Friday, July 22, 2011

My Favorite Children's Shows

1. Olivia- I love, adore, worship this show. I have watched it by myself multiple times. Olivia is a little girl pig who is creative, articulate, smart and a dreamer. The storylines are original, sweet, funny and often involve Olivia imagining elaborate schemes and scenarios. From the ridiculously catchy theme song, to the sweet and smart silent intros to each episode, to her very true relationship with her family (especially her little brother Ian), the show is absolutely delightful. I particularly like Olivia’s Rules for Life:

#4: If you really want to hide your baby brother, change his diaper first.

#52: If your mom is having a baby and she asks you whether you want a brother or a sister, that does not mean you're really gonna get the kind you ask for.

#24: Just because it's called a veggie loaf, it doesn't mean it can't be something more exciting, like a veggie castle.

#31: Most people think animals don't talk, but they do. They just talk very quietly.

#100: Red is the very best color for absolutely, positively everything.

#110: It's important to use fancy French words when you're talking about ballet

Also, it is made in Ireland, which is just icing on the cake.

I love her. And Maeve loves when I sing and dance along with the opening music. Well, maybe not right now but she’ll learn to appreciate the joys of interpretive dance as she gets older.

2. Backyardigans: The catchiest songs on all of television. I dare you to watch this song and NOT find yourself singing “Racing day, its racing day! It’s not puppy chasing day, today’s the day we race!”. The stories revolve around 5 neighbors- a penguin named Pablo, a Kangaroo named Austin, a hippo named Tasha, a moose named Austin and, well, something named Uniqua. I don’t think we’re supposed to know what she is. Each episode is about the friends playing together and venturing off into imaginary scenarios. These can be anything from pirate adventures to spy games, to delivering pizza to Mayan temples. The music is wonderful, the stories are sweet and educational, and the characters have very well-developed personalities. Each episode also ends with the Backyardigans having a healthy snack. Mmmm, healthy snack. And there’s a family of worms called the Wormans that we occasionally see, with Herman Worman and Sherman Worman being the patriarchs. What’s not to love about that?

3. Dora: This is going to be a divisive choice, I know, but I really like Dora. The repetition can be annoying, but it is rooted in educational theory and my daughter loves it. The show also sends good messages about solving problems, helping friends, and the use of maps. Oh, and how to handle a grumpy old troll that controls a bridge. Useful life lessons all.

4. Dino Dan: Canadian kid has cop mom, mildly annoying little brother, dad who is away at the Royal Museum of Canadian Stuff, and sees dinosaurs. What’s not to love? I can’t tell you how much my daughter has learned from this show, but the fact that can both say Quetzalcoatlus and knows what that means is a pretty good example. Also, I have a thing for gender equality (which is at the root of my hatred for Max and Ruby) and this show does a great job of portraying strong female characters (cop mom and Dan’s school female friend who is as awesome at dino stuff as he is and has a mind of her own).

5. Team Umizoomi: This show is a fun intro to mathematical concepts. As a math-deficient adult, I appreciate any exposure my kids have to numbers, patterns and the use of math in everyday settings. In fact, I have been watching it as part of my GMAT prep. Not really, but maybe I should…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Most Annoying Children's Shows

Like most parents, I spend an inordinate amount of time watching children's shows. Many of them frankly, suck. Below is my list of the world's most annoying kid's shows. Disclosure: we watch primarily Nick Jr., and I assume that children's shows in Burkina Faso or somewhere are probably pretty bad too, but I haven't seen them.

Behold, my list, in descending order of suckiness (#1 being most sucky):

1. Max and Ruby

Where to begin? Max and Ruby are rabbit siblings with no parents in sight, yet have a grandma. What drives me most crazy about this show is the reinforcement of really terrible gender roles- Max is the irascible little brother, always doing something to mess up Ruby’s day. Meanwhile, Ruby is an inflexible, nagging perfectionist. In the real world this would be a melodrama about two orphans making it on their own and the brother eventually killing his sister because he just can't take it anymore, but in cartoon-land it is the world’s most annoying show. To cap it off, I know many mothers whose kids have adopted Max’s extremely annoying one-word vocabulary. The kid doesn’t say please or thank you, or speak in anything resembling a sentence- “milk!”, “airplane!”, “truck!”. It would be okay if he’d just say “bitch!” once in reference to his sister. Did I just type that? Bad Siobhan!

2. The Upside Down Show

I don’t even know what this show is. There’s a reason it is on at 11:00pm on Nick Jr., and that is to appeal to stoner college kids. Another export from Australia, Land of the Wiggles, there are two brothers who talk funny and act kind of dumb so your kids feel smart. Sometimes there’s a puppet. I shouldn’t write anymore because I have only watched about 3 minutes of this show total, it is all I can take.

3. Toot and Puddle

Toot and Puddle is actually rather endearing- one of the friends travels the world and writes back to the other one about his adventures and sometimes they go together. I can’t tell which is Toot and which is Puddle, which is why I am being vague about their individual responsibilities. My issue with the show is that I am fairly certain that Toot and Puddle are porcine life partners, and I while I support gay marriage in all its forms I think the show should just come out and say it. Plus little Opal (girl pig and cousin of Toot) clearly has a massive crush on Puddle and I can just see “Opal- The Teenage Years” coming to Nick at Nite soon, where she dyes her hair black and plays lots of Tori Amos after he finally comes out of the closet. Just not fair to poor little Opal.

4. Franklin

My problem with this show can be summed up quite succinctly: Why is Franklin the only one with a name? Is he a racist turtle and so all the Owls and Bears and Beavers look alike to him and so he doesn’t bother? I do like the show’s messages of responsibility and dealing with complex emotions, but man does the name thing bug me.

5. Caillou

Weird kid with no hair does sort of strange things while being overly excited about them. Surprised that this show is Canadian? Me neither.

Coming Tomorrow: My Favorite Childrens' Shows!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Joy of Mediocrity

There are myriad parenting methods out there to choose from. For instance, I happen to be an adherent of the Mediocre Parenting Methodology, which is loosely defined as doing what it takes to get through the day with everyone alive, only mildly injured, and with a modicum of sanity intact. There's no book or anything for this particular method, but the following list of questions may help you determine if you are a follower of MPM:

If your child says she has boogers and you reach for a tissue as she tells you "not in my nose, in my MOUTH!" you might be a mediocre parent.

If you put more in your 401(k) than your kids' college fund because, hey, they don't give badminton scholarships for retiring, you might be a mediocre parent.

If people compliment how nice your child's hair looks, and you say thank you because you know it is due to his liberal application of bananas this morning that his cowlick is tamed, you might be a mediocre parent.

If you've expanded the five second rule to say, thirty seconds and no visible dirt or hair, you might be a mediocre parent.

If you have given your one year old potato chips at dinner time just so you can enjoy one meal in relative peace and quiet, you might be a mediocre parent.

If you've put off cleaning your car because you know that a petrified French fry might come in handy during the next blizzard/time you run out of gas/post-playdate tantrum, you might be a mediocre parent.

If you've faked a business trip just so you can check into a hotel for two nights of uninterrupted sleep/showering/peeing, you might be a mediocre parent.

These are but a few examples. If you are an adherent, please add your guidelines in the comments below!