Those of you who follow my blog know that I am a big advocate of taking a break before you have a breakdown. Sometimes you have to give your kids an activity so that you can have time to yourself, and sometimes that activity comes in the form of a television show. Parents, you will not beat yourself up for putting your kid in front of the TV (or iPad) for a little while. That stops today. Below is a list of 8 speech therapist approved children’s shows that are currently on air, on DVD or on the internet. My seal of approval means that the show teaches functional speech and/or language skills, uses highly researched curriculum as the basis for each episode, and is engaging. Many of these shows may not be new to you, but my list will help you understand how these programs teach your child, and you’ll feel better about letting them watch an extra episode :) I’ve provided a reference for each show listed so you can read a bit more about how the program was created.
Take a look at the list, DVR the ones you think your kid would like then take some much deserved, guilt-free you time. Enjoy!
Barney is a classic children’s television show, and although it looks like a typical children’s entertainment program, it provides so much more. Barney addresses the four key areas of childhood development; cognitive, social, emotional, and physical. Barney used a team of early childhood specialists to make sure that each episode was presented in a way that allows your child to learn at their optimal level. According to researchers at Yale, “the show particularly influences language development, one of the early indicators of future success in school…” Unfortunately, Barney is no longer on air, however you can let your little one watch him on Youtube or purchase the DVD online.
Episode run time: approx. 25 min (however there are lots of specials that run for 45 minutes to 1 hr)
Where to find: Youtube, Amazon.com, Netflix
Recommended Age: 1-8 yrs
2. Sesame Street
Another classic children’s television show, Sesame Street develops a child’s early language and literacy skills through their “whole-child curriculum” which is researched by in-house child psychologists, educators and educational advisors. Sesame Street provides the repetition of language that helps children remember and use new vocabulary. It’s also incredibly engaging, so kids don’t even realize that they’re learning. If you’re already a fan of this program, then this is just one more reason to trust that you are doing something good for your child while they are watching an episode.
Reference: http://www.pbs.org/parents/sesame/about/learning-goals/ (there is so much research available on the sesame street curriculum, I chose this one for the blog because it’s the most concise.)
Episode run time: 60 minutes
Where to find: PBS weekdays @ 5:00am; 10:00am; 6:30pm
Recommended Ages: Preschool
3. Super Why
Super Why is a newer program with a focus on literacy so there are tons of new words for kids to learn along with fun spelling songs, all while also targeting story comprehension. Each episode begins with a problem that must be solved by reading a children’s book. While the characters go through the story, kids are encouraged to interact by shouting out names of letters and words. The show uses guidelines established by the National Reading Panel to structure episodes and be sure that tiny viewers are learning at all times. Although I wish they were more specific about who they consult for their educational research (they only state that they use a “panel of experts”), I have watched the show and feel that it lives up to its goal of helping children learn pre-literacy skills.
Episode run time: approx. 25 minutes
Where to find: PBS (usually channel 13) weekdays @ 3:00 and 3:30
Recommended Ages: 3-6 years
4. Dora the Explorer
Dora the Explorer has been around since 2000. It’s a show that is both entertaining and saturated with ways to learn new vocabulary (repetition, audience participation, explanations…). Each episode is thoroughly researched and based on a preschool curriculum created by the Dora research and development team. The Dora curriculum was created using the Howard Gardener multiple intelligences theory. Also, you can find Dora the explorer in almost any language on the internet (Arabic, German, Macedonian…honestly any language). So if your kid gets bored with watching Dora in English, challenge them to watch in a different language and see if they can pick up a few phrases. This would be a good challenge for older kids as well.
Episode run time: approx. 23 minutes
Where to find: Nick jr. @ 7:30pm weekdays
Recommended Ages: 2-5 yrs
5. Word Girl
Word Girl is an animated series, created by Scholastic Inc, about a 5th grade hero named Becky Botsford who fights villains using her words. Each episode introduces 4 new vocabulary words while keeping things interesting with a good vs. bad plot running throughout. The series curriculum is shaped in large part by the work of Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Kucan authors of the book, Bringing Words to Life: Robust vocabulary Instruction. I’ve seen the show and find it pretty entertaining. Fun fact: many of the voices behind the show are from the improv comedy world (they even have a Saturday Night Live cast member as the narrator). I give this show my stamp of approval.
