As a mom, I’m wary of allowing my kids to have too much screen time. So when I do let them watch TV, I want to make sure they’re getting something out of it. And with the overwhelming amount of channels and choices available these days, one place I know I can turn for consistently good programming is PBS. Not only is this channel still paramount in educational television, it’s a station that anyone can get, making it a wonderful option for all families, whether you have a huge cable package or just a digital converter box. And even though I love the offerings on PBS, some of the shows are better than others. Below are my favorite educational kids’ shows on PBS that my kids enjoy, and I’m sure yours will, too.
This classic show has celebrated over 40 years on television, and one look will tell you why. While the format of this beloved children’s show has changed over the years, its basic premise remains the same: all different kinds of people and families (and monsters!) can learn to live and work together in harmony, even if we disagree sometimes. Mixed in are countless songs and shorts about numbers, letters, nutrition, feelings, and more. I first learned Spanish by watching Sesame Street as a kid, not to mention my alphabet, numbers, and how to work out disagreements with others. Using beloved puppet characters like Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird (to name just a few), kids learn all sorts of life lessons and facts about our world through this one-hour show.
As a former English teacher, I fell in love with the premise of this show from episode one: a superhero from the planet Lexicon comes down to earth and conquers bad guys with her extensive knowledge of the English language married with superpowers. And thanks to the show’s wit and Cartoon-Network-like animation, the show was an instant hit with my kids as well. Each show features two mini-episodes with vocabulary words to watch out for and learn in context. With memorable villains like “Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy” and funny plots, kids won’t even realize they’re expanding their vocabularies by watching this entertaining show.
Curious George books have been delighting kids for generations, and now that he’s come to life in his own animated show, a whole new generation of kids are falling in love and learning right alongside him. The creators of this series have cleverly taken George’s curious antics and spun them to teach basic science and math concepts to kids. I must admit, I was so entertained by the characters and storylines when first watching this show with my kids, that I didn’t even realize I was learning until later. Yet this show is an excellent tool to introduce preschool and elementary-aged kids to the fact that being curious and trying new things is how we learn and discover truths about the world around us.
There are lots of kids’ shows that stress the importance of reading and teach basic phonics, but Super Why! takes reading to new level by introducing superheroes and favorite nursery rhymes into each episode. The stories follow Wyatt, a.k.a. Super Why, as he goes on adventures to save the day and change bad endings into happy ones through phonetical and contextual reading skills. Kids will learn the letters of the alphabet, as well as identifying words and putting them into context to change the meaning of a sentence and a story. All of the components of solid reading skills are found here, as well as engaging animation and likeable characters that will keep kids coming back for more.