I have a confession to make, and it’s just a little embarrassing.
A little under four months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (no, that’s not my confession). His sister, who is seven years older, is thrilled with him, as are we all.
But for me, in addition to all the obvious delights of watching this little person grow and change and develop, there is a guilty pleasure that I now get to indulge in again: watching CBeebies.
We are a bilingual household, English and Dutch – at home, my husband and I primarily speak English to each other – but since we live in the Netherlands our primary language is Dutch and so initially when my daughter was little we would watch Dutch children’s television, which is very good. Dutch children’s TV consists of both original programming and a number of British (and other international) shows, dubbed in Dutch.
We noticed, however, that while our daughter could understand English perfectly she was very reluctant to speak it. To encourage her a little, I decided it might be a good idea for her to watch some English children’s television and that’s how we landed on CBeebies. Before you start thinking that we leave her entire verbal education up to TV viewing, rest assured that I have been reading to her since she could open her eyes. She’s always loved company and conversation, so there’s never been any shortage of interaction.
But like us, our daughter also loves film and television and if you love something you learn from it very easily. One great advantage to movie and television dialogue is that you don’t only learn words, but you learn words in context, making it easier to use them appropriately and correctly. This is especially true for children’s television, which is often geared towards that specific purpose.
Since I like to know what she watches, and which programmes she especially likes and why – it’s been very helpful in finding approaches to explaining things to her that she required some additional help with once she started going to school – I used to watch CBeebies with her. And I loved it!
Some shows are just funny, like the tales of the mischievous Timmy (I think he’s Shaun the Sheep‘s nephew) in Timmy Time. Some are educational, like The Octonauts – my daughter can spout some very cool facts about marine life these days – Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures and Numberjacks (math concepts, anyone?). Some shows appeal to the playful, like the educational dress-up show Let’s Play (you can find some episodes on YouTube; BBC is still very rigid about opening up content to users outside the UK). Some shows instill in children some useful social skills, like persistence, willingness to learn, the ability to take constructive criticism and understanding that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose; here I’m thinking of shows like Chuggington and Swashbucklers (again, YouTube).
There are the straight-up storytelling shows, like Driver Dan’s Story Train, Tinga Tinga Tales, In the Night Garden and 64 Zoo Lane, and of course the Bedtime Story. Some of our favourite children’s books are ones we first heard read during this segment of the Bedtime Hour (I highly recommend Badly Drawn Dog – for the video, click here; and What Does Daddy Do? – for the video click here.).
And some shows are just brilliant in their observations of children, like Wooly and Tig, and Charlie and Lola, based on Lauren Child‘s equally brilliant children’s books. The latter is a particular favourite of ours. It speaks to children and adults equally: children recognise themselves, and we certainly recognise our children!
In short, there’s a lot of really good stuff on there and, frankly, it’s addictive. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a mom. Or still a child at heart.
Either way, thanks to our lovely little boy, I get to indulge with impunity for a few more years. And how I love my guilty little pleasure!