Discover what an expert in early childhood psychology thinks about children’s TV programs that provide important life lessons. These programs combine entertainment with valuable educational content, promoting both cognitive and emotional development.
Young children’s exposure to electronic media often elicits conflicted feelings in their parents. Common wisdom holds that too much time spent in front of a screen, even educational ones like tablets and smartphones, can be detrimental to a child’s mental growth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against exposing infants and toddlers to any digital media before the age of 18 months (aside from video chatting) and suggests that any digital media introduced between the ages of 18 and 24 months be of “high quality” and used together with caregivers. At age 2, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests capping daily screen time to one hour.
However, as anyone who has seen the now-viral six-minute U.S. Senate testimony from 1969 by Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers, advocating for increased funding for public childhood shows can attest, certain screens, and more importantly, a specific type of programming, can play an important, positive role in a young child’s development.
According to research out of Texas Tech University, preschoolers who watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (an extension of the iconic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) showed improved emotional awareness, empathy, and sense of competence.
Which programs, then, should you let your kid watch during their limited screen time? Find out what the professionals think by reading on.
Expert Opinions on Children’s Television
It’s common knowledge that kids and their caretakers can take a break in front of the TV when they’re feeling cooped up. It is not simply the shows you pick for your kids that are important, though.
Research from Texas Tech University suggests that shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood may be good for kids. However, the study’s conclusions aren’t as strong as they could be because the kids only showed the good traits researchers looked for when their parents talked to them often about what they were watching. To put it another way, the show wasn’t the only factor in the children’s improved behavior.
Dr. Karen Molano, a child psychologist, agrees that such programs present a great opportunity for parents to instill in their children important lessons about family and interpersonal connections.
“The more a caregiver engages with a child as they watch a show, the more likely it is that the youngster will retain the information and use it or reenact it in real life,” she says. It has been found that young children who are exposed to relatable characters are more inclined to act out what they observe in real life, especially during pretend play.
Educative Television Programs
There’s no rule that says parents have to watch every episode with their kids, although doing so on occasion can have positive effects.
Read on to learn about four of Dr. Molano’s favorite shows that are educational for both children and their parents.
1. “Ask the StoryBots” for tactfully broaching sensitive topics.
The Netflix show “Ask the StoryBots,” which targets children aged 3 and up, is excellent for broaching sensitive topics in a non-threatening way.
For children’s instructional television, Dr. Molano recommends StoryBots above all others. According to studies, the material is given in a rhythmic, repeating, and connected way, which is the most effective way to teach youngsters.
Simple as that: your host will answer a single question in each episode. However, the breadth of its inquiries sets it apart, which range from “Why do we need to recycle?” to “Why do people appear different?”
2. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” Show wins for compassion and kindness.
Youngsters can learn a lot about empathy and kindness from the PBS Kids show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The target audience for this presentation is preschoolers and up.
This contemporary animated series, with episodes focused on compassion, generosity, and relationships, should look and feel familiar to parents who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Dr. Molano adds that the show helps children feel protected since it highlights the significance of loved ones and how families may assist each other.
We recommend the episodes “Friends are Different and the Same” and “Discover What Makes Your Family Unique” for viewing with your children.
3. “Bluey” for family problem-solver.
The Disney Plus series Bluey does a great job modeling cooperative problem-solving for its young target demographic. To put it simply, Bluey is a fantastic program for kids over the age of four.
For Dr. Molano, “the caregiver-child bond is paramount,” and that’s what “Bluey” emphasizes most. It teaches kids that their parents will be there for them when things go tough but that they can handle challenges on their own, too.
Bluey, a Blue Heeler puppy, and her family are the stars of this show. According to Dr. Molano, the dog’s parents frequently engage in make-believe with Bluey and her brother. This serves as a model for how real-life families might engage in creative role-playing.
For an example of this, check out “Camping,” in which Bluey befriends a French Labrador named Jean-Luc despite their linguistic barrier. Also recommended is “Take Away,” which depicts Bluey’s parents keeping their unruly family under control while waiting for takeout. (Recognizable, right?)
4. “Doc McStuffins” for having a role model.
In this regard, Disney Plus’ Doc McStuffins is a top selection. The recommended age for this program is four and up.
Dr. Molano also has a soft spot for the popular children’s show Doc McStuffins, in which the title character utilizes logic and analysis to “diagnose” and “cure” her toys. Nonetheless, the show’s focus is on being a good role model for others, as Doc’s mother is a doctor and the principal breadwinner for the family. In the meantime, Doc serves as an inspiration to her younger brother and sister.
Dr. Molano explains that the show has another, more subtle message: “Kids might be marginally less afraid of visiting their doctor after viewing the experience in the film’s non-threatening manner.” Inspiring episodes like “Bedazzled!” and “Pet Rescue: A Pet for Everyone” are still available on the show’s website even though they ceased in 2020.
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