phineas-and-ferb“Matthew……Matthew……Mathew, Matthew, Matthew, Matthew!” my 4½-year-old called his older brother’s name in a louder, faster and increasingly desperate tone. “It is my tuwn to pick a show! You pick in the aftuwnoon and I pick in the mownin! Matthew!!!”

Food, water, shelter – these are all essential elements to life. There are days in our house, however, that picking and watching “the show” seems to rank a close second to these basic needs for our two oldest boys. Not that we promote this line of thought, mind you. I’d argue that we are fairly strict about the boys not watching too much television. Although I suppose that how much TV is too much TV is a subjective argument. I’m sure some would argue that they watch too much, others not, but for now it works for us.

Most days the boys get up when there clock says “seven oh oh”.

Parenting Tip #1 – We trained them early to identify the number seven as the first number on their digital clock and it paid big dividends for keeping them in bed. These days, we set their clock back 30 minutes so that they actually get up at 7:30. It was easier than re-teaching them to get up at “seven three oh”.

Once that magical time of seven oh oh rolls around each morning, they usually clomp downstairs and start to watch a 30 minute kids show on the couch for their “morning show”.

It's Friday so be sure to visit Fatherhood Friday at

It's Friday so be sure to visit Fatherhood Friday at

Parenting Tip #2 – We have TIVO, which is great because with KidZone, it limits what they can watch without the parental code. You can adjust it to whatever age group your kids are in and also allow or remove access to particular shows as you see fit. I’m curious to see at what age the boys start trying to crack the code, but I think we’re set for a while!

In the morning, Josh gets to pick the show. His older brother gets to pick the “afternoon show” (another 30 minute cartoon). Most of the time, they are pretty much on the same page for what shows they like, but occasionally their tastes do start to diverge. The boys’ 16-month age difference seems to go in cycles where they appear closer or farther apart in their maturity and interests. We’ve also found that every three months or so, they’ll move on to another favorite and watch it to death.

Parenting Tip #3 – If you have two or more kids, get used to the fact that the younger one will start watching TV earlier and skip to the more advanced shows sooner. We quickly found that it is hard to sequester the younger from seeing what his older brother is watching, and the older brother has little patience to watch a little kid show for long.

Of course this is what we do on normal days, which some weeks are scattered. A few other elements that occasionally find their way into our repertoire include:

The Shower Show – Trust me it’s not as dirty as it sounds (sigh). If you’re a stay at home parent, you probably know that this TV time is sometimes a necessary diversion to allow you to bathe and get dressed without the kids barging in on you once they outgrow the Pack N Play.

Special Time with Daddy Show – Sometimes after dinner I’ll look for something different for us to watch before bed. This might be a movie that we’ll watch in short increments for a few nights a row (Star Wars) or just an unusual and relatively kid-safe grown-up show like sports, Discovery Channel, etc.

I’m a firm believer that there are dozens of better things for the kids (and Mommy and Daddy) to be doing than watching television. I have to watch myself that I don’t fall prey to wasting my evenings away on the couch catching up on shows. (Blogging has helped with some of that – who has time to watch TV when so much needs to be written!) And I’m happy to report that Mommy and Daddy don’t usually argue over what show to watch as much as the boys do.

I also must admit that I do have fun some mornings sitting down and catching a few minutes of the morning show of the month. Lately, it has been all things Phineas and Ferb. While this show doesn’t seem overly concerned with educational value, it does a great job with harmless and funny adventures of two inventive and goofy brothers (Phineas and Ferb), their annoyed sister (Candace) and their secret agent pet platypus (Perry) and his silly nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz. (or as the boys and I like to nickname their baby brother – the evil Dr. Poopinshortz!)

Here’s an attempt to remember (and recommend if you’re looking for something to appropriately entertain the young ones) the different shows that we’ve blazed through over the past few years. Perhaps they’ll sound familiar from your living room as well. With few exceptions, most of them are good shows from our vantage point as long as you regulate the consumption. (I’ll start the groupings at age 2 because the AAP says you can’t show them anything before two and of course we never did…)

Ages 2-3:

Sesame Street / Elmo, The Wiggles, Little Einsteins, Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer

Ages 3-4:

Go Diego Go, Mickey Mouse Club House, My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Bob the Builder, Clifford, Little Bill

Ages 4-5:

Backyardigans, Curious George, VeggieTales, Max & Ruby, Little Bear

Ages 5-6:

Phineas and Ferb, Martha Speaks, Penguins of Madagascar, Wordgirl, The Upside Down Show

Enjoy, happy watching, but please, when in doubt, just turn it off!

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