The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Kids’ TV Shows for Your Child: The Workin’ Parent’s Guide to Safe and Educational Viewing

Believe it or not, if you’re the parent of a young child, you have a lot of control over what the can and can’t do.  Not to get too deep, but you’re literally introducing them to the entire world.  It’s a big responsibility, especially when your child starts asking you the important questions like “How do spiders pee?”…A question that I still don’t have the answer to because I’ve been too afraid to Google it because of the pictures I might see.  Sorry for the scary mental image.

One of the biggest decisions you get to make as a parent when your child is a couple months to a year old is what type of television, you’re going to introduce them to.  Parents before the 1960’s never had to worry about that question, but in today’s world of not only television but YouTube and whatever else they’ll come up with, there are millions of options at your fingertips.

So, what is a parent to do?  It’s very easy to say don’t let them watch anything for as long as you can.  If you’re a parent who’s been able to do that for any amount of time I give you a ton of credit.  Unless you’re Amish or live in third world country, your child doesn’t have to go to far to run into a smartphone, tablet, computer or traditional TV.  Long way of saying, they’re going to be exposed to it at some point, so you better be prepared for when it happens.

The next question you might have is “How do I pick the right TV show for my child?”  Well, the good news is, there’s no right or wrong answer.  The bad news is, there is an infinite amount of garbage that lives on TV and even more on YouTube. 

I’ll take a minute to apologize, because I don’t mean to scare you.  Especially if you’re a new parent and want to make sure your child lives in the Garden of Eden every day.  But don’t worry, we’ll get through this together. 

Here are a few ways that you can choose the best TV shows for your child and I promise you don’t need a degree in Neuroscience or Theoretical Philosophy (not sure if that’s even a real thing) to figure it out.

  1. Know Your Audience…Your Child’s Age is Key

The age of your child is one of the most important things when you’re trying to decide what shows they should be watching.  It might sound obvious, but your child should be watching something appropriate for their age.  My son recently asked me what my favorite movie is.  Since I didn’t want to have him watch The Godfather because I didn’t think him watching a bloody horse’s head get left in a guy’s bed was appropriate for a 3 year-old.

If your child is only a few months old, they aren’t going to be able to follow the plot of even the simplest show so my advice is to put on Wheel of Fortune which has a lot of nice colors with that wheel for them to look at or Cocomelon which is…you know…singing. 

But as your child gets older, PBS kids has a lot of good educational shows like Sesame Street which has been around since The Revolutionary War…well at least it feels like it’s been around that long.  Nick Jr. also has some good shows depending on what your child likes.

The key thing here is to know what’s appropriate for your child and their developmental stage.

2. Think Before You Put on A Show

To give some hope, no matter what age your child is, there is probably an educational show out there for them.  Even for us parents there is educational TV…Jerry Springer pops into my head as being pretty educational…. if you’re trying to learn about what type of person not to become…

But seriously, if you have a toddler Blue’s Clues and Bubble Guppies are two shows that are pretty educational.  Don’t worry I’m not getting paid by Nick Jr. to promote (unless they want to pay me then I’ll promote even more) but they are engaging shows that actually make you feel like your child isn’t just watching mindless TV.  Another note on Nick Jr, before an episode of a show, they give you a rundown of what skills your child will build by watching the show.  I wouldn’t unregister them for school and have them watch Nick Jr. all day, but you can feel a little comfortable with them watching it for a reasonable amount of time.

If you have PBS, a show like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a solid pick and for a little bit older kids Arthur is pretty good too.  PBS really tries to focus on putting out educational content, so they would be my top pick for a channel.  (Again, they aren’t paying me but I’d be more than happy to have them pay me to promote stuff 😊).

So don’t just put the TV on and land on Tom and Jerry and think because you watched it as a kid it’s a good show.  I used to love that show, but watching it as a parent I realize the only thing it does is teach you ways to try and kill mice….which I guess isn’t a bad thing…Sorry Jerry. 

Put a little effort before you put on something to have a clue about what the show is about, and if your child is a little older giving them some options to choose from.

3. Try and Be Involved as Much as Possible

I’ll be the first person to admit there are times when I’ll let my son watch someone playing a level of Super Mario on YouTube for longer than he should because I’m trying to have a meeting or do some work.  Nobody is perfect. 

As often as you can though, you should be a part of the television experience with your child.  Even if I’m in a different room, I’ll still talk and ask questions about what my son is watching.  Plopping your kid in front of the TV and letting them decide what they want to watch is a recipe for disaster.

4. Talk to Your Child’s Teachers

This may sound like a strange tip.  Why would you talk to your child’s teachers about TV?  You may not realize it but teachers are using TV as tools for teaching lessons and sometimes for entertainment purposes.  My son’s teacher one year had them watch Disney shows before nap time which I didn’t realize until I heard my son singing the theme from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse even though we never watched it before.

The point is, you should know what your child is watching when they’re in school so you can talk about it with them when they’re at home.  They may even be able to give you some ideas on what types of shows you can have them watch.

Picking shows for your child to watch is no easy task.  Trust me, I know from experience.  If you use some of the tips, I provided that should help you in your journey.

The one last tip I’ll leave you with is this…just try.  If you actually try and put effort into monitoring what your child is watching, you’ll put them in a position to not be a brainwashed TV zombie.

So let me know, what are some of your child’s favorite TV shows.

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