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No More SpongeBob? 12 Kids TV Shows That are Good for Toddler

spongebob squarepants

Even when he acts like a baby, Spongebob isn't good for them. But there are other fish in the TV-watching sea, so to speak.

I think for a lot of parents, news that SpongeBob SquarePants was hardly an edifying cartoon for young kids wasn’t such a surprise. It’s pretty obvious that not all kids TV shows are on the same level, educationally.

But it was the particular problem found with SpongeBob that alarmed some parents. A mere 9 minutes of a single episode and suddenly my kid can’t do a puzzle? Even worse, we’re going to have to watch Caillou from now on?!

Well, no and, mercifully, not exactly. Heather does a great job of breaking down the study. My coarse summary of her breakdown is that the scenes in SpongeBob just fly by too quickly and kids wind up with sensory overload. The good news is that there are other shows that are just as entertaining for younger kids, but which allow their stories to be told at a slower pace. (They also resolve problems in a much gentler way.)

I relied on the excellent kids media critics at Common Sense and, unscientifically evaluated the pacing and number of scene changes in some others. Here’s what I came up with; be sure to add your favorites in comments.

12 Alternatives to the Frenetic Weirdos from Bikini Bottom

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  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 1 of 12
    Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
    A classic that never stops being good and one reason is that it's a show for kids that's made with kids in mind. Fred Rogers speaks directly to his audience, he doesn't have inside jokes only adults will understand and the production values are as old as the show itself. But it's the opposite of frenetic -- sort of a live-action Caillou. SOURCE
  • Oobi 2 of 12
    Oobi
    This show features hands decked out in wigs and googly eyes. The "puppets" speak in mind-blowingly simple sentences and features real preschoolers at the halfway mark of each episode. It was the first show aired when Nick Jr. launched and sadly only had two seasons. It still airs -- in the middle of the night -- but it's worth DVR-ing. Common Sense gave this one 5 stars for its values, language and lack of product tie-ins. SOURCE
  • The Upside Down Show 3 of 12
    The Upside Down Show
    Compared to a live-action "Bert & Ernie" this one-season show featured two physical comedians from Australia in perpetually new situations developed by the Sesame Workshop. The pair are funny and there's plenty of action, but the scenes are calm and allowed to slowly unfold. This show also earned 5 stars from Common Sense. Reruns of its one season air in the middle of the night, but it's another great one to get in your DVR queue. SOURCE
  • Franklin 4 of 12
    Franklin
    Another Common Sense favorite for the 2- and 3-year-old set, this cartoon about a turtle who "can count by twos and tie his shoes" is based on a series of popular children's books. Franklin and his friends often disagree, but respectfully. The episodes unfold at a pace more like the venerated Caillou than the vilified Spongebob. Your kids can catch reruns on Nick Jr. SOURCE
  • The Clifford Franchise 5 of 12
    The Clifford Franchise
    Both Clifford the Big Red Dog and Clifford: Puppy Days get the most number of stars from Common Sense media as excellent shows for toddlers. The tone is friendly, the storylines contain lessons in honesty and kindness and the pace within scenes and episodes holds attention without being chaotic. SOURCE
  • Kipper the Dog 6 of 12
    Kipper the Dog
    Gentle, quiet, friendly. Everything about Kipper is soothing. And who couldn't listen to Kipper saying "Arnold" all day? Kipper's sort of naive and therefore the perfect character to learn lessons about friendship, disappointment, and frustration. You can watch Kipper reruns on PBS Kids Sprouts or get DVDs from the library. SOURCE
  • Sesame Street 7 of 12
    Sesame Street
    This show was originally scripted for school-age kids but has adjusted to the reality of its demographics, which includes the youngest TV viewers. Sesame Workshop knows what it's doing and keeps the pacing and themes and characters appropriate even for toddlers. SOURCE
  • Mustard Pancakes 8 of 12
    Mustard Pancakes
    This is the kind of show that makes modern-day, irony-fueled parents cringe --and not just from the terrible theme song. But Sherry is calm, the puppets earnest. Lessons range from the moral to geographical and in all is a good show even for 2-year-olds. You can catch Mustard Pancakes on some PBS stations, but also stream it on Netflix. SOURCE
  • Thomas the Tank Engine 9 of 12
    Thomas the Tank Engine
    Thomas isn't every child's cup of tea, but for those who love him he's every bit of lengthy, non-frenetic scene that Spongebob isn't. If you're avoiding character-driven merchandise, you'll have to look out for Thomas. But the TV shows won't leave your kid unable to sit still (unless he already can't). SOURCE
  • Max & Ruby 10 of 12
    Max & Ruby
    This brother-sister pair (where are the parents?) have a lot of conflict, but not the kind that turns into hair pulling or cliff dives. Based on the popular books, Max and Ruby is another show written and edited with the very youngest viewers in mind and it delivers in terms of content and pacing. SOURCE
  • Blues Clues 11 of 12
    Blues Clues
    This show picked up where Mister Rogers left off in the realm of talking directly to kids from the TV. Other shows like Dora, who also pauses to wait for kids to answer, followed suit and both make for decent toddler TV. SOURCE
  • Word World 12 of 12
    Word World
    Even though most 3-year-olds aren't ready to read, they are ready to recognize their print-rich environment. Word World aims at slightly older, preschool age kids, but the content and pacing and, yes, phonics in this show are presented in a way that might build a toddlers brain but certainly won't rewire it in the style of Bikini Bottom regulars. SOURCE

SOURCE

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