Toddler friendly TV shows have really been very helpful to my morning-routine success and end-of-the-day need to cuddle, and they are way more than just entertainment for my son.
Occasionally, toddler friendly TV shows have also been great for parking the kiddo when I have needed a mere fifteen minutes to toss a load of laundry in, finish up the dishes, or prep a meal. Though now that he is getting older and wants to help a lot, I find that these instances where I use TV to keep him still are becoming rarer. Instead, I can use concepts and characters from these shows to talk about things we see, do, or hear, or to explain a problem and come up with a solution.
If you’re thinking about the screen time rule, don’t worry. The toddler friendly TV shows that are fan-faves in my house are no longer than twenty minutes an episode and usually, our cap is two episodes daily, with maybe more liberty on the weekends. My son is not being inundated with TV. TV isn’t a replacement for playtime or conversation.
I used to be really concerned about the impact of screen time on my child’s neurological function, but I have chilled out. Not because there isn’t merit to the research and not because neurological function isn’t concerning, but because I can recognize in my son that even while having broken the screen time rule, his neurological development is fine.
In fact, I actually believe there is a positive impact from his engagement with these TV shows we love.
No, this is not just the rantings of a mom looking for a justification for having allowed her child the liberty of screen time before the rule says it should be allowed. I seriously think it is possible that quality TV shows could have positive impacts on children’s speech, socio-emotional skills, critical thinking, and creativity. In fact, it’s for these reasons that these five toddler friendly TV shows are my favorite as a mom (and my son loves them too) and they get pretty darn good reviews:
- Clifford (Netflix or PBS Kids)
- Curious George (Netflix or PBS Kids)
- Noddy the Toyland Detective (Netflix)
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior)
- Paw Patrol (Nickelodeon)
All five of these toddler friendly TV shows have friendly and accessible language for pre-school aged children. They use words our littles can pronounce and phrases that are appropriate to exact the various types of feelings or thoughts that the characters have which our little ones can relate to. Think Goofy’s ever-popular and overused, “Shucks“ as he misses or messes something up (again), or, Donald’s, “Oh phooey,” when he’s irritated.
Additionally, watching the dialogue between the loved characters on screen allows for our children to then model dialogue with their peers, parents, or others. A lot of the time when my son says something new for the first time, I discover he didn’t learn it at daycare or at his dad’s home, I realize he probably took it in from one of these favorite TV shows.
One thing I notice the most from week to week at his age (he’s almost three) is the speed at which his vocabulary grows. Yes, he’s read to every day. And yes, he’s constantly in dialogue with me, his dad, and everyone at daycare, so it’s not like TV gets all the credit for shaping his vocabulary, but isn’t it possible that it is helping?
Much of the dialogue my son absorbs has to do with how the characters think or feel about the problems they are trying to solve or the conflicts they may be experiencing with another character. Clifford, to me, is the best example of these skills. From Nina being too bossy directing the school play, to T-Bone’s fear of the dark, these characters tackle a variety of real-life scenarios and feelings.
All five toddler friendly TV shows all offer plenty of opportunities for our youngests to observe healthy and mature ways to exact boundaries with peers and work through conflicts that have to do with hurt feelings or disagreements around thoughts and opinions.
Since all of these are TV shows and therefore a visual medium, our children are also exposed to how a character’s facial expressions or bodies may give clues to how that character is feeling, think nonverbal cues. What I am driving at is that these shows offer ways for kiddos to observe empathy, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness (among other things) that are super important to building healthy interpersonal relationships as they grow.
Especially in the instances of Curious George, Noddy, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Paw Patrol there is a specific problem to be solved. From how to tap a tree to make maple syrup (Curious George) to how to make it snow in Toyland (Noddy), there are questions to be answered that require investigation and problem solving (and also usually teamwork; which speaks to the above).
With Curious George, viewers watch George usually learn by trial-and-error; in Noddy, you look for clues and then determine what you know; Mickey Mouse Clubhouse poses questions directly to the viewer and then also provides tools (Mouskatools) to use to help along the way; and Paw Patrol shows you how different types of skills (appropriately selecting the right pup for the mission) and tools can be applied to different situations. With a focus on solving puzzles and figuring things out on your own or with the help of others, there is so much rich content here to teach children how to solve their own problems.
Lastly, I believe all five of these toddler friendly TV shows have perfected the ability to spark our littlest ones’ imaginations and creativity. From talking animals with big hearts and super skills; to toy detectives solving mysteries; and all of the wonderful, colorful, playful lands that they each inhabit (Birdwell Island, Toyland, Adventure Bay) how can our children’s creativity not be sparked?
My son has named one of his stuffed dogs after the dog in Noddy and he picked out Clifford at the bookstore not that long ago. He talks about the characters sometimes as if they are real friends and other times he stands in a power pose and claims to be one. He’ll pretend he’s a superhero like Chase (Paw Patrol) or making juice like George or looking for the cuckoo bird like Mickey and Donald. Creativity, imagination, and play are important as children stretch their minds to explore things beyond plain facts, to test possibilities, and maybe even develop ideas of their own.
I won’t lie. When my son is too old for these toddler friendly TV shows, I’ll be a little sad.
I’ll miss these shows’ innocence and playfulness and I’ll wonder what the next grade of TV shows will offer to him. What shows will still work on these principles (speech, socio-emotional skills, critical thinking, and creativity)? Will everything just escalate into more aggressive and conflict-oriented entertainment instead of intelligence and relationship building engagement? I’ll find out when I get there, I guess. For now, I’ll just enjoy that while I have broken the screen time rule, I have at least found some toddler friendly tv shows that make mornings easier, cuddles more fun, and my son’s development even more enhanced than I could have hoped for from watching TV.
List the TV shows you enjoy as a mom and believe your kid gets something out of more than just entertainment.