Gone are the days when television for toddlers was taboo. Over the past decade, networks have gotten smart about what families want, creating shows that teach the basics of life skills, reading, and creativity. These educational shows are developed by leading child development experts, in partnership with respected animators. Interestingly, several of these shows have become so sophisticated that they’ve even won Emmy awards. Look through the related websites continue the fun; each one links to educational activities and games for your preschooler to enjoy, once the cartoon has ended.
This television series won two Emmy awards in 2001. Designed to teach young learners about letter combinations and phonics, the cast of silly animal characters shape words from their bodies, so kids can see the words as they’re spoken. In addition to learning literacy concepts, preschoolers will enjoy the adventurous plotlines. Word World airs on PBS Kids, at 11:30am Pacific Time.
Yo Gabba Gabba
This musical extravaganza keeps kids on their toes, quite literally, as they dance to upbeat songs about life skills. Designed by two dads who were unimpressed with the quality of kid’s TV, Yo Gabba Gabba entertains both young and old(er) viewers with bright colors, short animations, and catchy songs. Interestingly, this show has a passionate following of college students, who appreciate the retro feel of this cartoon. Yo Gabba Gabba can be found on Nick Jr.
Combining two subjects most popular with munchkins, this show brings together dinosaurs and trains for a sure-hit with preschoolers. Buddy, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, travels by train with his adoptive family to visit volcanoes, swamps, and jungles. At many of these locations, renowned paleontologist Scott Sampson teaches simple lessons on life science and natural history, designed to spark curiosity about science. Dinosaur Train airs on PBS.
This cartoon follows the adventures of Kai-Lan, a bubbly Chinese-American preschooler. Focusing on bi-lingual teaching, this show presents Mandarin Chinese vocabulary in most episodes. Other elements of cultural education are present as well, as Kai-Lan learns to make dumplings and Chinese art. The games are interactive, so young viewers can engage with the show instead of watching it passively. Ni-hao Kai-Lan airs on Nick Jr.
Based on a well-loved book series, this Canadian cartoon features a charming toddler with a big imagination. Through his backyard adventures, viewers learn to interpret their world. The cartoon focuses on developing imagination and creativity. Caillou airs on PBS Kids and Treehouse TV.
Featuring a sharp and sassy female superhero, this cartoon for advanced tots teaches vocabulary. Armed with a wide arsenal of words, WordGirl fights crime and helps youngsters to develop a love for reading. The show spoofs real superhero stories, earning laughs from tots and adults alike. Airs on PBS Kids.
Your kids will get an early jump on reading with this award-winning show. The characters have unique “literacy super powers,” helping them to solve common kid’s problems. Throughout the show, viewers practice letter recognition, spelling and comprehension. At the end of each Super Why episode, the mystery is solved with the help of a supercomputer, which always teaches a significant life lesson. Airs on PBS Kids.
Manny, a bilingual handyman, answers the phone with a friendly “Hola!” before picking up his talking tools and heading out for a day’s work of repairs. This Disney cartoon teaches basic Spanish vocabulary, and teaches about the importance of cultural diversity. Handy Manny’s talking tools model cooperativeness, and sing about other life skills concepts throughout each episode.
For the discriminating preschooler, this show focuses on art appreciation and classical music. The characters go on missions, where their special musical talents and cooperative teamwork help them to succeed. Viewers get to help with the missions as well, by patting their legs, clapping, or following other interactive directions. Little Einsteins airs on Playhouse Disney.
wow! wow! wubbzy
This hysterical cartoon keeps kids laughing as they learn about important subjects like taking care of the environment and getting along with friends. Each episode features new songs and creative takes on popular games, so kids will be singing and playing long after the cartoon has ended. wow! wow! wubbzy Airs on Nick Jr.
Laurah Hagen is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online schools for Guide to Online Schools.