June recently discovered Dora the Explorer and has been in a full-on Dora fever for a few months now. It all started when I rented a couple of DVDs for her at the local library over Christmas break. (For those of you who don’t know, Dora is a popular Nickelodeon Latina character who goes on adventures with her buddy, a monkey named Boots. Dora is bilingual. She relies on her talking backpack and talking map to find her way to specific destinations (while overcoming obstacles). June became transfixed. She started talking like Dora and imitating whole lines of dialogue from episodes. She started calling Jake “Boots” and wants us to call her “Dora.” I’m “Bag.” (Don’t ask me who that is, but at least it sounds marginally better than, say, “Sod.”) She wears her backpack around the house spewing lines. She and “Boots” go on “adventures” around the house the second “Boots” walks in the door from work. Her teachers told me she slips into her Dora character at Montessori, encouraging classmates to say “Backpack!”
Although I hate the thought of my kid turning into a drooling Dora zombie while I suffer from low grade Dora fatigue — “Dora the Explorer! Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swiping!” — I actually kind of like this character. I mean, at least compared to other popular kiddie characters — I’m looking at you, Caillou! — Dora is alright. Dora is cool. She’s a girl after my own heart.
Here are my top reasons why.
1. She has a toddler’s body 1 of 6
Unlike a lot of toys for girls these days, Dora isn't kinder-sexy (see here for a few examples). She's still got baby fat. She doesn't wear eye makeup. She proudly wears a bowl cut. She's more interested in helping friends and having adventures.
2. SHE rescues the Prince, not the other way around 2 of 6
In Dora world, it's no big thing for a girl to rescue a prince who's been locked up in the high tower by the mean witch. It's expected.
3. Dora’s mom is an archeologist and mother of three (including baby twins) 3 of 6
In Dora's world, little girls learn that mamis have lots of adventures too -- either at work digging for the lost gold or at home with a busy, growing family ... or in Dora's mom's case, both.
4. Dora teaches my kid Spanish — for free! 4 of 6
Since being introduced to Dora, June has picked up all sorts of Spanish words: Vamonos, empuje, abierto, cerca, salto, gracias, de nada. She can count to ten. She knows more Spanish than I do.
5. Dora’s Papi proudly rocks a ‘stache 5 of 6
So what if Dora's father sorta resembles a Latino Ron Burgundy? Papi is comfortable with his casual but totally masculine early 80s style.
6. Dora is proactive 6 of 6
This is probably my favorite thing about the show: Dora teaches resourcefulness by encouraging kids to look inside their proverbial backpacks and consult with maps for help getting to the next step. Does Barney do that? Didn't think so.