Ask the grumpies: favorite shows/movies for kids

Leah asks:

What’s your favorite shows/movies for kids?

My little pony: Friendship is magic.  Except the first season has a couple of problematic episodes in terms of race. Oh why oh why oh why did they feel it necessary to include the magic negro trope (Zecora) or to trade native buffalo land for apples.  I mean, really?  But with the exception of those two episodes, it is a wonderful wonderful feminist series that is really entertaining for all ages.

Imma go old-school:  Reading Rainbow, back in the day.

(#1 notes:  both my kids hated Reading Rainbow because it is SO SLOW)

edit:  related tv for toddlers

What are your recommendations, Grumpeteers?

33 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: favorite shows/movies for kids”

  1. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Magic school bus! Lily Tomlin!

    How it’s made, I actually like to watch *with* them.

  2. Catwoman73 Says:

    MLP is great- the music is awesome! We really like Stella and Sam, too- it’s a nice innocent show, full of imagination.

  3. Leah Says:

    I loved reading rainbow as a kid, and I actually bought an episode from itunes. Don’t think my kid is ready for it yet . . . we still haven’t watched any kid shows. We do watch nature documentaries. She likes “Life” for about 10-15 minutes.

    When do people generally start watching kid shows with their kid? My kid is 1.5.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We loved it too, but it would literally make DC1 scream. (Similarly really early episodes of Sesame St where they have these really long boring stretches of animal videos.)

      I think the age varies from 0 to 2 or later. The 2 or later is mostly (but not entirely) people who read a lot of parenting books. The research doesn’t actually back up the no-screen-time before 2 suggestion, but that is still the AAP recommendation, I think.

    • hypatia cade Says:

      We held off until 2 with our oldest (and likely will do something similar but necessarily less strict with the youngest).

      Daniel Tiger is pretty awesome and useful for preparing kids for various events/transitions (doctor, new baby, potty) and even youngish kids can get something out of the plot and jingles.

      AAP just revised its guidelines…. I can say this again whenever the tv time post comes up, but most of the evidence about screen time has to do with how its used — if you use it as a babysitter and it replaces adult time, bad. If you use it so you can be sane and not yell at your kids while you do an adult task, neutral…. if you leave it on in the background so it just adds noise that interferes with language learning, bad (under this approach any source of background noise is bad for language learning). On the other hand, if you watch the show together and engage with your child (much as you would with a book), the effect may be neutral-good.

      There is no such thing, though, as educational tv — i.e., tv that is inherently educational without adult support – at age 2 and under. Baby Einstein has been debunked (summary here: Evidence shows that kids learn better/faster/more in live settings than in tv settings (and in fact most studies show no learning in tv settings at this age for words, concepts, sounds, foreign languages, etc and if tv replaces interaction the benefit is negative). Earlier and longer time watching tv = poorer vocabulary at later time points.

      Over 2 years of age the evidence is less clear and depends on how you use TV (see above re: watching together and engaging/retelling the tv show vs. just using as a baby sitter).

      I wonder if the no screens under 2 recommendation is useful though because people genearlly have NO IDEA how much TV they watch and vastly underestimate it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Almost all of the studies finding negative impacts of tv watching are correlational. They cannot actually point to tv as being the cause of worse outcomes. We don’t know what the counter-factual would be because the families whose kids watch a lot of tv in our culture are worse off than families that don’t in many ways (I suspect the counterfactual might be the kids would get beaten more or hurt themselves while unsupervised without tv).

        The studies that are able to get at causality generally find zero effect (and some positive effects for some sub-groups for some ages–mainly for Sesame St, Blue’s Clues). We summarize a little bit of the research in a previous post somewhere.

      • hypatia cade Says:

        There is experimental evidence at least as far as word learning goes (e.g., Even when common confounds, like SES, are controlled the main finding is that when the tv is on (in natural settings) people talk/interact less with their child. ( You are right that experimental studies of presence/absence of tv on family dynamics hasn’t really been done, but I think that would be especially challenging to do and correlational evidence is a common source of data/inference for public health problems where it is difficult/unethical to use random assignment. (i.e., most of the evidence on smoking and lung cancer is correlational but not dismissed out of hand)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Nobody is arguing that baby einstein works (or at least not anymore), which is what that first link relates to. Or that tv is a substitute for human interaction.

        Controlling for SES etc. isn’t enough because that doesn’t get the unobserved omitted variables. Poor families that control their kids’ tv watching are different in many ways than poor families that don’t control said watching.

        There are a few papers by economists that use natural experiments to simulate exogenous increase/introduction of tv and they essentially find no effect. They’re cited somewhere in one of our articles on tv watching.

        Yes, talking with your kids is better for vocabulary etc. than putting them in front of the tv. However, that’s generally not what tv viewing is substituting for (and it’s also not substituting for exercise). High SES kids will generally do fine no matter what. TV isn’t what’s harming low SES kids.

        Maybe Emily Oster can write another book now that her kid’s older.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        I think ‘high SES kids will generally do fine regardless’ applies to many situations.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        SRSLY. (Assuming no abuse etc.)

