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Kids’ TV: if you can’t beat them, join them

PUBLISHED: 15:00 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 24 August 2018

Family TV time doesn't have to be a mind-numbing experience for parents; there are lots of programmes that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Family TV time doesn't have to be a mind-numbing experience for parents; there are lots of programmes that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The kids have the remote control... don’t panic, there are lots of great kids’ TV programmes that parents can enjoy too.

The combination of fascinating facts and likeable characters makes Octonauts a good option for family viewing. Picture: BBC/OCTONAUTSThe combination of fascinating facts and likeable characters makes Octonauts a good option for family viewing. Picture: BBC/OCTONAUTS" Meomi Design Inc. OCTONAUTS © 2012 Vampire Squid Productions Ltd

Like a lot of families, television viewing before bedtime is very much monopolised by our son, Finley.

Over the last six years we’ve been introduced to lots of different children’s programmes; some better than others. As Finley has grown, some programmes have dropped off the radar, new ones have crept in (whoever created Pokemon has a lot to answer for!), and some have stayed strong. I’m starting to wonder whether the latter is because Finley still enjoys them, or because I and his dad aren’t ready to let them go just yet.

So here it is, a list of our “family favourites”, enjoyed by children aged 6-37. I’ll apologise now for my BBC bias… they just make really good kids’ programmes!

Hey Duggee

There was no question that this was going to be top of the list. It is a particular favourite for just-before-bedtime viewing in our house.

Duggee is a dog and leader of the Squirrels (think Cubs or Scouts and you won’t be far off), who go on adventures to earn badges. While the Squirrels – which take the form of various animals from an octopus to a rhino – can speak English, Duggee only communicates in woofs, which are translated by narrator Alexander Armstrong.

The balance of appeal to children and adults is second to none, and I don’t think I’ve met a parent who doesn’t like Hey Duggee. In fact, I’ve had whole conversations about favourite episodes and characters when the children aren’t even there.

My personal favourite episodes are The Stick Badge (the obvious choice for those in the know) and The Omelette Badge.

Check them out on BBC iPlayer – you won’t be disappointed!

Dipdap

This is another bedtime favourite, courtesy of the BBC. One of Finley’s most effective delaying tactics is to declare that no one has “snuggled up” to watch something with him before bed, and at three minutes long, Dipdap is an ideal compromise.

It’s a very simple programme in which a drawn line creates challenges and surprises for the unsuspecting Dipdap. There’s no dialogue, just music and sound effects, and the storylines cover all manner of situations, from returning fallen stars to space, to animals that make the wrong noises.

It’s funny, sad at times, and often surprisingly moving.

Danger Mouse

Alexander Armstrong plays a big part in another of our top programmes, voicing the title role in the BBC’s reboot of Danger Mouse.

I loved David Jason’s original portrayal of the character, and it’s always a bit of a worry when a childhood favourite is revived, but in the case of Danger Mouse it’s a definite success.

There’s no doubt that the adult audience was considered when the new series were created; alongside Alexander, comedy legend (and Norfolk homeowner) Stephen Fry provides the voice of Colonel K, while Come Dine with Me legend Dave Lamb is the narrator – choices which would go over the heads of the average CBBC audience.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom

This one has rather sadly dropped off our viewing faves list of late, but it’s still worth a mention as it was one we all particularly enjoyed.

It’s made by Neville Astley and Mark Baker of Peppa Pig fame, and features a lot of the same voices. It is, however, a lot more palatable for an adult audience than Peppa Pig, in my opinion.

The stories are good, the pace and humour is spot on, the voices are great, and the kids learn something too.

Sophia the First and Elena of Avalor

I’m grouping these Disney programmes together because I like them for the same reason. We’ve always tried to avoid gender stereotypes with Finley, but despite our best efforts he’s what might have once been called a “typical boy”. He doesn’t like pink and he wouldn’t dream of playing with girls’ toys, but he will watch Sophia the First and Elena of Avalor.

The protagonists are clever, adventurous and fearless, and Finley doesn’t seem to notice that they’re princesses.

I also love the songs!

Octonauts and Go Jetters

BBC again – sorry!

I’ve grouped these together because they are full of amazing facts – Octonauts about the sea and all its inhabitants, and Go Jetters about countries and cultures around the world.

There’s nothing better than hearing Finley repeat these facts. One jaw-dropping example was when he told me that swordfish heat up their eyes to help them see in deep, cold water – every day’s a school day!

I should point out that the stories and characters are also great – who wouldn’t love a pirate cat called Kwazii and a funky-disco grooving unicorn called Ubercorn?

Blaze and the Monster Machines

My reasons for liking this particular children’s programme are quite selfish. Sometimes, as a parent, you just need to sit for a minute and do nothing, and Blaze and the Monster Machines allows you to do this with only moderate guilt.

AJ is an eight-year-old techie who drives monster-truck Blaze, the top racer in Axle City. The two go on adventures that have them taking on problems involving science, technology, engineering and math, with challenges for the viewer to solve along the way.

It’s a great combination of entertainment and education.

Phineas and Ferb

There’s no underlying educational or emotional reason behind this choice – it’s just silly and funny and something that we all enjoy watching.

It’s made by Disney but is definitely not your typical Disney cartoon. It follows two stepbrothers as they embark on crazy summer holiday adventures, much to the annoyance of their older sister Candace, who is constantly trying to reveal their shenanigans to her mum.

There’s also a good side story about the boys’ pet, Perry the platypus, who, unbeknown to them, is actually a spy and each episode he works to defeat the latest scheme of Dr Heinz Doofenshmirtz.

A word of warning – the theme song will get stuck in your head for weeks!

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