Netflix could be considered another family member at this point in my kids’ lives. My kids have recognized the Netflix logo by about 12 months old each. Not one of my proudest parenting accomplishments, but we keep the TV time within reason most days and balance it with reading, playing, and convincing them to “help” with household activities.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching and re-watching the same sets of shows. So much time, that I can discuss the characters and subplots of Word Party with ease.
I’m okay with the repetition. Children love to watch the same shows and movies over and over because they like the predictability. Honestly, so do I. I know which episodes of her favorite shows I enjoy, and which ones I’m going to (oops) pass on by. I know which shows have theme songs I just absolutely cannot stand. I know which shows display character traits that I don’t want my daughter or son to copy.
Let me give you the rundown of our most-watched shows. I’m accepting nominations for new shows to add to the queue, so please comment and expand our horizons. . .
Wooorrrrd PARTY, the party’s just beg-uh-un! There’s a word for what we’re gonna have, and that word is fun!
The theme song is such an ear worm that we can watch this show one time and I will have it stuck in my head ALL. DAY. At least it’s pretty cute. This show is pretty harmless. The kids learn new words with a predictable format and recurring bit parts. The episodes are really short, so it’s perfect for those “you can watch one show” cases. The downside: the characters all baby talk!! Get it together Netflix! There are child voice actors, or at least people who can imitate child voice actors. I don’t want to hear grown-ups babytalking in “dere cute widdle voithes.” And LuLu: she is a hot mess. She doesn’t know anything and is always running in circles.
This show comes from PBS, so it’s super educational. It’s cute, the kids learn about letters, words, and the parts of a story in a format that stays the same from episode to episode. The characters have a “book club” where they solve problems using books, more or less. The downside: Woofster. He comes along in later episodes and just throws off the group dynamic. Everyone has their own strengths, and then Woofster comes along with his “talking dog who knows the meaning of every word ever even though Whyatt already has the power to read” special power. The group already had a good thing going, and then the flashy new puppy comes in and steals the show. The nerve.
Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse
I avoided this one for a while. I thought it was going to be just awful. Turns out, I was missing out, because it is actually hilarious. Most of the jokes go way over my daughter’s head, but she likes it because it’s Barbie and they do funny things. The whole series is basically a parody of pop culture. For example, there was the “Amaze Chase,” where Barbie and her friends had to race across the country to win. . . something. I don’t remember what, but it was pretty entertaining. One episode had a glitter shortage, which turned the characters into anything from glitter-craving zombies to Gollum to basically drug-seekers (which was a little dark for a kid show, I thought). Barbie is ridiculously perfect and Ken is hopelessly devoted and dumb, but that’s part of the joke. The downside: It has tricked me into watching some of the B-grade Barbie movies that are not nearly as good. Except Princess and the Popstar, it’s actually pretty decent. . .
My husband and I had a surprisingly long conversation about this one last night. . . We’ve watched the whole series multiple times and have formed some pretty strong opinions. It’s a cute enough show, and has great music (it’s all based on Beatles songs. . .and the characters are beetles. . .), so I can’t flat out hate it.
So, what’s my beef with this show? First, the VOICES. There are the terrible “widdle kid” voices. Then, the singing voices NEVER match up with the speaking voices. Again, get it together Netflix! I don’t want to hear a character talk like Pooh Bear and then sing like Shawn Mendes.
Next, the song choices are a little bit of a stretch. No, they are a huge stretch. They don’t fit in a reasonable plot for a group of bugs, the plot is formed around a Beatles song. When is the song “When I’m 64” ever going to be right for a bug? If you can show me a bug that lives 64 years, then we’ll talk. They constructed an entire episode around a Ferris wheel powered by bug farts that resulted from eating “tickets” a.k.a. leaves, just to use “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride.” See what I mean?
Last, they use unnecessary words all the time. Walter, the slug with a lisp, inserts the word “belly” as many times per episode as belly possible. And Crick, the cricket with an inferiority complex, says things like “elecrickity.”
But, it mesmerizes the kids for a bit so I can go pee alone and I get to hear the three year old sing Beatles songs. So we watch it.
OH MY GOODNESS DON’T START THIS SHOW. My daughter LOOOOVES Luna. I guess there are a couple positives: it’s a happy show, it has short episodes, and there are lots of bright colors.
The downside: where do I start?
The theme song is in 7/8 time signature, I’m pretty sure. That is really annoying to me because if it gets stuck in your head, you can’t just nod along on the 1’s and 3’s. . . your brain is going 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3 and it just feels chaotic. (Yes, I was in band)
The intro. . . The live-action Luna jumps onto her bed and puts her hand on this giant Petunia on her wall to go to Amazia. BUT, she’s balanced on one leg and keeps wiggling until it changes to animation! Just do another take until the girl isn’t wiggling.
