Young Children Are Learning From Entertainment Programming

After the first week of kindergarten, I asked my daughter to name a few friends in her class. Quite simply, she said, “Milly, Bot and Geo.” Now, you and I both know these are the names of mighty-math cartoon superheroes on the program Team Umizoomi. Of course, they were her friends. She participated in their adventures, counted objects, identified shapes and named pictures in great excitement in the cause of solving big community problems. Even when she is engaged in other activities, similar influential characters resonated good feelings and team effort, a validation of being able to contribute and be heard. How often do we hear professionals suggest that we limit television in our homes? Yet, the bigger picture needs to be addressed. Through diverse and ready resources, our youth has access well beyond children’s programming. Today’s entertainment has both educational value and feeds directly into their interests.

Infant to Preschoolers

In thinking about our experiences as young children, we learned about classical music from Bugs Bunny and appreciated shows such as Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and The Electric Company for simple reasons. We could sing along, participate and feel connected to the speaker. Today, it is reassuring when our children respond by excitedly offering greetings to favorite animated friends, and feel compelled to engage them in conversation. In fact, our children are focused, listening, shouting out correct answers and happily receiving praise for their participation. In addition to learning about letters, colors, numbers and words, preschoolers are remembering sequences through repetition, improving vocabulary, and learning songs to encourage kindness, friendship and etiquette practices. While Elmo from Sesame Street has influenced young children to “go potty,” Dora the Explorer has taught children words and phrases in the Spanish language. We, too, are active participants. How often have you been pulled by the hand into the living room and asked to perform the “Hot Dog” dance? Yes, countless times. As parents, we are thankful to Nina and Star, Blue and Steven, Dora and Diego, Sid the Science Kid, Princess Sophia, Super Why and so many others for their influential lessons and leadership.

Life after Disney Junior

Sadly, many children by the age ve-and-a-half have transitioned into another level of educational programming. Like you, I have discovered that Disney and Nickelodeon Junior no longer hold my child’s attention; yet, the next level is too mature. While it may appear peculiar to take the leap beyond those familiar and safe channels, parents will discover many shows are age-appropriate; however, not all cable channels have commercials that suit young audiences. One answer is streaming videos either on your computer or television. Some companies kindly include age-level recommendations for children.

The “How-To” Generation

As parents, we nd it is hard to complain when our child is watching “how- to-videos” to learn about a favorite video game, such as Minecraft. With the intent of improving their technique, children are studying and asking important questions. The same applies to youth who enjoy assisting an older sibling or parent in the kitchen. Through programs such as Kids Baking Championship and Rachel vs. Guy: Kids’ Cookoff, they are learning from other children

who also desire to learn proper kitchen safety, food preparation and baking techniques. Yes, the “how to” generation, comprising ve-, six-, and seven- year-olds, is delving into topics that can help them learn and grow.

Personally, my daughter loves science. Picture books borrowed from the public library have been replaced by topics about weather and life cycles, space and the planets, the human body, and a multitude of related non-fiction themes. Fortunately, she, like so many other children, is satisfying her interests through a variety of programming. She is fascinated by How It’s Made; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; The Magic School Bus; Mysteries of the Unseen World and other documentaries. Literature combined with programming has elevated the definition of what young children are capable of learning and knowing. Three cheers for today’s youth!i

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