Before I had kids, I swore that they’d never watch a single minute of television. We’d do crafts, spend long afternoons at the park, breathing in sunshine and fresh air, and the children would help me cook healthy meals with the vegetables we grew in our backyard garden. We’d do puzzles and brain-teaser games, and we’d spend lazy days reading classic novels out loud to each other on a handmade quilt with a platter of fresh fruit. My kids were going to be so busy, they wouldn’t need to flip the channels.
And then I had kids and laughed at myself for infinity.
Like it or not, television and its programming is a part of our parenting routines. Sure, we all try to limit how much time our kids spend on Netflix, but the fact is, our kids watch television and some of the programs they watch are just plain crap. I mean, who knew that watching kids unwrap toys on YouTube would qualify as riveting programming for the under-5 set? Frankly, though my kids are older now, I still cringe when I hear the opening credits of Yo Gabba Gabba! And don’t get me started on Paw Patrol. Just don’t.
If you are like me, taking some time to enjoy a TV show with the kids often feels like being waterboarded. I can’t be the only parent who wants to claw her eyes out when her kids want to watch a program that will most assuredly result in the loss of active brain cells. I can’t be the only mom who cringes when she hears the opening credits of SpongeBob SquarePants emanating from the family room TV.
So what’s a parent who wants to cuddle with her kids on the couch but craves programming that won’t make her want to scratch her eyes out to do? Luckily for you, I have a few suggestions:
“Little House on the Prairie”
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, braids and all. I spent hours with her and her pioneer family as a kid, and I was delighted when my children enjoyed the show as much as I did. Not only does the show tackle real-life issues like racism, bullying, and economic hardship, the characters are endearing and honest. And, frankly, a family who hates Nellie Olsen together, stays together.
Wait. Stay with me and stop rolling your eyes, I’m being serious here. Sesame Street has been on the airwaves for the better part of 40 years, and there’s a reason they’ve got staying power. As a kid, I loved the lovable characters and the kind, diverse faces that greeted me every day (who didn’t love Snuffie?), and as an adult, I appreciate the humor that comes from the celebrity appearances and jokes geared at parents. Come on, admit it: When James Blunt sang “My Triangle” instead of his hit, “You’re Beautiful,” you laughed out loud too. Give Sesame Street a chance and watch it with your adult eyes. I bet you’ll love it all over again.
“FULL House,” Not “FULLER House”
Let’s face it: We all love the Tanner family, especially little Michelle and her “You got it, dude!” tag line. And as parents of the generation who grew up with America’s favorite dad, Bob Saget, we know that we can watch an episode of Full House and not be worried that we will have to have an impromptu discussion regarding sex or drug use. In under 30 minutes, your kids can enjoy a classic show, and you can reminisce about how much you wanted D.J.’s bedroom. But stay away from Fuller House until the kids are in bed, lest you want to have a discussion about adult dating, sexual innuendo, and booze.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events”
Because your kids love the books and because Neil Patrick Harris is a national treasure. Enough said.
Competition Shows Regarding Baking, Singing or Dancing
My kids and I loved watching American Idol season after season. Not only did we love watching the outtakes, but we also enjoyed watching the progression of the singers to the finale. The same goes for Dancing With the Stars and Cupcake Wars. Shows like these allow the whole family to root for an underdog or smile together after a beautifully executed dance number. They also makes you feel like you want to eat cupcakes and you are reminded that your mom body can’t ever wear the costumes, but, meh, no show is perfect, right?
Anything on HGTV
It’s never too early for your children to learn about the importance of shiplap and visual thirds. Also? Chip and Joanna Gaines have chickens and a farm. What’s not to love?
’80s Family Movies (I’m looking at you, “Harry and The Hendersons”)
Like I said, we all try to do our best and engage our kids in activities that don’t involve a screen, but sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with your kids and a glass of wine. And it’s even better if you can do it and watch something that makes you smile too. Now, go dig out your Karate Kid DVD and pop some popcorn. You’re welcome.