Similar to educational internet content, television shows can be valuable additions to a home schooling curriculum or to an overall learning strategy. For all the talk about cord-cutting and the internet doing away with TV programming, the reality in 2020 is that television is still a very relevant medium, although these days it is more likely to be called digital video content.
During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the public school systems in some developing countries came to the realization that many of their students were not ready for distance education. It is generally agreed that audiovisual materials are crucial in distance learning situation, and they are fairly easy to distribute over broadband internet connections; unfortunately, not all students in nations such as Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Uruguay were able to access this content. Access to high-speed internet connections is not always possible, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and remote communities, and not all families are able to afford computers or smartphones; for this reason, the aforementioned countries dusted off legacy distance education tools that used to be delivered over state-owned television channels, and they were able to reach more students.
As with everything else in life, not all television programming for children is educational or even engaging. When you think back to the Golden Age of American animation, the most popular Warner Brothers cartoons were funny, smart, clever, and endearing, but their slapstick comedy themes were hardly educational. It was not until the late 1960s, when the Children’s Television Workshop struck a deal with the fledgling National Educational Television, that real academic value was added to TV programming. Producers and animators of children’s TV content have gotten a lot better in this regard; they realize that they have a great opportunity and responsibility to improve the lives of families by adding as much learning as possible, but some shows are better than others.
You could say that today’s SpongeBob Squarepants is similar to the Warner Brothers cartoons of the Golden Age in the sense that educational intent is minimal; in 2011, cognitive researchers who evaluated the educational merits of SpongeBob found that the show was actually counterproductive for preschool students. With this in mind, there is nothing wrong with children watching a variety of television programming; nonetheless, the pedagogic staff at Prodigies Music prefers the following shows:
This Disney Junior show, which has very high production values, is pure education masquerading as entertainment. Each episode packs a lot of information that is easy to assimilate by young learners, and one of the reasons our Prodigies Music staff members like it is because music tends to be injected into the plot in clever ways; this is better than simply playing classical pieces in the background.
Phineas and Ferb
More than 200 episodes of Phineas and Ferb were animated and broadcast between 2007 and 2015. The production company, Disney Animation Television, did not expect this show to last more than one season because of its premise: Two brothers getting into outlandish adventures during summer vacation. There is a mad scientist who is silly and evil for no apparent reason, and there is also a controlling sister who attempts to derail Phineas and Ferb’s zany projects, but it all comes together thanks to a series of gags that are both smart and clever.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
This is essentially Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood for preschool children. It is noble, wholesome, filled with music, and with a keen intention of delivering early learning experiences. You cannot go wrong with a children’s series that embraces the philosophy of the late Fred Rogers.
A few years ago, Canadian ESL teachers working in Japan came up with an idea of recording sing-along lessons on video for their young students. Since the videos were uploaded to YouTube for easier access, they were produced with more than just students in mind; teachers wanted parents to become involved, and this project eventually grew into the Super Simple Songs channel
Blue’s Clues & You!
The original Blue’s Clues television series on Nickelodeon was a great hit because it blended live-action with animation in a way that was entertaining, educational, friendly, cute, and adorable all at once. This was the defining children’s TV show of the late 20th century, and it has returned for the enjoyment of the entire family. The new version of the show is for preschool ages.
Bluey on Disney
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The success of Blue’s Clues more than likely inspired Disney to adapt the cute blue dog formula with Bluey, an irresistible show about a female puppy and her funny family. Each episode of Bluey involves learning galore, and the sleek production means that parents will also appreciate it. It should be noted that Bluey has even more of a girly touch than Blue’s Clues, but this does not get in the way of its educational content, which is quite high when considering that episodes only last just seven minutes.
Blaze and the Monster Machines
The popularity of the Transformers fictional universe of cars and trucks that turn into giant robots is hard to explain, but when you look at the Nickelodeon series Blaze and the Monster Machines, you will understand that technology can be quite captivating. Producers of this show, which consists of advanced computer graphic imaging, write comprehensive lesson plans about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics into each episode. Blaze is a great show, but the online activities and suggested lesson plans for parents make it even more interesting because they explain math and physics in ways that are fun and easy to assimilate. Of all TV shows on this list, this one is the most likely to end up teaching parents as much as their children.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
This is not the best content that Disney has to offer, it may not even be the best show on this list, but it is certainly worth watching because each episode presents a detailed problem-solving opportunity. Even though this show, which ran from 2006 to 2016, features Pixar-like computer animation, the stars of each episode are old school favorites such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, and Goofy; the latter being the most insightful and resourceful of the bunch even though he provides most of the comedic gags. There is a surprising amount of math education written into each episode.
Dora the Explorer
Bilingual children and student who live in communities where Hispanic American culture is represented stand to gain the most from this Nickelodeon series, which has been very popular since its debut in the year 2000. Dora is a whip-smart Latina girl who is always getting into whimsical adventures and entertaining challenges, which she must solve with help from her friends and audience. The voice acting is superb and often augmented by Hollywood stars. Since this is a Latino-themed show, parents will certainly notice themes related to the importance of strong family bonds. Interestingly, the show’s producers at one point considered the idea of having Dora grow up into a teenage character, but teenage girls in the audience preferred her to remain a clever girl stuck at the age of seven.
One Big Ocean
When it comes to early education, marine biology does not immediately come up in the minds of parents, but One Big Ocean will certainly change your mind. This show is a derivative from the successful Splash and Bubbles series, but the scientific content is higher, particularly as it relates that marine ecosystems face around the world. Quite a few children who have enjoyed this show end up asking their parents to help them keep aquariums at home so that they can continue learning more about aquatic ecosystems.