The unnecessary words. . . Bibi says “bubble” as much as possible. “It’s incredi-bubble!” (Rolls eyes) Karoo speaks in the third person and it’s worse than Elmo. The robot one says things like “oinga boinga, which means great!” No, just do like John Mayer says, and say what you need to say. I don’t need to know your made up language.
The ridiculous story lines. There is no logic in Amazia. “Oh, we have to play the magical piano to make the tree change color so that the sun will know to tell the clouds to rain lemonade so we can save Amazia’s butterflies from being thirsty!” What. The. Heck. I wish that was an exaggeration. “Oh no, Karoo flipped the switch in the kitchen, so the food won’t float anymore! Let’s just spin the plates on sticks instead! Oh good, Chef Crab Hands isn’t mad because this happens all the time!”
AND, if I have to hear my daughter say “No, it’s Amaaaaaazia” in response to me saying “amazing” one more time, I will hide the remote in the couch indefinitely.
This one is pretty good. I don’t have any beef with it yet. It’s a mix between animated characters and live action guest stars. I honestly haven’t paid too much attention to it, but it has yet to annoy me, so there’s that.
Sarah and Duck
*Quack!* I really like Sarah and Duck. It’s such a sweet little show. It’s quiet, there aren’t any recurring songs during the episodes, and no bad behaviors. It’s British, so they all have adorable little accents. No one yells, the colors are all muted, and the animation moves slowly. *sighs* It’s so relaxing.
Sofia the First
I mostly like Sofia. She’s adorable, she sings cute little songs, and is so very good. Buuuut, that’s also my problem. She’s SO GOOD. Even when she does something against the rules, she never gets in trouble because whatever rule she broke needed to be changed anyway. Ummm, no. Let’s have a realistic episode where Sofia gets jealous, breaks Amber’s tiara, and gets grounded for it instead of mildly chastised but ultimately praised because the tiara was harboring an evil witch anyway.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know the entire theme song by heart, though. . . #sorrynotsorry.
True and the Rainbow Kingdom
I was hesitant about this one. I figured it would be Luna Petunia, Part 2. Thanks, but no thanks.
It is actually really cute! They figured out how to make a fantasy land have a little bit of logic so that we adults can watch it without our brains melting. There are all sorts of cute little characters. The episodes have reused sequences, like when True activates her wishes, so that gets repetitive, which is a small downside. But overall, it’s a happy little show that teaches problem solving using a backpack full of made-up creatures. The episode with DJ Bingo Bango is my favorite.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again
LOVE IT. I know that we 80s/90s kids get a little testy when someone does a reboot of our favorite shows, but you should seriously give this one a try. Ms. Frizzle is now Dr. Frizzle (or Grizzle, as my daughter says), so her sister, Ms. Frizzle, takes over her class. All of the students have updated clothes, even though it’s a year later in Magic School Bus land, their clothes are updated to modern times. Phoebe went back to her old school, so I’m sure she’s happier. There’s a new student, but I don’t remember her name, sadly. Kate McKinnon voices the new Ms. Frizzle, and I have to say that she is perfect. Her voice complements Lily Tomlin’s original Ms. Frizzle (who still appears at the end of each episode to field questions from “callers”). Arnold is still a nervous wreck, Ralphie is the class clown, and Dorothy Ann still says “According to my research. . .” (which my daughter imitates and it cracks me up). The theme song is the same (pretty much), but the animation was updated. I haven’t convinced her to love the OG Magic School Bus crew quite as much, but I sprinkle it in for nostalgia. So we have “MY Magic School Bus” and “Mommy and Daddy’s Magic School Bus,” because she doesn’t understand that ours was first. They are just separate entities that coexist in her preschooler brain.
Masha and the Bear
I think this show was originally produced in a foreign country. The words never match up with the mouths and the phrasing is really awkward sometimes. Also, where are this girl’s parents?! Why is she hanging out with a bear?! Why is she so terribly behaved?! Animals run from Masha and leave poor Bear there to deal with her. She ruins everything for Bear. He was trying to leave to go on a date, but she ate all the food for his romantic picnic. Rude! She tries to make up for what she does wrong by smiling and basically saying “but I’m so cute!” as Bear’s house is ruined or all of his food is gone. I just can’t find anything redeeming about this one.
. . .is no longer on Netflix and it makes me sad. I think Daniel Tiger should take 50% of the credit for my daughter’s heightened awareness of her emotions. The little jingles for every situation that have saved so many parents from enduring toddler fits are priceless.
Thank you, Amazon, for keeping this show around for us.
So, there you have it. My recommendations based on our extensive viewing of the preschool-age shows on Netflix (and Amazon).
What kid shows do you loathe or love?