# children # children's tv

Inappropriate Content in Cartoons? + What Your Children Can Do INSTEAD of Watching TV

Summertime is upon us, and in today's video I give a list of ideas that your children can do instead of watching television or playing video games. I also give an anecdote about something I noticed about children's cartoons. I hope you will watch today's video and chime in with your comments. As always, I love to hear from you.

As for TV recommendations, here are some cartoons that our family has enjoyed:

Little Bear
Beatrix Potter
Boxcar Children
Wallace & Grommit
Shaun the Sheep
Heidi- this series was on Netflix. I cannot find a link for it, but it is a great children's series.

Faith-based cartoons: Veggie Tales, Adventures in Odyssey

As for activities that do not involve screens, these are the activities I discuss in today's video, written out here in list format.
Learn to Draw, (for example: How To Draw Horses), build a fort, cook and bake, chores and organization, read, listen to an audio book, play outside (swim, ride bikes, roller skates), put on a play, go on a walk, play beauty salon (my favorite!), dolls, play school, learn a new skill (shoe tying, snapping fingers, whistling), make play-dough, make oobleck.

Homemade Play-dough Recipe
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 cup flour
Food coloring

Mix water, vegetable oil, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a saucepan until warm.
Remove from heat and add flour. Stir, then knead until smooth. Store in an air-tight container.

Elegant Living Everyday reviews The Madame Chic Collection on her blog.

On Instagram
A cappuccino and Madame Chic, what more do you need?

A post shared by @misosoup.jp on

Dinner with Madame Chic in the Czech Republic...


Christine G writes: Hi Jennifer, I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing your writing and videos. I am a big fan of yours. I am in the Navy and although I don't decide what to wear everyday, I have started to take care of my uniform and appearance! I try to maintain etiquette and poise at work - something I now cherish! As a Protocol Officer, it's made me embrace my job. Thank you so much!!! All the best, Christine

Hi Chrstine, I loved your email to me sharing your Madame Chic testimony. Thank you for your service to our country!

Today I would love to know... what are your opinions on today's children's cartoons? Do you see inappropriate content like I do? What are you favorite summertime activities for children? Let me know and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week on The Daily Connoisseur!

See you all next week for a nail polish review and the start of the Mapp and Lucia Book Club! Have a great weekend.

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Joy said...

These are sweet suggestions and ideas. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight!

Robyn said...

Great suggestions, but when I was growing up we had 3 TV stations and children maybe went to a camp once if at all so it is interesting to me to hear young parents talk about entertaining their children. I can guarantee you that my mom never felt that it was her job to entertain us. When my kids were young we would go to the pool about 3-4 times a week but the rest of the time they entertained themselves or had friends over. They would build forts with old sheets, build with various building supplies, play with their toys, color, paint, read, PLAY OUTSIDE, ride bikes and got very dirty. As a teacher, I can definetly see a negative effect on students whose parents feel they need to keep their children entertained.

Maureen said...

Amen, Jennifer! :) My son is just a baby, but I have 13 nieces and nephews, and I used to work in an elementary school, so I have spent a lot of time around kids. Cartoons just are not like they were when we were kids. Pardon me for sounding like an old-timer! Growing up, whenever my siblings and I were allowed to watch TV, Disney was the one channel that my parents gave us cart blanche to watch. Now, however, Disney shows are filled with rude children and inappropriate themes. My parents won't let their grandchildren watch it at their house anymore for these reasons.

The school I used to work in was a Waldolf school, and parents were encouraged to limit their children's media exposure. They were encouraged to keep the TV and devices off during the week and allow for just a couple of hours on the weekend. Instead, they advocated that children PLAY; that is after all how children learn best--through experiences. Many of your recommended activities remind me of things we did when I was a child! Great advice.

Margaret said...

Thank you! I've noticed a huge difference in content and we are very select about the time we spend in front of the TV. We've recently enjoyed Little House on the Prarie, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Disney's Swiss Family Robinson and PBS's The British Baking Show (my boys are 8 and 10 years). The Baking Show was fun as it unleashed hours of creativity and sweets in our kitchen! Other fun directives I've been able to give my boys are outdoor fort building, car washing, badminton, kite flying, painting, cursive writing handbooks, homemade slip n' slide, catching bugs/butterflies.

Lillian said...

I noticed when I was a nanny and babysitter in high school and college that cartoons always seemed to be about romantic relationships more than about friendships between boys and girls. Young girls don't need to be focused on that kind of relationship or themes of jealousy and fighting over a boy. Instead, we need to teach children (and demonstrate this ourselves) how to have good friendships with everyone. In my opinion, the Studio Ghibli films do a very good job of this. Some of them are love stories, but many of them are about sweet friendships and family relationships. My favorites are "Kiki's Delivery Service", "Spirited Away", and "My Neighbor Totoro".

