The latest I hear about the basic-cable TV channel Noggin (“It’s like preschool on TV!”) is that it’s now called Nick, Jr.
Can commercials be far behind?
My husband and I (well, my husband, actually) stumbled upon Noggin while flipping through the many upper (as in, above 100) channels we have in our cable system. He happened to land on Noggin when it was airing a show no longer on the air that was a condensed version of Sesame Street (how it crossed over from PBS to Noggin, owned by Nickelodeon, we don’t know, but it caught our then-toddler’s attention). Then we realized that the channel was on all day, from 6 am to 6pm; that all the shows were slightly less than 30 minutes long; and that in between programs, rather than commercials, there were little interludes of music, or of Noggin-created characters Moose and Zee doing little preschool-esque lessons.
And so began our love affair with Little Bear, Little Bill, Backyardigans, Miffy and Maisy; our love-hate relationship with Franklin and Lazy Town, Dora and Diego, and The Wonder Pets; and our WTF is this? reaction to Wow, Wow, Wubbzy and Yo, Gabba Gabba.
I’m going to make an admission here, and I should also start setting aside a little money every month for my sons’ therapy later in life because of it: My kids, almost 7 and almost 5, still watch Noggin. (I mean, Nick, Jr.) Sure, it’s less of a pull than it used to be, but let’s face it: it’s preschool on TV! And my older guy is in sophisticated second grade!
Yet here’s what happens when I venture aloud to Daniel, the big guy, “you know, Daniel, maybe you’re too old for Little Bear.”
He gets upset with me.
And why not? Little Bear — as my dad said when he was over our house when it was on, and everyone ended up leaving the den but him, and when I came back I found him still watching and told him he could have changed the channel: “It’s a nice show.”
It IS nice. Oh, my husband and I make jokes about how one day the Bear family is going to realize their true nature and devour Hen and Duck, and there is of course endless mirth to be made out of Uncle Rusty (he emerges every now and then to help build a cabin or something, but mostly he seems to live in the woods, where there’s possibly a gay bar for bears, and Granny, Emily’s grandmother, who is drawn — on purpose? uncanny coincidence? — to look exactly like Barbara Bush.
But it’s sweet, and calming, and — best of all — it’s good for kids without being all in-your-face educational, which always comes off smarmy (think Dora. Shudder). It just is what it is, 25 minutes spent in a little forest glade with animals that talk and are good friends with each other and a little girl who spends summers in the woods with her grandmother.
Like Seinfeld, there’s no annoying growth or learning. Instead, there are cupcakes, and fish stew, and lemonade. And flights of fancy where the gang pretend-travels to the North Pole. And a giant moose, and a strange, wise frog, and Father Bear, in his dapper suit while at home, and in his Gorton’s Fisherman yellow raincoat when out on his boat, battling the wind, catching fish, and visiting foreign ports (oh, and rescuing a whale! That Father Bear!).
Thing is, I’ve never been in a giant hurry to push my boys to the “next step” in children’s entertainment. Because the “next step” inevitably involves action figures, commercials for cereal, candy and toys, and, well, the next step after that. I know parents who automatically shepherd their younger and younger kids to movies that aren’t made for them (but are instead made for the same cohort all commercial movies are made for these days: teenage boys, and young men).
My question is, once your kid’s watched Kung Fu Panda (which I did take the boys to; they didn’t like it. “Why do they keep fighting?” asked James), he’s not coming home and watching Little Bear. He wants the next thing, and that’s…. what? An Adam Sandler movie?
My kids (and I swear, it’s not because I restrict their access; I may be mean, but I don’t have a problem with TV, confident as I am that they do plenty else aside from watching it, and hey, I turned out okay!) have no idea who Ben 10 is, or Avatar (and frankly neither do I). If they’re happy with our friend the Bear, or with Handy Manny, or WorldWorld, or Curious George, or even the strange and wonderful residents of the Island of Sodor, who am I to tell them that most of their peers are watching the Star Wars movies, or Transformers?
And like I said, their interest in Noggin (oops, Nick, Jr.) is definitely waning. I’m not upset to see the back of Wubbzy (which gives me the same kind of get-me-out-of-here desperate feeling as when I’m trapped in phone-tree hell, or have a computer virus) or D.J. Lance of Yo Gabba Gabba. But I am sorta sorry to see Little Bear fade from our house.
I know my boys won’t remain in this bubble of TV innocence much longer, but I’m grateful to that bear family in the woods (and even supremely annoying Moose and Zee) for fending it off a bit longer.
Now, who’s up for some lemonade and cupcakes?