Every baby nowadays seems to be having a smart phone. I guess now we cannot just wish away tabs and phones from the hands of children; we have gone way past that. Infact nothing works on a cranky toddler like a video when we are at the pediatrician’s office waiting for our turn. Atleast what we can do is give them quality content. I’ve done a lot of searching and watching myself. So I am going to list the ones I’ve found useful in terms of fun and education (in no particular order)
Super Simple Learning – YouTube
There are many many many channels on YouTube offering their versions of nursery rhymes. But I’ve found a lot of them too loud, bright and basic animations without much creativity. Basically videos ripped off from the numerous educational CD available in the market. But this channel has reimagined all nursery rhymes to integrate additional learning aspects into the song. For eg Row Row Row your boat has an animation of a couple rowing through the different seasons, and along with the seasons even the couple grow older. Soft music, rich animation and meaningful bodies are the hallmark of this channel. Also their associated website has printable learning materials that can be used in conjunction with each song. So this one has a big thumbs up from me.
Octonauts – TV series
This TV series is about a group of anthromorphic animal rescuers, basically rescuing sea creatures. It has whimsical characters like a panda chief, a penguin nurse, a bunny mechanic, a pirate cat etc. Octonauts is not just fun, but each ten min episode is packed with a lot of information about water creatures, water bodies, natural phenomena underwater etc and introduces concepts in a simple manner perfect for preschoolers. Also, teamwork, appreciation, problem solving are themes integral to the show, so hopefully children will absorb these qualities subconsciously.
Not as fun as octonauts, nevertheless a good one. It has all the information about dinosaurs, the different periods, the different classifications in a story format. Also there is a short talk by a paleontologist at the end of each episode who takes you through fossils and other complicated concepts. Perfect for the little ones who love dinosaurs.
Cat in the Hat – TV series
Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is a classic. But this classic has spawned a whole line of books and TV series of the same character. These are not written by Dr. Seuss, but the writers have made sure the metrical nonsense of the original is also punched up with a load of information. The books are wonderful in itself, with each one taking up different concepts like human body, reptiles, mammals, butterflies, good habits, rainforest etc. Based on the books came the TV series, with just a few modifications – Sally and Dick became Sally and Nick (snigger, snigger). And whereas in the book, both characters were Caucasian, the series made one of them an African. It’s good. People have seriously started taking diversity in popular media and atleast there seems to be a balance in children’s content.
Little Einstein – TV series
Speaking about balance in representation of diversity, this TV series seems to have given a lot of thought before finalizing the characters. This series has 4 children ( two boys, two girls) with 2 of them being Caucasian, one African and one Asian. Hmmm… However the series is mainly about Europe where the children go on an adventure in each episode on their trustworthy rocket, along the way learning about different places, classical music (and their composers), famous paintings and their painters. It is a fun way to introduce children to arts, music and dance.
Little Einstein is a great concept and I wish there was an indigenous series in India which will similarly take children through the different states of India and introduce them to the different languages, arts, food and culture of the people. This will help children identify themselves more with the country than any force-feeding of nationalism does.