Five TV Shows That Teach

PEEP and the Big Wide World

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By now you all know the guidelines for TV viewing for toddlers and preschoolers (no more than two hours per day, including computer and Smartphone time, and no screen time for tots under two).  Whether or not you stick to the two-hour limit, it makes sense to unplug your kids as much as possible and let them engage in creative play.

By now you also know that it’s very important to preview everything before letting your children watch (or play).  It makes good sense.  You want to make sure that your kids are watching quality programming and not over-stimulated by it or scared as a result of watching it.  Even when something seems completely benign, sometimes the writers throw you for a loop.  A favorite curious monkey once caused Riley to fear shadows for months, and our favorite big red dog tends to take the bullying and social skills lessons a bit too far for the preschool crowd at times.  That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be watched, just be involved in the watching and make sure to preview episodes as much as possible, particularly if you have a child who tends to get anxious in response to subject matter such as shadows, the dark, or friendship trouble (frequent preschool themes).

While some parenting experts might disagree, I am of the opinion that a little screen time is a good break for kids and their parents, and can be very educational.  In other words, if you pick the right shows, your kids can enjoy some much-needed relaxation while learning a few things.

We all have our favorites for various reasons, but from an educational standpoint some shows stand out among the crowd.  Below are five shows that you can turn on without any guilt:

1.    PEEP and the Big Wide WorldSet in and around a large urban park, PEEP tells the story of PEEP and his best friends, Chirp and Quack, as they set off on daily adventures.  The adventures include everyday lessons in science.  Targeted for 3-5 year old children, PEEP is funny (even for adults) and provides endless lessons in curiosity, friendship, and science.  Best of all, PEEP encourages preschoolers to explore their own worlds.  Riley, Liam, and I have set out on many PEEP-like adventures since PEEP entered our lives, and we are better for it.

2.    Sesame Street:  What can I possibly say about Sesame Street that you don’t already know?  From language development to social skills to science to music (and beyond), Sesame Street has something for everyone.  It has the added benefit of short segments, so it’s easy to break up the show into smaller parts so it’s easy to watch it on small increments (or just cue up Elmo for a young toddler).

3.    Super WHY!:  Having fun while learning to read?  Win/win!  Super WHY! is a preschool series aimed to help children ages 3-6 develop the critical skills they need to learn to read.  Each episode begins with a preschool related problem (friendship issues, accepting differences, etc.).  The Super WHY! friends then go to the secret clubhouse, where they become literacy-powered superheroes.  The superheroes then work together, with your child, to solve the problem while engaging in an exciting adventure.  They work on vowel sounds, letter sounds, word identification, and other pre-reading skills along the way.  It’s genius.  And the Super WHY! iPhone app is a must as well.

4.    Team UmiZoomi:  Tiny super heroes with mighty mighty math powers…what’s the downside?  Team UmiZoomi introduces early math concepts while building self-confidence in preschoolers.  Children become actively engaged in counting, measurement, patterns, shapes, etc.  It’s fun and engaging and builds a love of problem solving.

5.    Dora, Diego, and Kai-LanOk, so that’s three in one.  Each of these shows introduces a new language while working on problem solving and social skills (Kai-Lan has a heavy focus on social interactions, which is important for preschoolers).  These shows are interactive and engaging, and get kids moving while watching.

Chances are, your kids will watch some TV today.  There’s no guilt in that.  Choose quality programming and watch along with them and your kids will learn new skills while spending a little relaxation time with mom and/or dad.

I shared my favorite TV picks for toddlers and preschoolers, what are some of yours?


About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)