What’s Happened to Children’s Programming?

I’m writing today from my dining room table where I have a gorgeous view of my backyard where the sun is shining, briefly, today. We had some strong storms last night and rain in the forecast for the next week. Incredibly, the next forecasted sunny day happens to be my birthday. Thank you to whomever scheduled that. I will truly appreciate the gift.

From this spot at the table, I also have a perfect view of the television where Tornado is currently watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Jr. It’s one of those programs I don’t mind him watching, and he loves it. It’s not his favorite, mind you, but it works in a pinch. The thing is, the show bugs me a bit. I know children’s programming isn’t meant for me to enjoy but the kid. My problem is more about how Disney got on that ball a little late in the game and are just copying the idea Nick Jr realized first.

I have four boys and I’ve been through all the fad children’s programs:Barney, Teletubbies, Blue’s Clues, Dora…you name it, I’ve seen it. With my first two boys I regulated which channels they watched because some of the children’s programming was just not suitable, in my opinion, for young children. We watched a lot of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) because they offered programming with situations where kids learned manners and morals: Dragon Tales, Barney, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and the one they loved best, Zooboomafu (with the Kratt Brothers). Occasionally we’d watch Noggin(which all of us to this day miss) which had Blues Clues (with Steve, not Joe), Dora (when she first debuted), Little Bear, Little Bill, Oswald. And then Disney, which was usually only when they showed Bear in the Big Blue House (oh how we miss Bear), Gulla Gulla Island, and Out of the Box. Oh, and Rollie Pollie Ollie. We also watched a lot of Animal Planet because Steve Irwin/Crocodile Hunter. It seems like there was a lot more available and the programming was better now that I look back on it.

With Thing 3, we had Curious George and Clifford on PBS because he didn’t like PBS as much. He lived for Noggin. He didn’t like Dora but he loved Diego, her cousin. His favorite show (at two years old) was Pinkie Dinkie Do and Jack’s Big Music Show. By the time he was three he was using the words he learned from Pinkie and using them correctly. My favorite memory is him at two and a half years old telling me he was “tewwibwy fwustwated” and then telling me its definition when I asked him if he knew what that meant. ย Thing 3 wasn’t into Disney as much, and to this day he prefers Nickelodeon shows over anything else although he has gotten into Looney Tunes on Cartoon Network, and some of the older cartoons on Boomerang.

Now with Tornado, there is no more Noggin. We have Nick Jr. and it’s not the same. Even PBS has lost some of its appeal. And Disney…well, there’s not a lot of shows directed towards boys. It’s almost jam packed with princess shows. And, if I had a girl, I’d laud their praises I’m sure. (Actually, I might not. So far from what I’ve seen of the shows, I like Doc McStuffins and Tinkerbell.) But, I can tell you with a lot of assurity, most boys do not like watching Princess shows. Tornado likes Doc McStuffins, but he’d rather watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I think that’s why we watch a lot of Nick Jr. It seems to have found the balance. Not that I haven’t noticed that a lot of the programs (except Dora) have more male characters than female. But, those female characters tend to have the same amount of ‘screen time’ as their male counterparts. And the girls are just as smart and usually teach the correct or ‘right’ thing to do. For example: Lily Rabbit in the Peter Rabbit series. Lily generally follows Peter and Benjamin around and the three get in and out of trouble, but its usually Lily who has the item in her pocket they need or gives the good advice. In the new series Wallykazaam the female giant, Gina, is fun and cute, helpful, and supportive. I used to be as big a fan of Disney as anyone else. But, they need to rethink their programming and come up with something more original than copying Nick Jr. (By the way, did you know Nick Jr is owned by MTV Networks?) And Tornado’s favorite show is Paw Patrol but Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder have made the rounds through all my boys.

It all leads me to wonder what’s happened to children’s programming. I have to set strict guidelines for what Thing 3 and Tornado watch nowadays. There are quite a few shows that teach how to be rude and disgusting. Yes, I grew up with Beavis and Butthead, and later South Park, but everyone knew those were meant for adults and teens, not kids. It seems to me that Beavis and Butthead pale in comparison to quite a few shows I see Thing 3 trying to sneak past me to watch. I have a rule that he has to ask me first before he can watch something he wants to see. It has to pass the Mom Test. If it doesn’t, then it’s on the Mom Aggro List of Things-That-Will-Get-Him-In-Trouble-If-He-Tries-To-Sneak-And-Do. It’s a long list.

There have been many times when I have wished many shows would be brought back. Fraggle Rock, Muppets, Bear in the Big Blue House, the whole Noggin network (Did you know: Noggin used to set aside one day where they completely turned off ALL their programming to promote playing outside? They would restart programming in the late afternoon around dinnertime to help little ones get to sleep with their nighttime programs). I miss those mornings when my boys would sit and giggle at something funny they were watching. Television has a big influence on young ones. And if used properly, it can teach them better than dry, rote learning. But I wish the networks would come up with something better than ย what’s currently available. Until then, my family is sticking with dvd’s of our favorite shows.

xo Jesi

Jesi Kay, poet and aspiring novelist, was born in the Texas panhandle where wide skies, lazy summer days, and rolling thunderstorms sparked her imagination and left lasting memories in her blood. An early reader, poetry and mythology were her passions. So much so that when she was ten years old her step-father gave her his college mythology textbooks to read, which were full of classic poetry and more than enough tales to fill her romantic and inquisitive nature. Jesi loves reading, art, going to the theater, the romanticism of the Victorian era (but not the missing conveniences of indoor plumbing and central air conditioning), running when the heat and humidity cooperate, and cold weather so she can wear her favorite boots and knitwear. Also, she still has those college mythology textbooks, a little worse for wear over time but still intact and telling their stories to her. Jesi is a contributor at The Well Tempered Bards blog and at


  • AJ

    Nick Jr and a few of the other stations still do one day in, I want to say September, that they stop broadcasting to promote outside play. I forget what they call it. But I agree, the shows just are inappropriate or plain dumb anymore. We watch Mostly the History, Travel, and cooking channels. My kids love the mystery series.

    • Jesi

      I still love PBS. They have some really good programming but I agree, History, Travel, Animal Planet and Cooking Channel are better still. Thing 3 loves watching How It’s Made and Funniest Animals and People.

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