Unknown said...

Hi, Jennifer! I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but William Bennett's The Book of Virtues is marvelous. I think you would enjoy for your children!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jennifer! Thank you for bringing up this topic! I agree that many currently popular cartoons are not pedagogically sound and I am 100% with you in the effort to be mindful of what influences our children and in what way. I've made it a rule for myself to always screen a cartoon before letting my daughters watch it. I have to be aware of what my children are exposed to, not only to be able to ban inappropriate content, but also to be able to discuss with my children things that interest them. For example, when my daughters watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, they were perplexed as to why anybody not like Christmas, so I found myself in an interesting conversation, where we were making guesses about what could make Grinch so grumpy, what it means to have a heart "two sizes two small", and why Grinch changed his mind about Christmas in the end. We also discussed what Christmas is and what it is not and why it is actually impossible to steal Christmas. It was a very meaningful and enriching conversation. My children got to receive extra input from me and had an opportunity to ponder on some serious topics. I got to observe their thought process and to connect to them through what interests them. By the way, they are 6 and 3 now, and the Grinch conversation occurred about a year ago, so it's never too early to start. We, adults, do enjoy discussing films with each other, so why not discuss cartoons with our kids?!

Here are the DVDs we have enjoyed in our family so far:
- Guess How Much I Love You Series
- Cat in the Hat (both the original and the PBS series)
- The Lorax
- Horton Hears a Who
- Curious George (the original is the best, but PBS series are good, too)
- Winnie the Pooh (the original)
- Educational films about animals and nature (such as The Fascinating World of Insects by BrainFood Learning)
- Beatrix Potter
- Thomas and Friends - The Early Years

Some DVDs we screened out:
- Peppa Pig (A friend of mine told me that her kids were watching it until the parents noticed that the pig father was being constantly ridiculed by the pig family. There is a recurring theme of saying things like: "silly papa!" and focusing on his faux pas. I decided that I want my children to look up to their father, not make fun of him, so we don't watch this cartoon)
- Arthur's Perfect Christmas by PBS (The DVD covers the topic of diversity in the context of winter holidays and how different families celebrate different things. That would be great, if it didn't also include suggestions like celebrating a "me day", instead of Christmas Day, which to me reads as an encouragement towards a selfish mentality. Also, it delves into such issues as struggling through the parents' divorce, which I decided was too early for my 6 and 3 year-olds yet.

I am not going to list all the cartoons we decided to pass in our family. What I am trying to convey here is that inappropriate content isn't always extreme. It's not always so obvious, like when the cartoon is about zombies. There are other more subtle messages in children's content that is harder to spot, but that parents may not want their children to be exposed to at their current age, or ever at all.

Anonymous said...

(continuation of my previous comment)

As for activities away from the screen in the summer, we do a lot of:
- painting
- drawing
- fort-building
- having pretend parties
- playing with horses (my girls love toy horses, instead of dolls)
- role playing, for example, doctor's office, or teacher's lesson
- reading books and magazines (we subscribe to Highlights High Five magazine, as well as National Geographic Magazine)
- playing board games, like checkers (the girls come up with their own rules and enjoy it tremendously), dominoes, Jenga, Kids on Stage
- playing with building sets, like Duplo, Lego, PlayMobil and Marble Run
- doing crafts, inspired by Pinterest
- writing stories (we bought this nice book publishing kit, called IlluStory at Barnes and Noble, and my older daughter has been working on writing a book of her own, which is exciting, because she knows we'll mail her "manuscript" with her drawings and then receive it back professionally published, including the "illustrations"
- outdoor activities, including unstructured play, running under a sprinkler, riding bikes and scooters, blowing bubbles, drawing with chalk, going to the park, going to the local public gardens
- helping around the house: baking, vacuuming, tidying up, planting, weeding, dusting, moping the floors, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table - I let them help me out, it takes forever and is done imperfectly, but I find it necessary to foster a good work ethic

I also agree with you about music and how it helps children be focused on an activity longer. I have used that since my oldest child was a baby, because that was the only way I could finish cooking dinner! Besides classic music, I love Putumayo Playground series. It's wonderfully diverse and enriching.

Thank you for including parental concerns in the scope of topics you bring up, because being a connoisseur of one's life can hardly materialize without being a connoisseur of one's marriage and parenting.

Unknown said...

Thank you! Great ideas. My 4-year-old loves the Tinkerbell movies and the Octonauts. Lately we've been painting rocks and making fairy garden stuff. ��

Vicar's Wife said...

