My older one is now 5. She doesn't show much interest in TV, but occasionally wants to watch something. Personally I have nothing against TV in moderation. But I did want to find a show that would be fun for my daughter to watch and yet subtly advocate open mindedness, curiosity and sensitivity.
My older one is easily frightened. She cares immensely about babies, children and animals and can't bear to see them in any sort of danger. So whatever I found for her to watch would have to be non-violent. My daughter speaks fluent English and has an above average vocabulary. In searching for shows for her, I came across Caillou and it was perfect. Even the younger one enjoys it.
What makes Caillou a good show for a 3 to 6 year old kid?
The episodes are available on youtube so my daughter can watch them whenever it is convenient and does not have to adhere to a TV schedule. The show can be fit in to her routine rather than the other way around. This also affords a lot of flexibility. My daughter does not get any TV time through the week but over the weekend she is allowed to watch 3, twenty minute episodes of Caillou. Sometimes she watches them all together and sometimes she watches them spread out over the 2 day period. She gets to choose.
The episode can be interrupted and paused at anytime and easily resumed later. So if she needs to pee or stop her sister from sneaking off with her favourite teddy bear, she can pause the episode, take care of the emergency and then resume watching.
The show is about everyday experiences and deals with concepts like sibling rivalry, learning to ride a bicycle, going on a family picnic or camping trip, losing a tooth, time spent with grandma, interacting with older kids, dressing up in costumes, preparing for show-and-tell, which, in a way, reminds me of my own Tania series .
Kids love these kinds of stories because they are so easy to relate to. They like seeing how other kids react in familiar situations. Sometimes the show introduces them to unfamiliar situations they are likely to encounter sooner or later and helps to prepare them. These stories inspire them to try new things like eating with chopsticks or making birthday cards or helps them find the courage to do away with training wheels.
The show embraces diversity. Caillou's friends belong to different ethnic and racial groups. Caillou is curious about and respects different cultures. There is an episode where Caillou meets a deaf boy at the park and learns about sign language. The show encourages open mindedness.
The show encourages creativity, sensitivity, resourcefulness, imagination and out of the box thinking. The language is clear but not simplistic.
There are some interesting online games using simple logic or for exercising creativity on the Caillou section of the PBS kids website. You'll find the games here. There are also a number of printables and activities on the website.
According to Wikipedia :
A study had three groups of four-year-olds each engaged in activities; one group watched Caillou, another watched SpongeBob SquarePants, and the third group drew pictures. After nine minutes, the children were tested on mental functions; those that watched Caillou had very similar results to the group that drew pictures, both of whom performed significantly better than the group that watched the SpongeBob episode.
On the downside the character sounds really whiny. It doesn't seem to bother my kids at all but it can get on my nerves after sometime. Ear plugs to the rescue.
On the whole I'd say it is one of the better kids cartoons that our little ones can enjoy without much for us to worry about.