If losing access to children’s programming is keeping you from cutting the cable or satellite cords, go ahead and lay that excuse aside. PBS Kids is free and offers amazing educational and entertaining programming for children of all ages.
Every parent knows how productive you can be when your child is occupied with television for 30 minutes, but with all the reports of how screen time can be detrimental to a child’s development, that 30 minutes can bring with it some guilt. Tune into PBS kids and use the extension activities below to turn TV time into learning time.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Target audience: Ages 2 – 5 years // Target Learning: Social skills
Based on characters from the classic “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is a charming cartoon cleverly teaching social skills through every day kid situations. It offers some great parenting tips too through the modeling provided by Daniel Tiger’s parents. Each episode features a short, catchy song to reinforce the topic of the story. More than once I’ve caught my husband singing, “Grown-ups come back” to our two-year-old to reassure her when leaving her with a sitter. And “If you need to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!” is coming in handy right now.
Extension: Learn the songs! You can download an app called “Daniel Tiger for Parents” that organizes all the songs according to common little kid situations. There are songs for bedtime, sharing, going to the doctor, bringing home a new sibling, self-control. And as silly as you might feel at first, kids really do respond to these positive tunes.
Target audience: Ages 2 – 6 years // Target Learning: Reading skills
In “Super Why,” a cast of friendly characters solves a problem by using the powers of spelling, vocabulary, and reading. In the end, they always rewrite the story to solve the problem. “Super Why” brings together common little kid problems, traditional fairytales and nursery rhymes, and critical thinking skills through catchy songs and positive personalities.
Extension: Learning to change a story is an important skill for kids to learn. It promotes creativity, flexibility, and real-world problem solving. After reading with your kids, go back through the story and encourage them to change some aspect of the tale to get a new ending or solve the main conflict in a different way. Help them to get started with a simple, “What if…” question. If your child likes to read the same book every night, this little exercise might spice up the repetition a little bit.
Pinkalicious and Peterrific
Target Audience: Ages 2 – 7 // Target Learning: Creative Arts
After years of enjoying the adventures in book form, “Pinkalicious and Peterrific” is now a cartoon on PBS! In this brand-new series, “Pinkalicious and Peterrifc” use dance, theater, and drawing to create a world beyond the impossible. And they promote the idea that art can bring joy to everyone everywhere. But my favorite part of this show is seeing a sister and a brother who get along so well.
Extension: Kids have lots of opportunities to make art at school, at church, at special events, but we don’t always take time to appreciate it or display this abundance. Be inspired by “Pinkalicious and Peterrific” to finally hang up the kid arts that is being stuffed into drawers or quietly tossed. Have your kids sign it and date it then hang it up perhaps somewhere unexpected like the ceiling over a bed or on the inner walls of a toy cubby cabinet. You might consider hanging just a piece of the art. A toddler’s scribbles could be a precious memento if you trace the artist’s hand and cut it out of the same paper. You might also share your child’s art by mailing pieces to friends and relatives. There are lots of ways to spread the joy that art brings.
Target Audience: Ages 4 – 10 // Target Learning: Animals and Ecology
The Kratt brothers host this science cartoon that teaches kids about animals by featuring animal “super powers” in the brothers’ “creature power suits.” They use the powers of the animal to solve some sort of tricky situation. This show is great for animal lovers and those who enjoy superhero action!
Extension: Take a trip to the library and help your kids research their own favorite animal, identifying a few super powers like a gecko’s sticky feet or a crocodile’s clear eyelids or a cheetah’s speed. Then they can use items found around the house to build their own creature power suit.
Target Audience: Ages 5 – 12 // Target Learning: Math
“Odd Squad” is a live action show about a kid-run government agency charged with solving “odd” problems. Full of clever humor and quirky characters, even adults will find this show entertaining.
Extension: “Odd Squad” is based on solving totally off the wall problems like toastersthat turn off the lights or sub sandwiches that make you float or unlucky nickels that ruin people’s days. And often, the Odd Squad Agents have some sort of gadget to savethe day like the “snowballinator” that makes snowballs from the air. Challenge your kids to come up with an odd situation and a gadget to solve it. They could write about it, draw it, or get out the craft supplies and make things odd around your house!
Limiting screen time is still best for children, but when you do choose to watch TV, you can trust PBS Kids to promote kindness, silliness, and school readiness without the commercials, potty humor, and sarcasm of kids’ programming on other stations. Get creative with your kids to bring what they see and learn on TV to life and make amazing memories.