  4. The frugal ecologist Says:

    Curious about what your tv policy is for your kiddos. We have done zero screen time for our 2 year old. That’s been easy, and I’m not sure when/if we want to break the glass…as a kid I had a limit of one 30 min show per day, but I remember zoning out to hours of tv if my mom wasn’t home…

    When did your kids start watching tv? Do you set limits? Do you treat it as a reward? Do they watch on a regular set or on a device – tablet etc. maybe this should be an ask the grumpies!

    No judgement, just curious how other folks approach this…

  5. chacha1 Says:

    When I was a little kid we watched Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, and Sesame Street. I am pretty sure I learned to read, between ages 4-5, from Sesame Street + bossy big sister.

    We did not have much nature programming available to us at that time. I think if I had a kid now and needed to park it in front of the TV for an hour, I would choose something from Discovery or Animal Planet or PBS rather than any of the horribly loud “kids’ shows” I have been momentarily subjected to while switching channels.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It is so hard to get old Mr. Rogers episodes. We have a few, and DC1 really liked them. I bet DC2 would too (but we left them at home!)

      I’m not sure Discovery or Animal Planet are any better in terms of volume etc. than the children’s counterparts (Go Diego, Wild Kratts, Octonauts, etc.)

      • chacha1 Says:

        I guess I’m thinking of the documentary-style programming – David Attenborough type stuff. I have never not been interested in that. Have no idea what’s even out there in non-documentary programming for kids.

        I distinctly remember watching, at age 6 or so, a thing called “Last of the Curlews” which was about an extinction. It was definitely a formative piece (Enter Tree-hugging Hippie), to the point that I still remember it and 35 years later went looking for the book it was based on.

        As to TV under the age of 2, well. I think under 2 you just have to accept that the child needs human attention, not a TV, so I’d go with a live babysitter. :-) But then I don’t have kids so what do I know.

      • Leah Says:

        Yes, we prefer the DVDs of Attenborough-type stuff. But we don’t yet use TV as a babysitter. Our kid (1.5) does watch a few shows with us. Notably, Jeopardy (our guilty pleasure) and some sports games. She likes football. I’d complain, but it’s good bonding time with daddy, and they talk about the game while they watch. She mostly plays and just watches for short periods.

        My dad says they used to put us in the playpen and turn on movies when I was little. I turned out educated, so I’m not too nervous about my kid.

      • Calee Says:

        All the Mr Rodgers are available on Netflix streaming. Even my 8 year old loves him.

        My kids have loved wild kratts, little einsteins, backyard iguana and octonauts in that 3-8 year old animated show range.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        They are?.!? Must find now!

  6. delagar Says:

    My kid loved the National Geographic shows about animals, even from when she was very tiny. Loved Zoobamafoo, for the same reason. Stephen Universe and Adventure Time are excellent cartoons playing right now.

  7. becca Says:

    The way I sum up the new AAP recommendations: “Skyping with Grandma: now applauded for the under-2 set”.

    I would say there is definitively educational TV for 3 and 4 year olds (Sesame Street and Super Why have awesome experimental data, and I liked the idea of the psychology of Daniel Tiger). It’s just a lot of things that look “educational”, don’t work.

    The slower TV that bores kids might actually be good for them. The data on Sponge Bob and attention is not good. Mister Rogers was designed to be *slower* than typical real life conversational pace, on the principle that slowing things down helps with picking up language (I wonder if anyone has ever tested it for ESL purposes).
    That said, although I did ban Sponge Bob (because I hate it, really), when my kidlet was ittybitty (under 1), he really enjoyed watching sports… he wanted faster pace than a lot of the nature shows.

    Magic School Bus is my favorite thing to watch with kidlet, but really outside of Pixar movies there isn’t much we both enjoy a ton. Granted I can’t blame him for not being interested in Melissa Harris Perry, and I refuse to watch Power Rangers on general principle.

  8. Rented life Says:

    Peg and Cat! DC is almost 2 and loves Peg and Cat as well as Daniel
    tiger. Hubby and I enjoy Peg and Cat too which makes it easier to sit through. DC doesn’t get into sesame st at all. Shaun the sheep is also a big deal. We’ve watched a little more TV lately because we want to watch our holiday specials too. I try to keep it to about an hour a day but sometimes…life. And sometimes Shaun the sheep dvd means I can do an important work related thing for a few minutes. And I just can’t be bothered to feel guilty about that.

  9. frythefinancialfish Says:

    My older boys (7/4) love Todd world and care bears- the 2 year old twins love Thomas and Elmo’s world. Todd world is a great show that always has a theme/message that is good for kids. They also like Yo Gabba Gabba but that show kind of dulls the senses after awhile…I can only take about 10mins at a time of Yo Gabba Gabba.

  10. frythefinancialfish Says:

    The hardest thing right now is regulating “tablet time” over TV- The older kids are addicted to tablets- either shows on Youtube- Egg surprise/peppa pig/ super mario world/ or angry birds cartoons or games -candy crush- crossy road- fruit ninja. Sometimes I catch them watching shows that are too violent on youtube so I have been watching their activity a lot more recently. Does anyone else have trouble regulating “tablet time”

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