When I got pregnant with my third child—not a totally planned affair—I immediately started crunching the numbers: how many years of my life I will have spent managing diapers, how old I'll be when he graduates high school, how much more from our monthly expenses we'll need to divert to a college fund. Sobering numbers for sure: 9, 57, and, oops, work hard for scholarships, kid!
A more immediate mathematical concern hit me when I realized there would be an eight-year spread between my oldest and youngest, my second child right in the middle. Would all three ever play together? Will vacations always be too advanced/boring for my outliers? And, of utmost concern, when I need them to spend time with their electronic mommy, will there be any shows that would appeal to them all?
Answers there: Yes, no, and come on, it's TV. Kids will watch anything! (No? Just mine?)
But let's say you've got higher standards than I do (easy) or your kids are picky about what's flickering in front of them. It turns out, there are plenty of shows that transcend age, with storylines that appeal to older kids but dialogue that doesn't create a verbal monster toddler. Common Sense Media, the wonderful resource site, recently listed some, including the target age, reviews and anything that might concern parents. I have more than a few recommendations to add to theirs—shows that my kids, a boy and two girls, now 4, 8 and 12, respectively, keep going back to.
Power Rangers—all 600 versions of it.
My 4-year-old loves the action and the easy good guy/bad guy storylines. Plus, the villains are masked and not all that scary. My daughters like the action and also the (ridiculous ... shhh) back stories of these samurais in training. I like that my kids see girls fighting, defending and generally kicking butt. Zords and fighting evil-doers aren't just for boys!
My older two like the tense "Will they get the last-minute order done on time" situations (yes, yes, every single time). My younger one likes staring at the frosting. Sometimes their language is questionable and they snark a bit but, well, it's nothing my kids haven't heard before (from me!)
There's a reason this show is in its 12th season. It's just that good—even I'll sit and watch it with them. Universal kid situations, references to history, art and music, a healthy respect for school (I tire of the shows that totally diss teachers, principals and homework), and storylines for the baby and little sister. Each episode includes two stories, making them appealing to little guys.
This one was a surprise, not so much that my 4-year-old likes it but because my older two also don't mind it (I wouldn't say they love it). I think they like examining the claymation, laughing at the ridiculous hairstyles and pulling apart the English accent.
Wild Kratts and Zaboomafoo reruns
Wild Kratts is the cartoon version of Zaboomafoo, a show about two wildlife experts who are also brothers. Everyone likes the weird animals, and the brothers are sort of corny/funny and like to get messy.
Nature shows in general
Even those slow-moving animal shows on PBS appeal to my kids (and probably yours). The weirder or grosser the animals, the better. We've watched shows on cheetahs, ants and bees, and also ones on planets, the space shuttles and the Sahara desert. Some can get a little dry, but generally, these edifying shows also manage to be entertaining.
What about your kids? Which shows work for your years-apart kids?