Special Agent OSO (Playhouse Disney): I know you are thinking "no way", but hear me out. This relatively new show stars Sean Astin, from the Lord Of The Rings movie series, as a sun bear (I think) with a James Bond flair. He goes around with "special assignments" solving problems for regular kids all around the globe. Why is it on my list? Executive Skills and Motor Planning. Yep, that is the theme of every mission: Find the problem, break it down with steps and accomplish your goal. From cleaning a child's room to making a salad to learning hop scotch this little Double-O-Bear is teaching something much more valuable than the ABCs.
Discovery Kids Ultimate Guide To The Awesome: This is a great show, 1 hour long, for kids that are into "facts". The series focuses on one topic (from the sun to Whales and everything in between) and delves into the facts and science of each thing. My little fact obsessed babies just thrive on the information provided--and the ability to regurgitate it at will for an impressed audience.
Pinky Dinky Doo (Noggin): If you haven't seen this, you are seriously missing out. Pinky Dinky Doo is a fantastic show that stars a girl that makes up stories. The songs are addicting "Pinky's got a story she wants to share with you..." and the vocabulary building words are great. That said, the true star of this show are the games at the end. Yes, at the end of the show they play video-style games that engage the audience into remembering the story in detail: who said what, what order things happened in, and practicing using the new vocab. Wonderful.
Dora The Explorer (NickJr): Cliche as it may be, there is a reason Dora has been so successful. There is great benefit to making a plan and sticking to it: just ask Map. Our kids thrive on the knowledge of what comes next, and of course, so does Dora. It also helps with Executive Planning skills: how will we solve this problem? What are the steps to get where we want to go? Showing our kids that things can be broken down is a valuable skill. This is a no-brainer for quality TV in my book.
Word World (PBS Kids): This new show has taken the toys aisle by storm. I am guessing you've seen it, but really, have you watched it? I am fascinated by how the animators get those letters shaped into characters, but what I really love about it is that it shows our WHOLE WORLD in words. There is such a strong belief in early education that words have to be incorporated into our children's worlds for them to truly make the connection (think how everything in a preschool setting is labeled: colors, shapes, calendars, even "door" or "rug" have tags), this takes it to another level. This shows how there are letters associated with everything in our environment. Excellent for our kiddos!
The Backyardigans (NickJr.): This is probably one of those shows you have seen already. But take another look; those characters are so easily relatable to our kids. It shows social skills at play, in their backyard, where kids are cooperatively making a game out of what may appear to be totally different ideas. Yet, they are playing together. Example would be Movers of Arabia where two characters are movers and two are playing Aladdin (basically). Another example would be the Snow Fort where two (boys) are playing snow fort, and the girls are playing Snow Patrol -- they end up playing together, but still playing their own game. These are great examples of sharing control of play during a play date. Huge social skills building here. It also encourages kids to use their imaginations--have independent and elaborate dramatic play scenarios, which at our house often extend far beyond the TV and into our real play. Prompting like, "Play Backyardigans Queen of the Nile" and all of the neighborhood kids know just what to do: rules and all. Add to that great music and hysterical dance scenes and you have a winner.
The Magic School Bus (PBS): This is also one of those things that you have seen, and your kiddo has seen in school. But it has great information, and some great examples of cooperation. Because the show has so many characters, they are constantly agreeing and disagreeing, as well as learning how things work together. We LOVE the shark episode where they introduce "symbiotic" relationships; we use that word in our life as a way for our kids to work together--being symbiotic means that each of you benefits in some way from the relationship. Great for my little fact finders as a push for peace in the house. The show has lots of good information, and it is something I feel pretty good about my kids watching.
Now--go grab those remotes and start recording!