Daniel Tiger

Daniel Tiger is produced by the Fred Rogers company (after Fred Rogers passed away in 2003). Each episode deals with a very specific problem (separation anxiety, safety, going to school, etc.) in a way that toddlers really relate to. And each episode has a little song about the issue, which can be helpful to sing to your kid. M. loves it, but unfortunately I find the cartooning overly cutesy and lacking in artistic merit, the pacing unnecessarily frenetic, and the music annoying. (I suspect Mr. Rogers would have felt the same thing). We only watch it when there is a particular issue we want to address, and it has been very helpful for that. For example, when M. was about 28 months, he suddenly started feeling really upset when we went out to work (after 2 years of having no problem with it.) We watched the episode about “Grown-ups Come Back” about 8 times, and within two days he was back to not feeling upset when we went out.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 10/10 for helping your kid deal with specific issues, 3/10 for aesthetics
Running time: Each topic has two 15-minute back-to-back episodes

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

This is a great US show: 895 episodes were made from the late 1960’s through 2000. I think most American and Canadian kids who grew up in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s watched it, but we’ve just moved to Scotland, and we’ve been surprised to find that no one here has heard of it! Most episodes consist of some very honest, gentle discussion of things young children might be thinking about, a visit somewhere (a fire station, an orange grove, a string quartet, etc.), and the Land of Make Believe, where characters work through more complex emotions and story lines. It’s a bit slow-paced for parents, but provides lots of good material for discussion with your kid afterwards. Mr. Rogers has a real gift talking to children about things that matter to them, but without talking down to them. M. found the Land of Make-Believe a bit intense at first, so we used to have to skip that part. Fred Rogers was also trained as a musician, and wrote all the music. In addition to the regular episodes, there are 8 mini-operas, with well-composed, serious music, and storylines that young kids find very engaging.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 10/10
Parent rating: 7/10 for watching enjoyment, 10/10 for values imparted and post-show discussion with kids
Running time: 30-minute episodes
Some episodes available free on Youtube