We all know that motherhood comes with mountains of guilt, so thanks to Rachel Tompkins we can now admonish ourselves of a tiny part of it…
I can still hear my scathing, judgemental inner voice now: ‘My child will not watch TV!’ I scoffed to myself, imagining my little cherub immersed in good old-fashioned educational pastimes like reading books or playing with wooden blocks. But then I had a child. And actually, at first he didn’t watch much TV. He was a baby, he was my first. I entertained him. Slowly it seeped into our lives though, first just Teletubbies after tea, then the dulcet tones of Bernard Cribbins on Old Jack’s Boat. And now child number two has arrived I can unashamedly hold my hands up and say there’s a significantly greater amount of TV consumed. Don’t get me wrong, my son does still love books, probably as much as his beloved Lego. Both of which he will spend hours playing with on his own. But when the witching hour strikes, I’m the first to admit that I often reach for the TV remote. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so take heart in the fact that some kids TV programmes are actually educational too…
Do You Know?
A firm favourite with my 4-year-old son.
‘A microchip is the size of a grain of rice,’ he told me as he trundled along on the buggy-board the other morning.
‘Is it?’ I replied sceptically. ‘How do you know that?’
‘Maddie told me,’ he grinned.
I paused for a moment assuming it was one of his nursery teachers or playmates, and then I realised.
‘Oh Maddie!’ I laughed.
Maddie is the presenter of the CBeebies Saturday morning programme ‘Do You Know?’.
In each episode she explores how two things work or are made. For example Cake and Soft Play, Cat Flap and Woolly Hat, and Hamster Wheel and Insect Hotel. Having it on series link means that I can practically recite each episode verbatim, as can my son (not-so-proud Mum moment!). But if I ever feel a pang of guilt about reaching for the TV remote, I can comfort myself in the knowledge that thanks to Maddie, my boy has become a font of valuable information. Such as how insect hotels are made (yes there really is such a thing!), that the reflective strips on the side of a police car are called ‘Battenburg markings’ (there was me thinking that was just a cake), and that cat flaps are controlled by microchips (they’ve certainly come on a bit since we had a cat circa 1985...) So now, every time I find him glued to the programme I take heart - his career as a hamster wheel mechanic is sure to await.
‘They play like a dream when they work as a team, Footy Pups!’
Try as I might it’s impossible to get the programme’s opening tune out of my head.
Another favourite with my 4-year-old son and not just because the football coach is my namesake. In case you’ve missed this gem, the programme takes the format of football star Rachel Yankey teaching a group of girls and boys football skills, interspersed with some footballing cartoon characters. Shooting goals, keepy uppies, toe taps….you get the idea. Not only does the programme teach kids the physical skills, which if you’re as footie-phobic as me can only be a good thing, it also encourages more general life lessons such a taking it in turns, being happy for your teammate if he scores, pacing yourself, and so on.
Which means that on a wet, rainy day, it’s almost as good as taking your kids to the park for a kickaround – right?!
‘Can you tell Nanny where the Golden Gate Bridge is?’ I asked my son proudly.
‘San Francisco,’ he replied, parrot fashion.
Considering he’s only just four years old I’m quite impressed that he’s taken on board such an awareness of geography.
However, I’m the first to admit that this crowd-pleasing general knowledge isn’t a by-product of hours of studying. Quite the opposite in fact. You see, it’s something that he’s picked up whilst watching Go Jetters. Another CBeebies favourite, this 3D animation sees the adventure-seeking superheroes explore the world. The Eiffel Tower, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Grand Canyon, The Sahara Desert, The Brandenburg Gate (it’s in Germany if like me you had to look it up!)… you name it, they explore it. Consequently, you can quash any guilt you might have about how much TV they’re watching, safe in the knowledge that it could be planting the seeds of an intrepid explorer of the future. And it serves as a pretty decent party trick too!
Get Squiggling! Letters
Think of what would be produced if Zippy from Rainbow mated with Garfield the cat, and you’re along the right lines for ‘Squiglet’ who presents/stars in this programme. With the help of an alphabet song, a story and his squiggle pad, Squiglet teaches the letters of the alphabet and how to form them. If what looks like a crayon-coloured-in background is anything to go by, it’s a fairly low-budget affair, but that doesn’t seem to put the children off. And if it teaches them how to write their name whilst keeping them quiet for 15 minutes, everyone’s a winner!
‘Switch on your ears, switch on your eyes, switch on your brain…’ This opening gambit appears to be my morning mantra since having baby number two. An animation involving some robot-type creatures, Spot Bots encourages viewers to get ‘switched on’ before inviting them to take part in all manner of activities, from memory games, observation tests, counting, and so on. I suppose it’s a bit like a television adaption of a puzzle book, but without the hassle of trying to find the book, locate a pen that works, and balance aforementioned book on your lap for impatient toddler while feeding a baby. For that, it certainly gets my vote.