Look, I know that little kids probably aren’t supposed to watch TV. I know what the Dr. Spock book says, and I’ve read the judgmental parenting blogs.
But I also have a three year old. And like every other parent of a small child, I know that occasionally letting the TV be the babysitter is a critical survival tactic.
But here’s the thing: Most children’s TV shows suck. They’re loud. They’re overstimulating. Sometimes they feature creepy puppets. They’re barely disguised toy commercials. They’re full of annoying songs that wedge themselves into the tiny recesses of your brain until you catch yourself quietly singing “Daddy Finger” at your desk. It’s awful. “Daddy Finger” YouTube videos would be more effective into scaring teenagers into using protection than any slideshow of STDs or whatever.
But you know what? There’s actually one good children’s TV show.
It’s called Sarah and Duck, and it’s on Netflix
Here’s the basic premise of Sarah and Duck. Sarah is a 7-year-old girl who wears a hoodie and a green hat everywhere. Her best friend is Duck, who is a duck. Duck does not have special powers. He is not a crime-fighting dog. He does not talk. He does not sing jingles about trying new foods or learning to share or vowel sounds. Duck is a duck. He quacks, and his singular motivation appears to be eating bread.
Duck is great.
There are other characters as well, like a woman named “Scarf Lady” who knits scarves, and a talking bag named “Bag”, and a pet donkey who looks sad but is actually happy, and a few others whose names you won’t be expected to remember. There is also a narrator. He occasionally gives suggestions or helps explain the action, which is helpful for the plot, seeing as Duck only quacks. I mean, he’ll also gesture wildly, I guess. But he only talks in quacks.
Also, everybody is British
Yup, Sarah and Duck comes from the BBC, and this is actually a very important benefit for tired parents. Nothing explodes. There are no bombastic musical numbers. Everybody talks in relatively understated British accents, and nobody yells. It’s basically ASMR for like, 3-year-olds, meaning it’s the perfect show to throw on the TV while you’re doing something else. Or you could watch it with your kid too, and your brain won’t leak out of your ears.
Plus, each episode is only like, 11 minutes long, so it’s easy to trick your kids into thinking they’re watching more TV
Sesame Street episodes are loooooong. Lots of shows are a full 30 minutes. But every 10 or so, Sarah and Duck ends their bit, you get the title card again, and the inoffensive little jingle (the words? Sarah and Duck. Quack. Repeated three times). You can play that “only one more episode!” game effectively AND feel like a quasi-responsible parent at the same time. This is very important.
Did I mention there are basically no musical numbers? I feel like this is very important
This is the problem with shows like Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger, which probably does a good job helping teach your kid about their ABCs and stuff. But if it’s on in your house, you run the risk of having song after song stuck in your head, or having it sung back to you by your kid, for basically forever. The first few times your kid sings the rubber duck song, it’s adorable, and you put it on Instagram. The 300th time? Less so.
There are no weird puppets, unlike say, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And it isn’t Frozen, which is fine I guess, but every dad in America has watched it, like, 400 times already.
And while it is technically educational, it isn’t overtly so, and doesn’t feel preachy or forced. It’s just a cartoon where a duck quacks around and people speak in soft voices. It’ll distract your kid long enough for you to get some goddamned peace and quiet in this house for once.
And hey, even when the show does decide to delve into musical numbers, they’re super chill and short and barely even songs at all.
That probably won’t get stuck in your head at inopportune times.
So much of parenting small children is making the best of bad choices. Do you dig in and fight over your kid’s demands to only eat chicken nuggets for two weeks straight, or do you allow them to potentially catch scurvy? Do you give them their 26th good night kiss of the evening, or ignore them and ride out an enormous temper tantrum? There are no good results. Only tears, pain, and processed carbohydrates.
Since you probably can’t get rid of TV entirely, it’s best to pick the least obtrusive and painful option. And that, folks, is Sarah and Duck.