There are some cool things to having a two-year-old daughter that I'm learning as we journey through this marvelous adventure of watching Kathryn grow and learn. She turned two last month and she is quickly learning words and concepts and it's so incredible to see the exponential way she is absorbing ideas.
One of those side effects of learning is repetition, but fortunately her likes for the most part are easy to handle repeatedly. It's been years since I watched any cartoons of any particular nature, but in the last two years "South Park" has given way to "Dinosaur Train" and Cartman that evil megalomaniac wannabe has been replaced by "Curious George". We still watch the Simpsons regularly, but we spend more time watching George and the dinosaurs than the Simpsons.
In the unlikely event you haven't seen or read any of the books, "Curious George" was a monkey who is "very curious" and has adventures with his caretaker, "The Man with the Yellow Hat." For several years, this creation of Margret and H.A. Rey has been shared with children of all ages as they followed George's escapades from his beginnings in Africa to his trek on a fire engine or flying a kite or even being shot into space.
Although the book series was popular for years, the Rey's never showed much interest in merchandising George so there were no stuffed animals or shows or likenesses of him outside of his literary adventures. Much of that has changed today. For Kathryn's birthday we were able to find Curious George balloons, decorations and even a cake topper.
My daughter is totally enthralled with that little monkey thanks in the most part to the short cartoons that air on her parents' DVR courtesy of PBS. It is one series produced by Ron Howard of Opie and "Happy Days" fame that has a useful lesson in each cartoon. Most are about the sciences and mathematics or reasoning which is good for little boys and girls, but especially girls.
For years there has been concern about connecting to girls and teaching them to appreciate and be interested in science and mathematics long regarded as "boy territory". I think the series produced by Howard is fantastic when it comes to teaching concepts at a level even my two year old daughter can understand although she may not exactly be able to explain it now.
From the moment the title appears until the end credits, she sits enthralled as George learns about sports or dinosaurs or logic or mathematics. There are episodes about the environment and recycling as well as episodes about magnetism and engineering. There is no violence or condescension, no dumb adult motifs. Each episode we have seen so far has been uplifting and reaffirming, inspiring confidence not only in the characters but the young viewers.
The best part of each cartoon short is the science piece which follows. My daughter sits through those also as children slightly older than her explain a concept and then do some type of experiment, art or craft to show how the cartoon's subject is applied "for real."
Between George's coverage of science and math and Sesame Street's coverage of phonics, reading and numbers, PBS has a blockbuster combination even with these two shows for giving a good foundation to a little one. I realize this is old news to many of you, but as I travel along this new adventure it's something I really never paid attention to until now. What fabulous tools. Coincidentally, "Sesame Street" turned 40 on Tuesday and I must say thanks to my mom, I probably saw the first episode and now with my daughter I will see the 40th anniversary.
Almost everyone from my generation forward grew up with Big Bird, Snuffy, Ernie and Bert and Oscar the Grouch. Today they are joined by Murray, Telly, Rosita, Abby, Zoe and everyone's favorite muppet toddler Elmo as this groundbreaking show continues to teach children about numbers, letters and reading. While segments on the show are more modern, there are still classic spots on from time to time.
There is more emphasis now on a second language, Spanish, than there was in the past, but in this case I'm okay with it. American children at a young age can easily learn a second language due to how they process information. I think it's a benefit especially when one considers the literacy rates in this country today are horribly low and native born American students are probably the least bi-lingual children in the world.
Another show we found recently within the past week that my daughter just adores is called "Dinosaur Train". It's a story about a family of pteranodons and an ado Tyrannosaurus rexs Rex youngster who take a time travelling train throughout the Mesozoic era. Using the train they explore the Jurassic, Triassic and Cretaceous periods and interact with all types of dinosaurs and learn things about them. After the cartoon ends, a paleontologist helps children pronounce the dinosaur's name and then provides some facts about it. Kathryn loves this show too, and we enjoy how much she is absorbing from these shows which we watch along with her.
If it helps pique her interest in science, then the hour or so a day they are on is all worthwhile.
Til next time…