October 27, 2011
Right, so I'm continuing to talk about kids shows I'd recommend. Honestly, there are so many good ones I can't mention them all in this space. Some of them may no longer be on TV, but they're worth buying as DVDs.
One of the classics of children's television. Comes on a lot less now, but it is essential viewing for young children. It teaches the concepts we want them to grasp at the preschool age. The adventure based show takes kids throughout Blue's world, piecing clues together to figure out what it is that Blue wants to communicate. After all, she's a puppy and can't really talk that well. The hosts do most of the talking, right at your kids, encouraging them with prompts, etc. And let's be honest, Joe and Steve just want to talk to your kids more than you do sometimes.
Team Umi Zoomi
The colors here are so vibrant. And I think one of the most interesting things about the show is that you can hear the voice of Joe who did Blues Clues for all those years. It teaches math concepts for young children. These characters go out into the "city" and teach math concepts in real places like subways and stores. They teach patterns, addition, subtraction, all the basics, and as usual, the characters are cute. My boys love it.
Fresh Beat Band
Hate this show - totally can't stand it. They're like "The Doodle Bops" only without the face paint. And I'm sorry, I won't watch if there's no face paint. These characters smile way too much to be "people." Yup, face paint. Anyway, they are Nick's version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which produced the likes of Timberlake, Aguilera and Brittney. (If you don't know who they are, you don't have kids). Let me say for the record, that while I am sure that this show is designed to teach something, like the love of playing a musical instrument, there is a very good chance that all it turns out to be is a launching pad for the new Nick Jr. CD featuring the Fresh Beat Band. Record deals are on the horizon.
I watched my 4-year-old and 2-year-old laugh and roll all over the floor watching an episode of this show - still trying to figure out why. The animation is distinctive; yes, the characters are drawn sort of as a child would draw them. And this family of pigs actually makes pig noises every time they talk (unlike "Olivia"). You know what I think it is: The family laughs and laughs, all the time at themselves, at the situations they get themselves in. And that's infectious.
The Upside Down Show
Love these dudes. They are such great physical actors/comedians. So imaginative. So clever. It is perhaps the most mentally stimulating show on the air right now. The pity is it comes on so late. I'm gonna buy the DVD for my kids, that's what. Problem: It's from Australia and the DVD format is going to be different. Arrgh!
My wife hates Sponge Bob. Absolutely hates it. She doesn't want my sons watching it. Neither did I at one point. The dark humor, the slapstick, the occasional violence. But now that my oldest is 6, he's tired of Dora, Diego and the like. He wants something interesting to watch. Something with a narrative, with conflict since that's what good stories thrive on. But he's still too young for the majority of stuff they have on Cartoon Network. And there's just not much on TV that matches where he's at right now. So I let him watch Sponge Bob. It's actually one of the few things I can watch with him and enjoy. Yes, it's gross. People melt, their eyes pop out of their heads, there's lots of screaming, lots of strangeness. But I also think there's a lot there to learn from. Mr. Crabs' greed is constantly being satirized. And the shows are about stuff.
They do teach, like when Sponge Bob thought he was being too much of a push over and wanted stand up for himself more. There are actually lesson plans online that incorporate Sponge Bob episodes. Are we using these in our schools? We might as well, kids are watching it after all.
Tinga Tinga Tales
This is perhaps the only show that I have ever watched that is focused entirely on African folk tales. It's no longer showing on the kids channels you get through Cable Bahamas, but the DVDs are worth hunting down in my opinion. (And there will be a hunt.) The premise of every show is to explain how a particular fact of nature came to be, for example, "why elephant has a trunk", or "why hen pecks at the ground". These mythological tales represent an oral tradition that is familiar to us here in the Caribbean; and so despite the fact that this show came on virtually at the crack of dawn, it was worth watching. Very well animated and very well performed. (There are also books available.)
Jack's Big Music Show
What I like about "Jack's Big Music" show is the way they celebrate music, instruments and making noise. I mean, it's like these folks understand that kids are generally loud and out of control - at least at my house they are. And they have dedicated this show to helping kids channel all that energy into a love for music and dancing. It's an Emmy nominated show that features acts by Yolanda Adams, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Laurie Berkner who has become a favorite of my whole family. We bought a CD to play in the car and my wife knows all the songs by heart. And I have to admit, it's just good music.
I'm out of room and I haven't even mentioned "Max and Ruby" or "The Really Silly Willy Nilly Dilly Show"--OK, made that last one up.
o IAN STRACHAN is Associate Professor of English at The College of The Bahamas. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian