There is more programming for children than ever before. Entire television channels devoted to each demographic age group, plus more content available on line and through gaming systems. And yet most of it is not any more educational than the Tom and Jerry cartoons I watched as a kid.
I’m not knocking Spongebob as entertainment, but it doesn’t enrich the minds of the viewers, does it? So the next time you have a little one that wants to watch something on television (or the computer) try one of the title from this list, for something they will enjoy, but also learn from.
Schoolhouse Rock – These were a series of short music cartoons that were aired in between the standard Saturday morning fair in the 80s. Each “season” took on a different topics (Grammar Rock, Multiplication Rock, etc) and had ten or twelve different songs exploring different aspects of that topic. The songs are surprisingly catchy, the animation dated but charming, and the content is not watered down but actually brain-engaging. A classic then, and still a classic.
Leap Frog – This is a series of cartoons in which a boy frog and a girl frog (and their pet dog) learn letters and sounds, and how to make words. That’s it. It’s very simple and to the point, with just enough bright colors and talking animals to hook the curiosity of even the shortest of attention spans, and then after that it’s all basic learning. Singing little songs about each letter and sound pairing makes it even easier to remember the alphabet.
Sesame Street – Some things are just timeless and perfect. Sesame Street is one of those things. For over thirty years this all-ages show has taught letters, numbers, colors, manners, feelings, and social niceties to children. I won’t bother acting like you don’t know what Sesame Street is, I’ll just remind you that it’s very easy to find, and any kid will love it.
Kratts Creatures – this show only lasted for one season in 1996, but the fifty episodes produced have achieved a sort of immortality. While not drawintg big rating during its run, the show has found a large fan base on the internet, and through DVD releases since then. Two brothers, Chris and Martin Kratt, explore remote locales and learn about animals. They also find time to perform science experiments every show.
Bill Nye the Science Guy – For those of us old enough to remember Mr. Wizard, you will love Bill Nye. He does fun science experiments, and has a showmanship and a passion that really makes his show come alive. Each of the (roughly) one hundred episodes focuses on a different aspect of science: from dinosaurs to the sun to ocean currents. Each topic is explored with experiments, comedy skits, and music.
What shows have you found that bridge the gap between entertainment and education? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and what has worked for you.