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I consider myself a smart and sophisticated woman. My resume would lead you to believe I am schooled and cultivated. But ask my 4-year old daughter, and you will be told I know much about nothing.

Did you know worms cannot drown, and spider monkeys do not have thumbs?

Translated, her childish slander claims she knows more about animals than me. This may be true. She knows their habitats, their diets, their creature powers, and where they fall on the food chain. She comfortably uses these terms, and others, as she rattles off facts and talks about symbiotic relationships.

A few months ago while observing a tank of fish at Santa Barbara’s marine museum she asked, “Mom, did you know parrot fish live in the coral and eat algae off the polyps?” She then proceeded to let me know that an orca is the same thing as a killer whale, and that a starfish is not a fish, but an invertebrate. Guess we are beyond naming the colors of the fish…

These days I find myself seated at the school desk being lectured on the humming birds and the honey bees by my preschooler. While she has a lot of facts memorized, her myth on procreation and ease of birthing is way off, which is a relief for me.

She lived and breathed the English countryside for her first three years. By age two she knew all the animals on the farm. By age three, she talked to grazing cattle and spotted foxes, pheasants, and deer in our neighboring fields. And while she has visited farms, zoos, animal rescue centers, aquariums, rode a camel in Marrakech, and listened to countless animal books; I cannot deny the fact that a vast amount of her animal knowledge, vocabulary, and interest stems from cartoons.

Programming for kids has come a long way from my childhood days of Sesame Street, Mr Rogers, and Picture Pages. Watching cartoons was a Saturday morning treat. Now with NetFlix and Amazon Prime, kids stream continuous cartoons on demand and without the annoying advertisements.

I curb Eloise’s chillaxing tube time to around an hour a day. I monitor what she is watching and give a 5-minute warning before the television is switched off. Tears are sometimes shed, but I let them fall as I want cartoon watching to be considered a treat, not a given.

For the record let me state that Barbie, My Little Pony, and SpongeBob SquarePants are banned from our house. But others, like PBS Kids’ Wild Kratts, are welcomed and enjoyed by both child and parent.

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Below are some of Eloise’s favourite TV programs with mama’s stamp of approval. They can be found on PBS Kids, Nick Jr and Disney Jr, as well as streamed through NetFlix and/or Amazon Prime. Each have the common goal of creating awareness about caring for our environment and the creatures who dwell alongside us. The emphasis is on community, teamwork, and compassion for others.

Keep in mind, cartoons have targeted age groups. A program is age appropriate for your child if: 1) the cartoon holds the child’s attention 2) the child can answer basic questions surrounding the plot* afterwards.

* preschool age and older.

KidsTV

Targeted Age 2- 4 (Preschool):

  • Dora the Explorer, Nick Jr and Amazon Prime
  • Go Diego! Go., Nick Jr and Amazon Prime
  • Octonauts, Disney Jr and NetFlix
  • Team Umizoomi, Nick Jr and Amazon Prime
  • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That, PBS Kids and NetFlix

Eloise enjoyed ‘Dora the Explorer’ and ‘Go Diego! Go’ around age 2-3. Recently she watched ‘Go Diego! Go’ and was bored after one episode. Both ‘Octonauts’ and ‘Team Umizoomi’ are still enjoyed by her at age 4. ‘Team Umizoomi’ is great for math-based adventures. ‘The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That’ has also been recently well received with its focus on natural science and caring for animals.

Targeted Age 6-8 years:

  • Wild Kratts, PBS Kids. Also available on NetFlix and Amazon Prime.

‘Wild Kratts’ originally aired in 2011 on PBS Kids to educate children on biology, ecology, and zoology; and, to teach how small changes can make big impacts on the environment. Each episode focuses on a group of creatures from a set region of the world. Martin and Chris Kratt open and close the show with video footage. The  cartoon’s main characters are animated versions of the Kratt brothers along with a brainy team of scientists. In each adventure, the Kratt brothers transform into various creatures thanks to creature power suits which enable them to discover firsthand how unique features help them survive in the wild.

I believe television, like most things in life, is fine in moderation. If properly monitored and directed, kids’ programming can be an extension of a child’s learning curve. I am not advocating couch potato kids, but any parent would agree, we need some timeout time to change the laundry, schedule the dentist, or cook dinner. I have also realised that once a child stops napping, they still need some downtime during the day. What’s more, you might even learn something new.

Did you know a beaver’s teeth never stop growing? Did you know the platypus has a sixth sense? It’s electroreception. Thanks, Wild Kratts!