Not all TV is created equally. Some is pure entertainment. Some is educational. And some is complete rubbish. But there is such a thing as good toddler TV – now!
When it comes to toddlers watching TV, most parents are probably in two minds about it. On one hand, there’s this enormous guilt that TV is bad. The Department of Health recommends ‘infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers (all children birth to 5 years) should not be sedentary, restrained, or kept inactive, for more than one hour at a time, with the exception of sleeping.’ And ‘children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).’
But in reality, that precious hour of ‘time out’ can sometimes be a sanity-saver. So on the flip side, mums have this incredible gratitude, relief and appreciation of TV – particularly when you’re caring for a toddler 24/7 and just have to get work done/get dressed/use the loo in peace/or get out the door on time.
I’m not suggesting anyone use TV as a babysitter – of course you’re going to be within close proximity to your offspring and know exactly what they’re watching – but the box has an incredible hypnotic power that can subdue a screaming child in a flash and keep them occupied and entertained so mummy can escape ‘attachment parenting’ for five golden minutes!
So what if parents could eliminate the guilt factor – and the moderated TV time you’re toddler had encompassed greater educational benefits? It went from being a passive experience to an active learning experience?
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That’s exactly what Netflix are aiming for with their unique kids programming line-up. In fact, they’re whole approach aims to make the experience more interactive (read: less sedentary), and to enhance the educational value for your child.
Netflix Global’s Director of Kids Content Andy Yeatman knows the inside scoop on Netflix’s business strategy, and he says they’re committed to offering unique, diverse and inspiring family content that not only encourages active learning but also aims to be reflective of society.
“It’s really important to us that our content reflect the world that kids live in, which is multi-ethnic and diverse in terms of family structure, socio-economic status, geographies and individual abilities,” explains Andy. “This means that we avoid perpetuating inaccurate gender or ethnic stereotypes. It also means we don’t shy away from addressing sensitive or controversial issues if they help advance a more compelling story, but we are thoughtful to address them in age-appropriate ways). We’re proud of the diversity in our original shows such as Julie’s Greenroom, Project MC2 and Degrassi, although we know we can still do even better on this front.”
Andy says often Netflix bring in advisers to help ensure we do this right, including children’s content creators and child psychologists.
Julie’s Greenroom is a great example of toddler TV that ticks all the ‘parental’ boxes, with Julie Andres (yep, Jules from The Sound of Music!) creating a performing arts wonderful with her multi-cultural singling, acting and dancing puppets.
“Kids and their parents are in for a real treat in this engaging series designed to increase awareness of the performance arts,’ says Andy. “Under the expert guidance of Miss Julie, played by the incomparable Julie Andrews, these students affectionately called ‘Greenies’, are portrayed by puppets designed by the infamous Jim Henson Company. This adorable group take field trips, meet pros like Sara Bareilles and Alec Baldwin, and most importantly, work together to create and perform a musical of their own unique design.”
Andy says Julie’s troop showcases both cultural and gender diversity, as well as varying levels of physical ability and emotional maturity. “But every character has something unique and valuable to contribute to the project as a whole,” explain Andy. “Together they learn to believe in themselves, overcome their obstacles and cultivate their ideas and passions for the arts on the road to a successful final show.”
And there’s plenty more in store too. Here’s the new toddler TV line-up – 5 Netflix shows that teach, inspire and reflect society …
Teaches: Expands vocabulary
Word Party is a vocabulary building show from The Jim Henson Company that follows four adorable baby animals as they sing, dance and play. The show invites our youngest viewers to help teach the baby animals new words, practice these new words themselves, and celebrate these achievements with a “Word Party!” Word Party is produced using the groundbreaking Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a proprietary technology from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop that allows puppeteers to perform digitally animated characters in real time – enabling the animation to be more lifelike and spontaneous.
Teaches: Performing arts – singing, dancing, acting.
Julie’s Green Room is an all-new arts educational show for the very young starring the legendary Julie Andrews and brought to life by the ingenious minds at Jim Henson Studios. Seven young friends learn all about the arts (dance, singing, performing, painting, and more) from Julie herself and unique guest stars (Idina Menzel, Alec Baldwin, David Hyde Pierce) in each episode.
Teaches: Creativity and music
This new Netflix animated series featuring all new original music brings to life the popular Lalaloopsy girls. Viewers will follow the incredible misadventures of six friends and their pets through a whimsical world. By celebrating the magic of creativity, these friends can weather anything together. Lalaloopsy encourages viewers to express themselves in a magical, musical and silly way.
Teaches: Moral lessons
Get ready to love your veggies! VeggieTales has a fresh new look as Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and all their Veggie friends venture off the counter top for the first time ever in an all-new television series, available exclusively on Netflix. Every episode also features a brand-new, upbeat silly song as the Veggie crew embarks on new adventures throughout their house. This loveable comedy stays true to the roots of the VeggieTales brand by seamlessly weaving in strong moral messages that will capture the hearts of Veggie.
Teaches: Celebrates relationships and curiosity
A new animated pre-school series and Netflix original, Puffin Rock is set on a beautiful island off the coast of Ireland. Oona, is a charismatic and plucky young puffling who, along with her ever curious little brother, Baba, explore the diverse array of sea, sky, land and underground creatures introducing a combination of pre-school themes and soft natural history learnings to young viewers. Acclaimed actor, Chris O’Dowd narrates the English language series, with a diverse group of well-known international talent joining across the globe.
For more information on Netflix’s kids’ line-up visit here. Franki is a Netflix Ambassador and member of the Netflix Streamteam, which gives her pre-release access and information about upcoming shows.