You are wise to monitor the content of the shows for children. Studies of the brain tell us that our brains are not fully developed until we are in our mid twenties. The teen brain is very different from an adult brain because the prefrontal cortex is the last to develop. How much more so for a five year old? The snarky attitudes that are "caught" and the adult situations being foisted on the young is a travesty of childhood, waking them up sexually far too early. These shows are robbers. Children and tweens and even teenagers simply do not have the full capability of dealing with certain matters, no matter how "mature" or how much of an "old soul" disposition they seen to have. They can only go so far. And young children have better things to think about that are more age appropriate.

Mothers do no have to be cruise ship directors or camp counselors, in my opinion. I believe they should learn to entertain themselves whenever possible. That being said, a handy list of suggestions like yours and a friendly boost, and yes, some time spent playing with them is a loving thing to do.

Unknown said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for this video. As a mother of 2, (and also a nanny) I'm always looking for new/fun ideas to try out with the children. Perhaps you could make a video series on raising children?
We really enjoy:
-playing safari
-painting (I love to play classical music)
-pretend kitchen
-we listen to books while eating lunch
-dance parties(this is a favorite, it differs from classical music, to silly Children songs, movie scores, broadway muisc, and classic Disney songs)

I am VERY picky as to what I let my little ones watch. Shows that I/they enjoy are:

*Danniel Tigger (personal I think it's one of the sweetest shows on PBS, and the children really like/use the jingles.
*Little Einstein (teaches children about classical music and art)
*Super Why
*Mickey Mouse club (I really appreciate that they always show kindness to the "bad guy" Pete)
*Magic School Bus
*wishbone (an old PBS series you can find on YouTube-a dog tells/acts in different literature books)
*tom and Jerry (the old ones, rarely watched but I always enjoy hearing the laughter from their reactions to the characters)

It is very unfortunate how the cartoon world has changed. Cartoons seem to all look ugly, angery or mean. There is always a negative problem, why not more positivity? There also seems to be a odd amount of magic in every cartoon. Now, I throughly love and enjoy movies like Cinderella, etc. But the cartoon Sofia the First doesn't sit well with me as a parent and I wonder if there are other Moms that think this....
I find it odd the wizard can be a good/bad guy. That Sofia spends time alone with him, what message is that sending to our children? I think it blurs the lines of reason. There's too much secrecy, I feel, and that the parents are treated as ignorant adults. (This is what I have gathered after watching 2 episodes, please forgive my ignorance if this is not the case in all the episodes)
Once again, Thank you Jennifer for a wonderful topic/video.
Have a great week.

Unknown said...

I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, both girls. As a parent, my favorite shows that they have liked are Ready, Jet, Go and Octonauts. Ready, Jet, Go teaches real facts about science and space, and Octonauts teaches all about sea creatures. These shows have cycled as their favorites at times without my pushing, so I can say they are kid approved!

Unknown said...

I must recommend Miniscule for young children! It's a french made TV series and it's very clever, lots of fun, and adults can enjoy it with their children. It's beautiful to watch and has lovely music as well as enjoying the funny story lines. There is no talking in it so its suitable for all countries/languages. It's really delightful. Here's a link to a You Tube episode - I guarantee it will make you smile (whatever age you are!).


Also, La Petite Taupe is another European cartoon which is so gentle and sweet for young children, the little mole is so kind to his friends. It's delightful. But its harder to find unfortunately.

Cynthia Washburn said...

I appreciate your comments. I complain about swearing also, which seems to becoming mainstream. There was a time when it was considered unladylike to swear but I guess that is considered to be dated advice. I object to the use of swearing in print and am disappointed to see it in magazines like the New Yorker. My high school English teacher used to comment that swearing showed a deficit of vocabulary. Some bloggers swear in their posts and I wonder if they are doing it for effect or to look hip. We had a no swearing rule in our home and the adults set the example. My grown children still don't swear (at least not in my presence). I had Report Card comments about their politeness and I treasured that as much as their grades. They are all successful and happy adults now and I can't help but think that manners, social graces and yes, even not swearing were factors. I remember I used to telephone the mother of the child when my children were going to a sleepover and ask what movie they were showing. Some saw nothing wrong with horror/slasher Freddy Krueger type of movies. I would ask if something not more than PG 13 could be shown. I think my children would cringe but they got to know my opinions.

boat people said...

I always check my kids Attitudes after they've watched a certain show. Some just set them off! I can't figure it out- but and example is Paw Patrol. It always makes them very aggressive and rude after they watch ( so we don't anymore) any hint of darkness and my kids are over it as well. We stick to mostly British TV and the characters are MUCH politer then American shows, and seem to use more imagination then magic.

And our rules is only shows if it's raining or everyone is sick, and only an hour or so even then.

Polly said...

When my children were little they just loved Daniel Tiger! And Mister Rogers. (Both on Netflix.) And they both adored Thomas the Train. Veggie Tales were good, too, although I had one child who was scared of them!

