Passionate About Genesee County
and the Moms Who Live Here

5 Kids’ Shows That Won’t Make You Crazy!

When my first child was a baby, I had all kinds of opinions about letting her watch TV. I didn’t want to fry her brain! Or stunt her imagination! It was okay once in a while, but I should be reading to her! Playing with her! Taking her for walks!

Now, with three little wild things scampering around, sometimes turning on the TV is the only thing that will give me a moment of sanity.

We do have rules. No TV on school nights, or during the week at all for our school-going Little Miss. (We’ll see how that rule holds up.)

Nowadays, one of the most important rules is that mom has veto power. Caillou has no place in our house. Dora is not welcome here. P. King Duckling and Little Einsteins are tolerable, as long as it’s only one episode. But there are some shows that I encourage, nay, LOVE for my children to watch.

And here’s the thing: I like to watch these shows with my children. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I like to at least have a handle on what they’re watching. This way, I know if something is inappropriate or not in line with the way we are trying to raise our children. If it’s just something little, I can start a conversation with them about it right away. I can reinforce that some children are allowed to say some things that they are not allowed to say, like “butt.” (Thanks a lot, Olaf.)

1. Octonauts {Disney Junior & Netflix}

At first this show seems absurd. (But what children’s show isn’t?) For the uninitiated, Captain Barnacles is a polar bear who leads a crew (including Kwazii the pirate cat, Peso the penguin medic, Shellington the sea otter, Professor Inkling the dumbo octopus, Tweak the Southern bunny mechanic, Dashi the dachshund, and a handful of strange creatures called “Vegimals”) of marine heroes aboard an amazing vessel called the Octopod. They travel the seven seas (and the Amazon river!) to “EXPLORE! RESCUE! PROTECT!”

Because, of course.

Kwazii, Captain Barnacles, Tunip, and Tweak / Photo from http://www.animationmagazine.net/tv/octonauts-to-make-a-splash-on-disney-jr/

Now, aside from the Vegimals, who are described as “half vegetable, half animal,” this show is very educational. On a recent trip, we went to an aquarium, and both of my older children and I were identifying things left and right, as well as spewing hilarious quotes from the show. Well, we thought we were hilarious. At the end of each episode there is a segment called Creature Report, and they sing an (admittedly grating) song about whatever the show’s main creature was, and it includes a video of the real thing. We look forward to this part so much. “Let’s see what a siphonophore really looks like!”

As an added bonus, everyone in this show has an awesome voice or accent. There are mobster fish, a German-accented yeti crab named Klaus, a French-accented frog fish, a hippie guitar fish, and Russian-accented narwhals. And my personal favorite, the Jamaican-accented immortal jellyfish, whose name is Dorian. (“Goo goo ga ga, mon!”) It’s clever things like that that keep me — er, us — coming back.

2. Transformers: Rescue Bots {Discovery Family & Netflix}

Children of the 80s and 90s who now have children of their own will be excited to share age-appropriate Transformers with the next generation. I don’t think my preschoolers are ready for Shia Leboeuf and Josh Duhamel, but in the meantime, there is Rescue Bots.

Straight Outta Cybertron / Photo from http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Transformers:_Rescue_Bots_(cartoon)

My favorite aspect of this show, other than just being geeked out that my 3-year-old loves Optimus Prime so much, is police-bot Chase’s hilarious super-literal take on everything. In one of our most-watched episodes, Chase is singing a Robo-Baby a lullaby that goes like this: “Rock-a-bye baby, on top of the alternative power source, when Boulder climbs up, the Robo-Baby will lose elevation precipitously!”

As an added bonus, Lacey Chabert (of Party of Five and Mean Girls fame) voices Dani Burns, who also happens to be a kick-booty, rough-and-tumble female role model.

