Toddlers: What to Show Them When They Watch TV

Cal and the SealA couple of years ago, my cousin asked me when her first child turned two, what shows were good for little kids to watch.  She was most concerned (beyond the usual issues of violence, etc.) about showing him single shot or long shot videos where the scenes don’t jump back and forth within a matter of seconds.  She wanted something he could look at, ponder, and comprehend.  At the time, I was raising a pre-teen, and couldn’t think of what to say that was very useful.

Now that I have another little one in the home — and because of my technophile household I can’t keep him from seeing screens in the house for two years — I have a better answer for other parents wanting to slowly introduce their young ones to television or film.

Real-Time Kitten Cams (and other animals)

Kittens and other small animals are quite attractive to toddlers, and they’ll focus on them for some time.  Seeing a video of baby animals in real time, without editing, avoids all media distractions normally found in other videos.  We recently watched a chick being hatched (with help from its human parent) that would not have been able to hatch on its own.  I sat riveted for far longer than the baby, truth be told.  Right now, as I type, we have a kitten cam up from a litter of half dozen kittens who are being fostered through MEOW rescue, where we adopted three of our own cats.  See the Kittens of the Shire now while you can!

Zoo and Farm Animal Videos

Though you might have to scout around for ones that are done well with a steady camera gaze, videos from zoos, farms, and people with adorable animals can provide an enjoyable screen experience for your child without a lot of the intensity of motion, music, and mania from children’s shows and cartoons.  Sit Down With Cubs from Woodland Park Zoo shows a lioness and her cubs in their den.  It’s slow, relaxed, and runs at a natural pace.  The video is 28 minutes long, so you can watch a few minutes, and stop, then come back to it later if need be.

Musicals and Old Films

The slower frames and longer shots of old films and musicals provides a good introduction to both taking in information from a screen, and also enjoying classic films.  One my own son is enjoying these days is the title song from Singing in the Rain.

Period Dramas and Older Shows

While most families adhering to the two year suggestion for toddlers might not want to watch anything like Downtown Abbey or Star Trek: Next Generation with their youngest, we find they’re generally good at taking their time with each framed shot, have several scenes with intellectual discourse, and do not possess many adult themed taboos for little children — violence being my biggest concern.  (We also occasionally watch “safe” anime shows such as Silver Spoon on Crunchyroll.)  These shows are a good introduction to television without overstimulating the child, and allow the older members of the family to get in some much-needed  entertainment outside of peek-a-boo and nursery rhymes.



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