scientific exploration to dinosaur fans with a healthy dose of lessons on getting along. Buddy, a young Tyrannosaurus rex adopted by a pteranodon family, is curious to learn about other kinds of dinosaurs. In each episode, he and his family board a time-traveling train to visit other species in the Mesozoic era. The young dinosaurs explore their differences, proposing hypotheses and making observations to support their conclusions – for example, trying to understand why a flightless velociraptor has feathers. Between animated segments, paleontologist Scott Sampson shares additional facts and theories about the featured dinosaurs, comparing them with more familiar animals alive today.
This unique animated/live action game show combines a cartoon canine host, six smart kid contestants, and genuinely challenging tasks that test the contestants’ science, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. Host Ruff Ruffman sends his Fetchers off on wild challenges to use their intelligence and enthusiasm to earn points and prizes. The format can be goofy but the science is serious stuff: In one episode, two contestants trying to pluck a clue out of a pool figure out how to turn a pile of wood and hardware into a simple suspension bridge. In another, three kids who’ve just gotten a primer on the science of pushes and pulls need to turn a jumble of parts into an aerodynamic soapbox car. It’s fast-paced, funny, and fascinating.
Handy Manny (Disney)
“You break it, we fix it,” is the motto at Handy Manny’s Repair Shop – and indeed, in multicultural Sheetrock Hills every challenge is met with cooperation, creativity, and a can-do attitude. Manny and his tools, each with a vivid personality, are called on to help with jobs large and small. The tools sometimes make their tasks harder through carelessness, pride, or impatience. But they always learn to set things right, with the support and encouragement of Manny and the rest of the tools. Community and interdependence are very strong themes here. Latino culture resonates throughout the series, from the music to the story lines, and Manny routinely uses Spanish words and phrases and translates them to English.
Little Bill (Nick Jr.)
“Hello, friend,” Little Bill says at the start of each animated episode. Then and there, kids bond with the energetic, imaginative 5-year-old, who manages to make lemonade out of life’s lemons (being stuck inside on a rainy day, not getting a desperately desired video game). Little Bill is the youngest of the Glovers, a multigenerational African-American family. His great-grandmother, Alice the Great, often helps Bill sort out feelings or find solutions to his daily dilemmas. Both the boy and the show draw their power from storytelling, humor, and family relationships, just as you’d expect from creator Bill Cosby. Because the Glovers are fully fleshed-out characters, moms, dads, and kids can all watch together and find someone to identify with – and something to think about.
Ni Hao, Kai-lan (Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.)
Like Dora the Explorer before her, 5-year-old Kai-lan Chow engages preschoolers with an interactive, bilingual format – here, it’s Mandarin Chinese and English. Sweet and gentle Kai-lan goes further than Dora, however, with a fuller appreciation of cultural context. Chinese-American culture permeates the show, from Kai-lan’s close relationship with her grandfather, YeYe, to story lines involving a dragon boat festival, Chinese New Year, and a baby panda. Kai-lan’s friends struggle to cope with everyday preschooler drama: broken toys, jealousy, problems sharing. Thoughtful problem-solving, often with help from YeYe, helps Kai-lan and her friends cope with their emotions and learn to get along.
Sid the Science Kid (PBS)
Preschoolers are a curious bunch, and this show sets out to help them find the answers to their many questions about how the world works. Inquisitive Sid has a lot of questions about the world around him, and he finds the answers using scientific investigation and observation. The adults in his life encourage his investigations both at home and at school. Each week focuses on a specific theme, such as transformations, machines, and the human body, with concrete explorations that hook young kids: observing food and pumpkins decaying and growing moldy, or digging into dirt and seeing whether just paper towels or soap and water are better for cleaning your hands.
Super Why! (PBS)
The Super Readers, led by Whyatt, are a team of problem-solving characters in Storybrook Village who help kids learn reading fundamentals and discover the power of stories to help solve everyday dilemmas. Faced with a problem – when Jill keeps stomping Littlest Pig’s block towers, for example, or when Red Riding Hood wants to keep all her apples for herself – they transform into superhero personas and fly into a book to find an answer to the problem. Each character has a special word-based power: highlighting words, building letters and words, creating rhyming words, and the like. Their adventures reinforce phonics, word usage, and other reading skills while imparting lessons on problem-solving, respect, and teamwork.
In WordWorld, everything is literal: A barn is formed from the letters B-A-R-N, the letters P-I-E are squished together to form PIE, and even the characters are built from the letters that spell their names. It’s a wonderful way to help kids make the connection between individual letters and words they use every day. The WordFriends – including Pig, Sheep, and Frog – cooperate to solve problems in each episode, always requiring them to “build a word!” Catchy music, appealing characters, and a solid grounding in phonics make this a great choice for preschoolers.
Animal Junction, Zoboomafoo’s home base, gets an amazing array of flying, swimming, hopping, and slithering visitors. Sure, top billing goes to lemur puppet Zoboo, but it’s the real animals and their handlers, brothers Martin and Chris Kratt, who truly make this nature show: A baby elephant lumbers in the door; a Burmese python curls around a wooden rail; a squid turns up in the tub. Meanwhile, the Kratts find playful ways to teach kids about animals — squirming like a snake, thrashing around in a mud pit, and never lecturing. Variety (songs, claymation cartoons, video segments of kids talking about animals, bike trips into the wild) keeps the momentum up, and chatty Zoboo maintains the goofy mood.
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