Toddler TV – Driving You “(Down The Hills and) Round the Bend!”
Most of us parents would be happy to accept that allowing our children to watch copious amounts of television at the expense of more stimulating and enriching activities is not a good idea.
However. Most of us will also happily admit that kids’ TV does have its place and use, and we therefore allow it to enter our lives, as I have found, with some amusing consequences.
Being pregnant with baby number two as I recently was, I found that allowing my two-year-old to watch some TV from time to time would enable me to snatch a desperate daytime kip on the sofa, at times when energy reached an all-time low. TV (albeit the mobile phone YouTube variety) is also my tool of last resort when all else fails to entertain a toddler in a café or restaurant. The children’s DVD’s in our house have been recently moved to a high shelf in order to maintain optimum levels of parental control (and less pestering!)
Toddler – “DVD’s… too high up!”Me – “Yes. Yes they are.”
But if he’s been good and we’ve been doing lots of other things during the day then he’s allowed a little TV time. The programmes he watches are limited to those that fit some simple criteria of being a) loosely educational and b) not completely annoying for parents also watching. A bit of TV, I have found, is also a great excuse for a lovely cuddle together on the sofa (they didn’t call it “Watch With Mother” back in the day without good reason!). So what could be the harm?
Despite the obvious hilariousness of them dancing to the theme music and then later singing the songs as my two-year-old now does “Bob Builder… Can We Fix It!” I have enjoyed my little one’s interaction with the programmes, the acquiring of new speech and a love of characters that comes with them. His favourite programme of the moment is Peppa Pig, which is requested (but not always permitted) on a daily basis: we are often told “want watch Peppa Pig”, sometimes accompanied with the adorable adage “with Mummy.” As a result, we have begun (without realising it) referencing many of life’s everyday scenarios to the events portrayed in the episodes, and I remain grateful to the producers for helping us with concepts like “brush your teeth like Peppa and George” and “don’t touch Mummy’s computer!”. (It’s a pity that the ducks always get fed unhealthy bread but I’ll have to let them off for that!)
This has been extended further to things like the family trip to the dentist to see Dr Elephant, the cats going to Dr Hamster the Vet and the car being fixed at Grandad Dog’s garage, to add context. It’s a helpful formula, but it requires very careful application. Imagine then my horror on discovering my husband’s faux pas on a recent trip to our local doctor’s surgery to see our non-white Caucasian family doctor who was referred to throughout as ‘Doctor Brown Bear’. I don’t think he noticed, thank goodness! Another obvious side-effect (no pun intended) is the involuntary singing of the theme music, or in my case, Madame Gazelle’s “Bing Bong Song” when going about daily activities.
Indeed, the songs and catch phrases are such that you may never experience life in the same way again. On seeing the words “reduce, re-use, recycle” recently on a carrier bag, I was left imagining the fictional copyright infringement case for Boots Plc’s theft of Bob the Builder’s secondary strapline! At the risk of deviating from the subject in question I am a bit of a legal geek (being as I am a former law student familiar with the trials, tribulations and trivia of the case of United Biscuits vs Asda. It’s about Penguin biscuits, in which the supermarket chain had to p-p-pick up the bill for damages – look it up for a giggle). The idea of an episode of Bob the Builder where he takes Boots Plc to court certainly made me giggle (perhaps with Bob being represented by the officious Mr Bently even? I am a sad case, I know.)
To get back with the programme, not all programmes have the same value, as I see it. My little one has never seen In the Night Garden (and if I can help it never will!) but he did have a couple of books (inherited from his cousins) which he loved (note past tense). On the basis that his brain was being unnecessarily filled with nonsense words like “ninky nonk”, “pinky ponk”, “tombliboos” and “upsy daisy”, they were removed from general circulation while he wasn’t looking and donated to a charity shop (to inflict pain and suffering on another unsuspecting parent! No maliciousness intended!).
I also haven’t failed to notice that some of the (now classic) favourites from my own childhood are still going strong, albeit with new CG re-vamps to bring them up to date. I’m not too sure how I feel about some of these changes though, being slightly pedantic as I am. (Don’t even get me started on the inherent wrong-ness of Postman Pat having a son!) Thomas the Tank Engine (or rather Thomas and Friends as it now is) has become altogether more fun loving, with the engines in the old series (remember the manual train sets and the voice of Ringo Starr?) being far naughtier and impetuous back in the day, having all sorts of tantrums and learning their lessons in the end. Now it’s all much more about them being helpful and sharing, complete with the annoying over-use and often grammatically incorrect use of the phrase “really useful”. E.g. Fat Controller – “I’m giving a prize to the most really useful engine” should of course read “I’m giving a prize to the most useful engine.” Cretin.
The engines might be less naughty, but by contrast, the unforgettably annoying character, Norman Price, of Fireman Samfame, seems to have become even naughtier, and something of a spiteful pest, instead of the clumsy fool he was when the show was first aired in the *ahem* 1980s. And of course, how could us now oldies have failed to notice that the entireFireman Sam theme song has been upgraded with new lyrics for a more modern age of firefighting. Clearly, the ability to put on one’s coat and hat in less than seven seconds flat is no longer considered an impressive and mandatory accolade for a fictional fireman of the 21st Century. I do have to admit however that “Move aside, make way, ‘cause he’s going to save the day” is probably more inspiring to our children than “He’s always on the scene, and his engine’s bright and clean.” The producers obviously thought so too.
All jokes aside, kids’ TV, I salute you. Without your helping hand, there would be days where I wouldn’t be able to shut my eyes, update my social media, complete my accounts or cook dinner. A busy mumpreneur needs all the help she can get to overcome the challenges of child-rearing. Can we fix it? Yes, we can.