Emily Writes picks some kids shows you can watch without wanting to poke your eyes out with a blunt stick.
Before I had kids I wasn’t going to let them watch any screens. We didn’t even own a TV when my firstborn came along. He went without TV until he was about two. Then his brother came along and now I feel like I have a deep and unhealthy relationship with Fireman Sam. We don’t have free-to-air so I rely on Lightbox and Netflix for shows, and do my absolute best to steer clear of the horror that is YouTube.
My youngest son is obsessed with Paw Patrol and would basically gladly give me up before he would give up time with those godawful fucking dogs. Personally, I think the whole Paw Patrol gang should be taken out the back of the farm and dispatched. I might allow for Skye and Everest to live as they’re doing their best in a misogynist patriarchial capitalist dystopian future where lives are ruined by a delusional mayor with a goddamn chicken and a spiteful eight-year-old who uses the pups as slave labour. If you’re wanting to avoid the horror that is Paw Patrol, my suggestion is not ever introducing your child to it. Because it’s too late for me now.
It’s too late.
My oldest son however has slightly better taste in TV and if I was ever to re-do parenting, like swap the kids I’ve got for new ones, I would begin by only introducing them to good TV. Bad kid TV like Paw Patrol and Fireman Sam is addictive. Once the kids see it, they can’t un-see it. It’s like Pringles – once you pop you can’t stop. Or using a Satisfier Pro 2.0 in the shower before work. It becomes part of your routine.
So basically, it might be too late for you. But if it’s not, here are my best tips for good TV for your kids. My criteria is that watching it doesn’t make me fall into an existential crisis that ends with me crying into a bottle of pinot gris while looking at photos of how thin I was before kids.
Deadly 60 On a Mission on Lightbox
The first 800 times I watched Deadly 60 I really hated it. The premise is fairly simple: British Steve Irwin Steve Backshall travels the world looking at deadly things. The only thing I really enjoyed was Steve Backshall being bitten by an alligator and that time when that snake almost strangled him. But now that I’ve seen it 30 million more times I’ve grown to love Steve and his glistening muscles straining beneath his t-shirt as he seductively tells me about stink bugs.
There’s even an episode about New Zealand, and because we have nothing deadly in our country it features glow worms and sperm whales. Steve Backshall always wears tight t-shirts because he knows what’s up.
My oldest one’s verdict: “Steve Backshall is the coolest guy there ever was in the world did you know he went into the water with a box jelly fish and he has a stinger suit but he could have been stinged through his… *I zone out for a few hours* …and he also went to Cosma Rica and there was an ant eater and… *several days later* …and he isn’t even afraid of a crocodile because it bit his biter and….”
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on Netflix
Have you ever heard of Fred Rogers? He’s basically my Jesus. He had a show from 1968 to 2001 and I sincerely wish it was still on. Alas it isn’t. Fred Rogers was a huge advocate for children and I think about his advocacy and love for children a lot. He would end each programme by telling his viewers, “I like you just the way you are”. Which is, by all accounts, the nicest thing you could say to someone. I highly recommend you see the documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I saw it on a plane and cried so much I became dehydrated.
He had a puppet called Daniel Tiger and that’s where this new version comes from. It includes characters from the original neighbourhood like King Friday and Mr McFeely. Ma and Pa Tiger are kind of grating what with their ridiculous patience for everyone in the neighbourhood. But they’re aspirational. They are the parents you want to be (but you’re not them, no you’re not that good). There are great songs about trying new foods, and sharing, and being kind. I put it on often for my younger child.
My oldest one’s verdict: “THIS IS BORING PUT SOMETHING ELSE ON I HATE DANIEL TIGER.”
Mister Maker on Lightbox
I know what you’re going to say – you don’t want shit art all over your house either. But at least they’re doing something while they’re watching TV. It makes you feel less guilty doesn’t it? Mister Maker (a guy called Phil Gallagher who looks like a 1995 house DJ) drives his Makermobile across the country and creates pointless craft “art” shit that your child will absolutely not be able to make and everyone will end up crying.
But still, you won’t have that feeling you get inside while they watch toy unboxing on YouTube. You know that feeling like you’re contributing to the downfall of all of humanity and you’re creating an alter of materialism and consumerism for your children to worship and ruin the planet with? Just me?
Mister Maker has some shapes that the kids are quite fond of. One speaks in a very deep voice and quite frankly it’s sexually confusing. But since watching Mister Maker my kids are far more into art than they’re into just sitting there moaning that they’re bored. So that is a thumbs up from me.
Child’s verdict: “WE AREN’T WE ALLOWED GLITTER I CAN’T MAKE THIS WITHOUT GLITTER.”
Octonauts on Lightbox
Creature report! Creature report! Octonauts by far has the best bangers of any TV show don’t @ me. It’s full of jams that will stick in your head for the rest of your life, providing a soundtrack to your guilt at letting your kids watch Octonauts for six hours in one day because it was raining. Octonauts is similar to Paw Patrol in its near non-existent representation of women.
But it’s less annoying, so there’s that. “Explore! Rescue! Protect!” is a reasonably good motto for your kids to have drilled into them and they at least use real animals and places so your kids will learn about, I don’t know…starfishes? Also I have a soft spot for Kwazii the cockney cat and Captain Barnacles who is (did you know this??) a POLAR BEAR which I only recently found out because he looks nothing like a Polar Bear at all. Also, I have a lot of respect for the fact that there’s a character who is half-tuna, half-turnip and his name is Tunip.
My younger son’s verdict: “NO I WAN PAAAAACHOLLL PAAAACHOLL PEEEEESE”
If your children refuse to watch any of these because they have terrible taste, Fireman Sam and Paw Patrol are also on Lightbox. If you have to watch Fireman Sam it might help to imagine that he looks like KJ Apa as Archie on Riverdale or that ginger guy from that horny Scottish show where she like walks into a rock or something and gets pounded by some virgin guy.
Notable mentions: On Lightbox they have Sesame Street Play All Day with Elmo which is a good Mister Maker Lite, if you can handle Elmo and not feel homicidal. Also on Lightbox, Hey Duggee is gentle harmless fun as is Nori Roller Coaster Boy, though I couldn’t get my kids into either. You may have better luck.
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.