For most parents who are looking for some quiet time of their own or a chance to catch up on the housework, children’s TV means one thing: that insufferable porcine brat Peppa Pig. A lot of parents have a love/hate relationship with the hugely popular Pig family, and every now and again, you’ll find some or other article doing the rounds claiming that Peppa is turning kids into soulless zombies or causing psychological issues. It doesn’t do either of those things but it may turn your child into a bit of a brat.
The author of this piece is spot on when she notes that Peppa “stamps her feet, bullies her brother, makes fun of her parents, falls out with her friends, whinges when she loses, pokes out her tongue and generally displays copious amounts of antisocial behaviour. I’m not one to go about quoting the Daily Mail but I have noticed my children turning into mean, whiny, awful little people after too much Peppa Pig and after hearing “No, I wasn’t!” “Yuck!” and “Naughty Daddy!” one too many times, I started looking for alternatives.
After a bit of googling, I came across some advice suggesting that for the preschool set, what you want is a small cast of characters and ideally a narrator to do some hand-holding. Then I started sifting through the CBeebies website for shows like these. I avoided the Cartoon Network and Nick Jr on the advice of friends and based on what I’ve seen from these channels, which seem to feature shows that are noisier and more fast-paced, and characters who are more loud-mouthed and sassy (read: rude).
After I’d narrowed down the list a bit, I looked up episodes of these shows on YouTube and tried to figure out if Danyaal would like them. I also crossed anything off the list that was slightly weird or scary because three-year-old Danyaal was the child who cried when Curious George floated away on a balloon and then spent the rest of the afternoon tearfully asking how George was going to get home but also refused to let me put the show back on to find out how because it was too scary. Here’s what I’ve got:
Okay, so it doesn’t technically have a narrator but this is a great show for kids aged about two and up. It’s a stop-motion animation about a lamb who goes off to nursery school for the first time with his farm animal friends including a duckling, a piglet, a kitten, a puppy and a hedgehog, among others. There is no dialogue, just lots of bleating, barking, meowing and, from his teachers, an owl and a pelican, lots of hooting and squawking. That may sound tedious but it’s actually quite cute, and not very different from the shows I remember watching when I was very small like La Linea (Lineman) and Morph, just with more plot and better animation. What I also love about Timmy is that he is a flawed character. (Yes, I realise we’re talking about an animated plasticine lamb.) He isn’t the smartest kid – erm, lamb – or the kindest, or the one who does everything right, and he isn’t mean either. He’s just an energetic lamb who sometimes makes bad choices for selfish reasons, so basically he’s just like every other preschooler. Take a look at the episode below in which Timmy, an only lamb, learns that he can’t always have his way and how to say sorry.
Raa Raa the Noisy Lion
Trust a carnivore to get the job done. While Peppa can be horrible to her friends and family, noisy Raa Raa always tries to be helpful to his animal friends in the Jingly Jangly Jungle. Be warned, this is a musical themed programme so there’s lots of singing and repeating of different songs or sounds. (Prepare yourself for rhymes like”Bing bang bong, bing bang bong, bing bang bong is my favourite song.”) But Raa Raa is very sweet and well mannered, and there’s no whining or bickering to speak of. Any conflict is handled with gentle words, which is really what you want to be modelled for your child. The narrator in Raa Raa does have a slightly unusual Scottish accent but I quite enjoy it and the kids have never complained. (Let’s be honest, if you’re going to sit there and watch it with them or stay within earshot, the show better please both child and adult, okay?) Here, Raa Raa puts together and then loses a collection of noisy things. Fortunately, his friends help him retrieve them.
Sarah & Duck
This has got to be my absolute favourite kids’ show. I think I love it even more than the kids do because it is so whimsical and so delightful. Sarah is a little girl who lives with her friend Duck. The other recurring character is the narrator, who gently guides Sarah through each episode. Together they go on adventures, meet new friends – like a happy rainbow, a neighbour they call Scarf Lady, and kid/bird duo John & Flamingo – and work out how to solve the problems they encounter. With its slow pacing and gentle themes, it’s perfect for your late preschooler (and their guardian). Here Sarah and Duck have a hot air balloon race with Scarf Lady.
We haven’t expanded the kids’ TV options much beyond this short list, although I may try to shake things up a bit over the school holidays. We picked up a Kipper book from the library recently and I’ve just found out there’s an animated TV show based on the series, so that might be something to try. Feel free to drop any suggestions in the comments.
You can also check out Common Sense Media’s list of TV shows for preschoolers for more ideas.