We do almost zero screen time in our household for children. As a result I don't have to cook up many activities for them to engage in; they are used to thinking of things to do themselves! Our children love making paper dolls (right now they're making Star Wars paper dolls--ha), playing outside, drawing, reading or looking at books (depending on their literacy), playing with Legos or dolls or blocks.....and we go to the pool in the summer!
My children also help around the house; my 10-year old has about an hour of morning chores to do each day, and my 6-year old has about 20 minutes of chores. Sometimes they help in the kitchen, they always tidy for me every afternoon, and when I work in the yard I often have a willing "runner" who will help me out. I thank them for their help and they feel valued! I don't play with my children much, except at the pool, but I read to them *a lot*.

When they do watch something these days, it's generally Narnia or Star Wars or an old Hayley Mills film. I'd say they watch a full-length movie like that once or twice a week.

It's wise to limit screens and encourage creative play (and some work) instead. I think it results in happy children!

Mary said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for the video on this subject. TV and screen time are hot topics at our house. I have approached summer screen time several different ways over the years and have finally figured out what works for our family. My girls bank screen time minutes by reading. Each minute read is a minute of screen time earned. This has increased reading significantly. It has also helped with using a clock and math because they have to keep track of their minutes. I know this would still be too much screen time for some families but I feel it works well for us.
As far as children's show content I feel a similar way. I usually default to shows I enjoyed as a child such as Animal Olympics, Hayley Mills movies, Shirley Temple, Annie, Little House on the Prairie and Little Women.

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Wren said...

Hi Jennifer,

I thought it was really interesting what you said about many children's television shows introducing conflict or negativity into a children's life where there previously had been none, whether or not there is an earnest attempt to teach a moral lesson at the end. My husband and I have noticed this too. We've noticed the same in picture books, so I tend to quickly read through the library books we check out or stick to requesting books from trusted sources.

In our home our children enjoy watching:
Octonauts, Winnie the Pooh (The Adventures of), some of the Studio Ghibli films (Totoro especially), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

My husband and I decided to cancel Netflix and have a small DVD case with these films and shows. That gives my daughters autonomy in choosing without us having to say "no" to all the other options in their face on Netflix. We find our children do not need as great of a variety as us adults!

I appreciate all of your fun non-screen ideas, we will have to try some new ones! Thank you.


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molly said...

Love all your ideas! This is something I feel like we've struggled with throughout the years especially now that my older kids are teenagers. But something that I try to do is have a "field trip" day once a week where we go explore cool places in our town. I love my kids to see new things and go new places!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,

I have been thinking about this topic since you posted a weeks ago. Let me start by saying I am not a parent, so this is my idea of how I would hope to raise my future children. I have always said when the time comes for me to have children I don't want them to know what a TV is until they are at least 3. This is pretty much impossible so I can settle for perhaps only an hour or two per week of shows and films I pre-approve. I don't want them begging for the newest toy on the commercials and would rather they watch shows/films that aren't so commercialized. I realize this will be a challenge when they start school since their friends will have different rules at their homes and fear my children will have a difficult time socializing/making connections when other kids are talking about their favorite show on TV.

How do you handle these situations as your girls are getting older? Do they bring up shows their friends watch that you don't allow in your home? Do they throw tantrums over TV time? Or beg for every toy on the commercials?

Thank you,
Jennifer H.

Unknown said...

I want to chime in with my children's programming suggestions:
Hey Duggee
Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom.

Both shows are very appropriate for my 4 and 5 year olds and both shows tickle me each time I watch! They are humorous, fun, and a bit magical.
I believe you will find them on Nick Jr.

I hope this helps!

Unknown said...


I live in the south west of Western Australia so we don't have things like summer camps. Kids mostly do swimming lessons during summer (pretty much a necessity as we live near the beach) and we spend a lot of time doing bike rides and walks both along the beach and along local hiking routes. My 6 year old likes to take a notepad to record what he finds (like a rock that looks like a whale or a volcano) and both kids pack their own bag with snacks and more often than not a toy to share the experience with.

I did want to share a cool activity though. We have groups called "WA Rocks" and "South West Rocks" which is where you can paint small rocks and hide them in your local park, shopping complex, etc. Then anyone can go for a treasure hunt and find the rocks. When they find them you can re-hide them in the same area or a totally different one. My kids love it as they normally find them inadvertently as we are walking to their grandfather's house or off to school.

At home, my kids very much love dressing up (Batman and Wonder Woman are current favourites) and spend A LOT of time playing Lego and making forts. If I'm not keeping an eye on them they often raid the kitchen to make a picnic for their toys - it keeps them entertained for hours but means a lot of packing up! I like to integrate it with lunch so then the picnic really has a purpose and I can justify the packing up!

As for TV shows, Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood is a great show for spreading good messages and showing kids how to deal with their emotions. I frequently quote it to my kids to help them get through an awkward moment.


Christa (Busselton, Western Australia)