Kids’ TV first came into our lives about nine years ago, when my eldest was 18 months. It came to us in the form of CBeebies.
And CBeebies stayed with us until earlier this year, when my daughter finally decided she preferred CBBC. Until that time, they had all, to a greater or lesser extent, carried on watching CBeebies. Even at 10, my boy would watch Gigglebiz (genuinely hilarious), Octonauts (generally fab) and Grandpa in My Pocket.
So what is so great about CBeebies? It has some brilliantly entertaining shows, which are also very educational. I myself learned a lot about various cottage industries from watching Big Cook Little Cook and Come Outside. If kids have an interest, like space or animals, they can pick up loads of information from watching CBeebies, as well as messages about healthy eating and exercise from shows like I Can Cook, Boogie Beebies or Lazy Town and the presenters’ talky bits between the programmes.
We started out watching Teletubbies and moved on to everything CBeebies had to offer. Balamory was a big favourite back in the day. You either love it or hate. Kids love it. Parents’ opinions tend to be divided. I loved it. It’s so relaxing. If only life was as simple as Balamory.
My daughter is exactly the right age to have been sucked in by the phenomenon that is In the Night Garden. It launched around her 1st birthday, so she should have been obsessed with Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. She liked it, but she was never obsessed. She even went off it for a while after the Pinky Ponk got stuck in a tree. Who would have thought a programme aimed at toddlers could be so scary?
I’m lucky that my kids have never had any interest in programmes like Power Rangers or Ben 10, because I never wanted them to like that sort of thing. I know good triumphs over evil, but to me, that’s their only redeeming feature. Maybe my subliminal messages got through to them and that’s why they never asked to watch them. I’ll admit that for many years they didn’t know of the existence of ‘other channels’.
My daughter had just turned 3 when we discovered the greatest pre-school programme in the world. Ever. Fact. I’d seen all the merchandise in the shops next to the Upsy Daisy stuff, but I had no idea just how good Peppa Pig was. It was on the ‘wrong channel’, you see. It had been on TV for years. All those years of viewing we’d missed out on.
Peppa and her family love each other and are happy most of the time. They do normal things. And Daddy Pig is very, VERY funny. He is a creation of comic genius. I could watch him for literally hours. He is, in many ways, a typical Dad. He believes he is good at everything – driving, map reading, putting up pictures – and often says ‘I’m an expert at…’ And he really isn’t. Like the time he knocked half the wall down putting up pictures.
We still watch it sometimes. And also Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, which is made by the same people and is almost as brilliant. Holly is a fairy princess, but it is very far from being girly crap.
But now the kids mainly watch CBBC. Like its baby sibling, CBeebies, it is entertaining and educational. But with a bit more of that knowing humour older children love.
Recently the kids have enjoyed Splatalot, which is like Total Wipeout, but with teenagers and set in a medieval castle. Tracy Beaker is a brilliant drama, based on the Jacqueline Wilson book of the same name. It’s been going for years. It is highly emotional and I’ve had to leave the room a couple of times because it’s made me cry. Horrible Histories: Gory Games is hilarious. It’s a history quiz, presented by Dave Lamb (who voices Come Dine With Me). Kids aged about 11 compete against each other to answer questions and do disgusting challenges like throwing severed heads. And they, and the viewers, learn about history as they go.
Which brings me to the greatest television programme for school kids, in my humble opinion. Horrible Histories. It is two things. Hilarious and educational. And I’m not the only one to think that. It got the British Comedy Award in 2010 for best sketch show. The only kids’ show ever to get this ‘adult’ award.
It teaches kids about everything from the Stone Age through to World War II by focusing on the most disgusting elements of history – beheadings, Stupid Deaths (that’s a song, not a grammatical error – hence the capital letters), poo in the streets and drinking wee in the trenches. I have learned more about the British monarchy by dipping in and out of Horrible Histories in recent months than I’ve ever known before.
And it’s all done through brilliant sketches. Some are based on programmes like Come Dine With Me, Wife Swap or How To Look Good Naked and others are totally original. There are also songs, which are funny, educational and usually great spoofs of something adults will recognise. Born 2 Rule by Georges I-IV is a brilliant Westlife spoof and Dick Turpin the Highwayman is a pastiche of Stand and Deliver. Which also helpfully includes eye candy ‘for the mums’ in the form of actor Matthew Baynton (Deano from Gavin & Stacey who liked to drink ‘toffee’ or ‘kea’).
So the MumofThree Award for Best Pre-School Programme goes to Peppa Pig and the the MumofThree Award for Best Kids’ Programme goes to Horrible Histories. If you’ve never checked them out, I would strongly recommend them.