Let me kick things off with some full disclosure: I work from home at least two days a week and take an almost insane interest in my offspring’s media consumption. We have one of those PVR things and I think it’s annoyingly cute that she refers to her shows as movies. (Side note: because I’ve recorded a bunch of her favourite episodes and she can watch pretty much on demand, so it causes havoc when we’re in a setting where she is forced to wait for an episode of something).
Bottom line, I’m crazy enough to write an entire article on the best educational kids shows when I’m also fully aware that these things exist purely as a vehicle to sell merchandise through. And to take pressure off of competitive party parents, because kid’s birthday parties are now a contact sport played with money. So read on and see how far this rabbit hole has taken me.
Dora the Explorer
The feisty Latina with the comically over sized head goes on adventures solving problems with the magical powers of logic and Spanish. To assist in her heroism she has at her disposal a sentient map and backpack. So I’m not sure whether or not Dora can actually read because the map only communicates with the audience, prompting the children to deliver information to her. Which is strange because the map is hers and my kid is not stupid; she knows that the TV show doesn’t exist in the same universe as she does. Further more, if the backpack (named Backpack) is supposed to be so smart, why doesn’t it just spew out the correct item whenever Dora is in trouble?
What the show does well is teach problem solving and some basic maths and physics. Also there’s the Spanish bit, which kinda makes Dora a miniature version of Pitbull — on a crusade to teaching the world Espanyol, one hook at a time.
Dora is always accompanied by her friend Boots, a sentient monkey with a shoe fetish. My quarrel isn’t with the inappropriate nature of Boots’ adoration for Dora, but rather that I’ve neither see nor heard about his family. Like does his mom speak? Is he the result of some science experiment? Is he suddenly going to go ape and share the serum with his other primate pals and overthrow the government, claiming the planet for themselves?
What’s your deal Boots?
Also, I’m not a fan of primates as pets and now my daughter is thinking that it’s a natural thing. And she has no concept that monkeys are actually wild animals and are dangerously unpredictable when they come in contact with humans.
So this Swiper the Fox character is a kleptomaniac fox who wears a bandit mask and instead of the show addressing his obvious problem and trying to find a root cause, kids are encouraged to just tell him to stop swiping. Now I suffer from junkie empathy and would hate for my kid to grow up ignoring the social issues that really contribute to criminal behaviour. Dora the Explorer’s ignorance to Swiper’s situation is deeply disturbing, but Spawn’s wellbeing seems to rely on a daily dose of the show so I let it slide.