As a mother of a three year old I consider myself a Cartoon Connoisseur. A lot of programs for children, especially for toddlers and preschoolers, are boring or annoying for adults to sit through or even to have on in the background. However, there are some that are charming, with good story lines and characters that I actually find myself enjoying. I have put together a list of some of the shows we watch and graded them on how entertaining they are for adults.
The Backyardigins: This is a CGI animated show on Nickelodeon about five friends that have imaginative play in their backyards. There is Pablo, a penguin, Tyrone, a moose, Tasha, a hippo, Austin, a kangaroo (I thought he was an anteater at first), and Uniqua, a who-knows-what-pink-thing. The characters are bright and fun and very well animated. I particularly love their voices. Each episode has darling songs inspired by different music genres complete with the characters dancing. They have different adventures where they could be astronauts, pirates, or cowboys. My favorite episode is Mission to Mars. Alicia Keys guest stars in this episode and sings a very catchy tune about the word “Boinga”. I find myself humming it at work! Overall it is very high quality. It is educational and fun for kids and entertaining for adults, especially if you love music.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: This is also a CGI animated show. It is on Playhouse Disney. It is a little simplistic and doesn’t have the humor of The Backyardigans, but it has the same high quality. Mickey and his pals have a problem-solving task to complete in each episode. When they run into a problem they need a tool for they call Tootles, a gadget shaped like Mickey’s head, who provides a few “Mouskatools” to pick from. The show engages children by asking them to help count, pick colors and shapes and pick the right “Mouskatool” for the job. While the story lines are geared for very small children it is not too annoyingly redundant. The music is cute. The band, They Might Be Giants, do some of the music. My favorite the song, Hot Dog, is always sung at the end and gets my little girl up and dancing.
Little Einsteins: Also a Disney program, Little Einsteins is animated but combines some live action scenes, usually of animals. The characters are Quincy, June, Leo, Annie and Rocket. They embark on a mission in each episode to solve a problem, rescue someone, or help another character complete a task. Each show has a featured piece of art, usually a painting, and a classical music piece. Parents seem to find this appealing, believing that classical art and music will make their little ones smarter. Because of Little Eiensteins, my daughter can recognize most of the famous pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and more. The stories are much more complex than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. They feature many different animals, places around the world and themes. I have learned a few things, myself, while watching Little Einsteins.
JoJo’s Circus: This is another CGI animated Disney show. While I am not a fan of clowns, the characters are rather cute. JoJo is a six year old (female) clown living in Circus Town. Her friends are various characters that would be found at a circus. She has a pet lion named Goliath. Goliath is very cute and has a sweet little voice. He doesn’t really “talk”, per se. He reminds me of Abu from Aladdin. Each episode JoJo has to solve a problem. They range from school related problems to social problems like dealing with friends and feelings. JoJo’s Circus contains more slapstick humor and silly antics than the other shows listed above. I don’t find it particularly funny, but my three year old does. The stories are usually really cute but I don’t care to sit through them again once I have seen them. The music is cute and catchy for little kids, not as much for adults.
Dora the Explorer and Diego: These are actually two separate animated shows on Nickelodeon. The two characters are cousins and sometimes appear in each other’s show. Dora and Diego both speak English and Spanish; however they seem to be geared more toward teaching English speaking children Spanish words. Dora has a pet monkey, Boots, that helps her in each episode resolve a problem. Diego and his sister, Alicia, are “Animal Rescuers”. Each episode they find an animal that is in trouble and they rescue it while teaching facts about the animal. Both shows feature a backpack or “rescue pack” that contains tools to help them solve problems. I am not a fan of the art or the music. I have a hard time watching these shows. The stories are simplistic and there is a lot of repetition which is very boring for adults. I am fascinated by the odd shape of Dora’s head and how her clothing doesn’t match. This is a show I let my daughter watch when I am busy doing something else. Impressively she has picked up a few Spanish words and can use them in conversation.
Charlie and Lola: This is an animated show based on children’s books of the same name by Lauren Child. It is shown on Playhouse Disney. It is about a boy named Charlie and his little sister Lola. The style of animation is really fun. It looks like paper cut outs and put together collage style. Lola has some spunk and is very funny. They have English accents and Lola says the funniest things like “I like my hair completely the way it is”. I love this show and find it very entertaining. My three year old, however, doesn’t care one bit for it. Maybe she is a little bit too young for it?
My Grade: B
My daughter would probably grade it a D+
Hi-5: This is a live action show on The Learning Channel. We stumbled onto Hi-5 while looking for something to watch on Comcast On Demand. The cast consists of Jen, Curtis, Karla, Shaun and Kimee as well as puppets named Chatterbox and Jup Jup. Each episode has a theme that they follow through the whole show. Each cast member does a similar skit each time but geared toward the theme. There are lots of songs and stories and imagination. The cast all have good voices and are cute and very appealing to children. I can’t watch each episode more than once, but the first time around they are cute.
There are many other quality shows on the television for preschoolers today. We just don’t watch all of them. While I don’t condone letting your children watch countless hours of television there are many educational shows on that teach many things. The great thing is that there are many shows that adults can enjoy with their children as well.