Never before has there been so much choice for our kids when it comes to watching children’s TV shows and programmes. When I was younger, kids TV was really limited to BBC or ITV for a few hours each day around normal, grown-up programming.
Yet now, the little ones have access to so much on demand content on Freeview, Virgin, Sky, Now TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, DisneyLife, Hopster and YouTube Kids to name a few.
As written about before, I think technological developments like this can have positives and negatives. However, on the whole, I’m very much in the pro camp, particularly when it comes to increased children’s content.
For me, increased content leads to better choices and improved quality, which in turn can be used alongside other aspects of life (parents, nursery, school etc) to help our kids develop and grow academically and emotionally. Particularly as a preschooler getting ready to start school.
For some parents, the likes of TV and tablets are seen as detrimental. That’s cool – people are obviously welcome to their own views and ways of parenting. However, for us, watching TV or playing games on a tablet is just another thing she can do during the day alongside toys, activity books, crafts, playing outside etc. It’s a balance.
We’ve never tried to restrict technology use by doing things like imposing time limits on how much TV L watches. However, I do tend to help guide the types of programmes she watches to ensure they have benefit. I’ve found this to be increasingly important as she’s gone from toddler to preschooler to school-aged kid.
Whereas in the past she would watch any children’s shows, I now try to steer her towards programmes where she’ll get something beneficial from it. As they’re designed for kids, arguabley everything has some kind of educational or learning aspect to them, but I’ve figured out that there are good and bad examples.
For instance, she’ll more than happily watch Peppa Pig, Bing or Fireman Sam, but personally speaking, I see very few positives in these shows – in fact, it’s often the opposite with Peppa’s brattishness, the negative portrayal of Daddy Pig or Norman Price basically just being a dick. They entertain and pass time, but that’s about it.
Instead, I’d much prefer her to watch alternatives with a bit of substance, thought and learning – for instance, Super Wings teaches about multiculturalism, Doc McStuffins is kind and caring, Go Jetters explores geography and My Little Pony focuses on the importance of friendship and teamwork.
For me, these are positive examples of kid’s shows which are still entertaining but also provide a life lesson or talking point. However, more often than not, this caters purely for the social side of things – how to interact with others, the importance of being kind, thinking about other people, working together to achieve a goal etc.
This is still very important, but it’s not educational in the true sense of the word. As L starts school in September, I guess I’ve been keeping an eye out for kid’s shows that (a) reinforce and build upon what she’s learnt already, and/or (b) teach her about new things that will be important as she grows.
As such, I wanted to highlight and share some of the educational preschooler TV shows we’ve found that go above and beyond most of the other shows out there. They’re still all fun and entertaining to watch, but teaching and educating is at the core of the show rather than just being a happy coincidence.
With that in mind, here are 8 educational preschooler TV shows that L loves to watch:
Available on CBeebies, Alphablocks revolves around 26 different animated blocks who represent each of the letters in the alphabet. The show is designed to aid with reading, writing and spelling by teaching children about phonics, letters and words. During each short episode, children are introduced to different letters who hold hands to combine together to form words that magically appear – for instance, one episode sees the vowels work together with ‘B’ and ‘G’ to create words to save ‘T’ who is stuck on a mountain.
As she’s started to learn more about letters at nursery and at home, L has shown more and more interest in Alphablocks. This started out as trying to spot the first letter of her name on the screen, but has now progressed to recognising the majority of letters, saying their sounds and then naming other words that begin with the same letter. Therefore, this show has definitely helped compound her learning, both by watching it and by giving us the chance to converse about what’s on screen.
Blippi is the alter-ego of Stevin John, a former US Air Force veteran who now produces a range of fun and educational children’s shows. Huge on YouTube, we’ve actually only recently discovered the orange and blue wearing wacky character on Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Fire For Kids. Each episode sees Blippi explain, show and demonstrate different things to the children at home – for instance, he could be driving a tractor, learning the alphabet, doing science experiments, visiting an indoor playground or looking around an aquarium. Whilst doing this, your child (and you!) will learn about the concept (e.g. how a helicopter works) along with numbers, letters, colours, shapes and words.
Blippi as a character is a tad annoying – he dances everywhere, wears stupid clothes and is way too enthusiastic. However, it is hugely engaging for kids which can only help when it comes to their learning. The thing I like about Blippi is that he knows his stuff and has found a way of explaining it to children in a simple, fun and informative way. This is part achieved by things like songs and on-screen graphics, but is often done purely by him demonstrating and speaking on a level suitable for preschoolers. Either way, L loves watching it – and I’m quite partial too!
Do You Know?
Hosted by presenter and YouTuber Maddie Moate, Do You Know? is probably best described as a children’s version of the Discovery Channel’s How Does It Work? programme. Available on CBeebies, each episode sees Maddie take us behind-the-scenes to explain and explore how different things are made. From fizzy water and yogurt to pianos and drums, children are introduced to the processes, people, machinery and techniques required to make some of the items they see in every day life.
