My little girl has finally graduated from watching Playhouse Disney exclusively to watching a mix of Nick Jr, Playhouse Disney and the Disney Channel. It was a bit of surprise when she suddenly asked me a few days ago to change the channel. She doesn't know how to work the remote all by herself yet. I changed it to Nick Jr, and she recognized Dora the Explorer (I guess they must watch the dvd in school after the school lessons end), and so I programmed a reminder for it so that I know to change the channel when it comes on. Then she started watching the Jungle Book too on Disney Channel. I am not too keen on her watching it right now at her age because the tiger, Shere Khan scares her. If you think about it, the thought of a tiger chasing a little boy to eat him for dinner is quite a scary thing.
She has also just recently, within a month ago, started to reply to the tv when the show asks viewers questions, like for instance when Dora asks, "Look at the map, where are we supposed to go next?" She used to just watch and maybe answer the questions silently, but now she will say it outloud or even go to the tv and point to the answer. Which can sometimes be annoying because she will leave fingerprint marks on the tv... and the tv could topple over if she pushes too hard. So I always tell her to point but not to touch the screen.
Kids shows have come a long way since my time. Now most of the pre-school shows are educational, and not destructive like Tom & Jerry (which I still hate, by the way, since I was young). Back then, we only had Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow. And even Reading Rainbow started when I was already in Elementary School. Sesame Street was the only educational pre-school show available. I remember watching it on an Italian tv channel in Libya. I lived there from the age of 2 - 5. And even back then, the characters in Sesame Street did not ask viewers questions to get us involved in the show like they do in Dora or Little Einsteins. It would just be the monster muppets asking guests on their show questions like "How do you tie your shoes?" or they would act out demonstrations like what is high and what is low. Demonstrations are all good, but I think the kids shows nowadays are better at pulling their audience into the plot of the story and get the kids involved in problem solving and things like that. Even though I think some of the situations in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are too far fetched, when Mickey asks what tool can they use to solve a problem, it actually teaches kids to try to figure out a solution for themselves. It used to be that kids shows would just act out a whole plot where in the end the hero solves the problem without any interaction whatsoever with the audience, and kids who aren't attentive enough will not really learn anything from that, but now even those unattentive kids are forced to pay attention because the character on tv is asking them the question.
Even though kids tv has improved a lot, it still shouldn't be a babysitter for your kids. They need a break from the tv just to play and go outside. Or just sleep. I don't want my kid to grow up into a couch potato. But I am glad, though, that I don't have to worry too much about the content of the tv shows that she watches, as long as she only watches pre-school tv shows.