Episode run time: Approx 30 min
Where to find: youtube, PBS kids.com, HULU
Recommended Ages: 4-9 yrs
6. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a new and different version of MIster Roger’s Neighborhood. The show’s main character is the son of the striped tiger from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Daniel Tiger teaches emotional literacy using the Fred Rogers social-emotional curriculum. This means that your child will learn to express himself or herself and deal with disappointing times and happy times. The show does not exclusively teach novel language concepts, but I feel that showing a child how to use the words they already know to help people understand how they feel, is just as powerful as learning new vocabulary. This show may be especially good for children on the spectrum who may struggle with handling their own emotions or the emotions of others.
Episode run time: approx. 30 min
Where to find: PBS weekdays @ 2:00pm, 2:30pm, 8:00pm, 8:30pm
Recommended Ages: 2-4
7. The Magic School Bus
The Magic School Bus is another series created by Scholastic Inc. I loved this series when I was a kid! In each episode, Ms. Frizzle, a science teacher, takes her class on a field trip, during which the subject they’re learning about comes to life. The show is based on the book series which is heavily researched. The show is science based, and is great to help teach school aged children new scientific vocab and clarify concepts for children who have trouble processing information in class. Read an interview with the creators below.
Episode run time: 30 minutes
Where to find: youtube.com, Netflix
Recommended Ages: 3-10 yrs
8. Between the Lions
Between the Lions is a show featuring lions (go figure) that aims to build literacy skills. It was developed by some members of the Sesame Street team. The show revolves around a family of lions that lives in the library and reads books that relate to what they’re doing that day. The show helps teach letter-sound association, rhyming, fluency, sight words and other early literacy skills. The show’s producers consulted literacy experts (whom they list on their PBS website page) to create a curriculum based on research conducted by the National Research Committee. I feel that this show is a good way to introduce or reinforce early literacy skills in children, so I’m giving it my stamp of approval.
Episode run time: approx. 30 min
Where to find: youtube.com pbskids.org
Recommended Ages: 4-7 yrs
Reading Rainbow is a show that focuses on establishing a love of reading in young children. The show’s host, LeVar Burton, narrates children’s books (on an ipad) while pictures from the book are shown on the screen. This show teaches kids sequencing and storytelling grammar through the books that are presented. I love this show, mostly because it’s a throwback to my childhood and although I can’t officially recommend it (I had trouble finding evidence that the show is based on specific curriculum or early childhood research) I definitely informally recommend it for young kids ages 4-8.
There are tons of great shows for kids out there, this list only represents a few of them. Feel free to add to it in the comments section!
What I’m into….
Sleep- I LOVE being in bed. I don’t even have to sleep, I can read, research things online (or just take personality quizzes, whatever), file my nails…However when it’s time to go to sleep, it’s a struggle. I know what all the experts say about making your bed a place of sleep and not activity, but I can’t help it, if I just get in bed and go to sleep I won’t get to enjoy actually being in bed. Does that make sense? If it does, you might be my sleep soulmate…anywho, a friend of mine recommended guided meditation at night to help me sleep, so I began using this app called iSleep Easy. It’s nice, I can listen to a calming voice tell me to breath deeply and relax, or I can listen to sounds of the ocean, or a stream (my personal favorite). I would recommend giving it a try if you have trouble falling asleep.
Food- Talde is amazing. I know the wait time for a table is 347,9743,934 hours, so just make a reservation through open table and save yourself the stress. The food is amazing, and lives up to the standards of its Brooklyn location. I went there with my boyfriend, we ordered a ton of dishes (we’re taking vitamins now so that’s basically like working out, right?). Everything was pretty good, we’ll be regulars. We sat at a communal table, which was great for my boyfriend who’s like a social falcon. Go grab a bite, and meet some new people.