In a way, Do You Know? isn’t that dissimilar to Blippi – they’re both about showing and demonstrating how things work. The approach is different though, as Maddie doesn’t need to hide behind costumes or silliness in order to engage and teach kids what is sometimes quite complicated processes. L has loved this show since it first aired and has learnt a lot – I’ll admit, I have too. A particular highlight is the part of the show when Maddie gets out one of her special cameras which help the audience to see things in more detail, be it slow motion, time-lapse or underwater.
Available on Channel 5’s Milkshake!, the show revolves around three CGI pocket-sized aliens (the Floogals) who have come to Earth to learn about its inhabitants (the Hoomans) and what life on the planet is like. Each episode sees Fleeker, Boomer and Flo stumble upon an object in and around the house – for instance, a garden hose, golf clubs, a board game, an umbrella or rubber bands – then set about studying it, figuring out what it does, then reporting their findings back to their home planet Floog.
Although it doesn’t go into anywhere near as much detail as shows like Do You Know?, it’s a fun and entertaining way for toddlers and young preschoolers to learn about the world around them. Furthermore, it does a good job at sparking curiosity, generating questions and solving problems. Getting a little deep about it, I guess the Floogals are like our young kids – they’re experiencing things for the first time and are trying to figure out why things do what they do and what the reasons for certain things are. So, figuring out what a toothbrush is or why we go on holiday via extraterrestrials is a surprisingly good way of explaining simple concepts in an easy to understand way.
From the same creators as Alphablocks and also on CBeebies, Numberblocks is the numerical equivalent of the letter-focused kid’s show. Numberblocks features ten characters with distinct appearances and personalities who are made out of a different number of blocks – for instance, Two is unsurprisingly made from two blocks and Five is made from, yes you’ve guessed it, five blocks. The show helps teach numeracy skills, particularly counting, simple arithmetic and shapes through the use of the Numberblocks combining and separating – for instance, one episode shows Nine sneezing and losing a block to become Eight, then combining with One to become Ten.
Again, L has got different things from the show depending on her age. In the early days, the colours, movement and songs were enough. As she started learning about numbers, the show provided a way for her to recognise numbers, both in terms of the written numbers and counting the blocks. These days, it’s more about understanding the concept of numbers combining to make different numbers, which forms the basis for some of the simple arithmetic she’s able to do.
Peg + Cat
Peg + Cat follows the adventures of a ukulele-playing girl called Peg and her talking feline sidekick Cat. During the show, the two friends encounter a number of maths-related problems, which they have to figure out in order to avert the crisis. Depending on the problem, this may include concepts such as learning about numbers, counting, arranging different sizes, sorting and grouping objects or recognising shapes. For instance, in one episode, Cat and Peg have to tidy her bedroom by sorting different shapes together, whereas in another, they are required to figure out how to get 100 chickens back into their coop.
Available on Hopster, it’s recently become a favourite of L’s. The characters are quirky and funny, there’s catchy songs, it’s charmingly animated – including looking like it’s drawn on graph paper – and it does a great job of incorporating mathematical concepts into everyday life. As well as teaching about things like numbers and shapes, it also shows how to identify problems and come up with create solutions in order to solve them.
The Spot Bots are a family of animated robots who, with the help of children at home, enjoy playing and solving fun games and puzzles. Each game is a live-action sketch which features a different challenge – for instance, practising musical sequences underwater with merpeople (?) Bubbles and Rock, identifying objects with the fairies Whoops and Daisy or playing hide and seek with the alien Oddbods. Some of the sketches can be a bit wacky, silly and annoying, but I’m probably not the intended audience in all honesty.
The good thing about Spot Bots is that it helps with your kid’s observation skills, memory and attention span – if they’re not watching closely, then they’re probably not going to be able to answer the question. In addition to this, most of the games and puzzles revolve around numbers, sequences, sounds and shapes, so they’re also learning about other things at the same time. That’s not all – for the parents who fancy Mr Bloom, you’ll also see him popping up occasionally as other people. WTF?!
Team Umizoomi consists of mini-superheroes Milli, Geo and Bot, who travel around Umi City using their special abilities to help kids with particular problems. To successfully assist the child, the team have to complete several maths-related sub-tasks in order to then complete the main task. As an example, when a child’s boat broke prior to the boat race, they were able to make a new mast and sail by using Milli’s patterns and measuring powers, Geo’s ability to create objects out of shapes and by encouraging the children at home – also known as their Umifriends – to use their “Mighty Math Powers”.
As such, the show is designed to teach mathematical concepts, such as counting, sequences, shapes, patterns and measurements, which it does through a combination of live action and animation, songs, dancing and simple explanations of everyday processes. Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Fire For Kids, it’s one of L’s favourite shows and she loves joining in by shouting answers at the screen. The programme does a great job of blending a lot of educational maths content with interesting and entertaining story lines.
So those are 8 of the educational preschooler TV shows that L (and I) watch. Do your kid(s) watch any of these programmes? What educational shows would you add to the list? Let me know below!