3. Sofia the First {Disney Junior & Netflix}

If you haven’t heard of Sofia, you’ve been living under a rock. She has taken the princess world by storm! There are even Disney princesses (and snowmen!) in cameo appearances on some episodes. Sofia is voiced by Ariel Winter, who I think has the sweetest little voice.

Sofia and Cinderella / Photo from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Sofia_the_First:_Once_Upon_a_Princess

In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about this show: the voices. (Her mother, Queen Miranda, is voiced by Sara Ramirez, who you may know as Dr. Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy. Tim Gunn from Project Runway voices Baileywick, the steward. Wayne Brady voices Clover, Sofia’s rabbit friend.) Every song is extraordinary. Plus, all the princesses who appear in the show, within reason, are voiced by their original voice actors. Mandy Moore appears as Rapunzel, Jodi Benson as Ariel, Ming-Na Wen as Mulan, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, and Anika Noni Rose as Tiana. Josh Gad even showed up as Olaf! (Unfortunately, neither Paige O’Hara nor Emma Watson voiced Belle. Boo! I was also disappointed to learn that Kelly Macdonald didn’t voice Merida for her appearance in the show.)

And the songs! There may come a day that I don’t find myself singing “Wassailia” and “Blue Ribbon Bunny,” but today is not that day.

4. Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse {Barbie.com & Netflix}

I had my reservations about this “show” at first, when Samantha selected it on Netflix. I was afraid it was too grown-up and might be inappropriate for a 5-year-old. Obviously, parts do go over her head, and I’m not a huge fan of preschoolers running around using “amaze” as an adjective. However, this show is hilarious!

It’s a web series put out by Mattel, and it continually pokes fun at Barbie. They’re actual dolls! You can see their joints. They get “plastic pox” and sand in their joints. Ken gets Barbie a Corvette and they have to assemble it together.

Barbie, Chelsea, & Raquelle / Photo from http://play.barbie.com/

Everything about this show is clever. Running gags (schlondpoofah! polyvinyl chloride!) delight. Barbie’s AI-enabled Closet keeps getting set to “evil.” (And he hates his creator, Ken, whom he calls an “ambulatory meatsack.”) There are little drops that most viewers might not recognize are awesome. (In one episode, Raquelle keeps calling Chelsea “Kelly.” Thirty-somethings may remember there was a Kelly doll in our time, instead of a Chelsea doll.) Barbie’s careers are another running gag. Barbie: “We need a vet!” Skipper: “Weren’t you a vet?”

Barbie’s sisters, Skipper, Stacie, and Chelsea, are hysterical. Her friends, Midge, Teresa, Nikki, and Summer, are a mess but a hoot. Her frenemies, siblings Raquelle and Ryan, are useless but likable – and hilarious. And of course there’s Ken, who is a complete blond but apparently also a brilliant inventor.

Every time we watch this, I notice something new that I can’t help laughing about.

5. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic {The Hub/Discovery Family & Netflix}

Dear heavens, where do I start? Right off the bat, you know these marketing geniuses are aiming this straight at us 80s and 90s kids who now have kids of our own. Brilliant!

The voices in this show are astounding. Among the six main characters, there isn’t a weak link, but there are only four voice actors. Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain) are both outstanding, but what amazes me is the talent of the women who voice Rainbow Dash & Applejack (Ashleigh Ball) and Fluttershy & Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman). The voices are so fun, entertaining, endearing, and distinctive.

Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash. Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Fluttershy, Spike the baby dragon, and Applejack / Photo from http://mlp.wikia.com/wiki/My_Little_Pony_Friendship_is_Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic also has some killer music. The kiddos and I can’t get enough of “Winter Wrap Up,” “What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me,” or “A True, True Friend.” (For those not familiar, a “cutie mark” is that little picture on the pony’s flank. My husband’s hilarious reaction was, “Who is this Mark guy?”)

My list could go on and on, much longer than you would want to read. What shows or movies would you add? What is your go-to for a rainy day when you just need a moment to not have someone small touching you?

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