Monkeys, trains, and more: A two-year-old's video playlist

Julien is almost two and a half years old, and he’s watched his share of videos and TV shows by now.  

It was never our intention to plunk our kid down in front of the TV, computer, or tablet all day.  But I have nothing against TV – in fact, growing up, I think I learned a lot from watching it, along with movies and music videos (my mom likes to reminisce about breastfeeding me in front of the early MTV).  Still, we were concerned about things like ocular development, and have always been very implicated in interacting with Julien.

The thing about TV and music is, sometimes they can be the best ambassadors for your culture. So while I wondered how my bilingual baby was going to learn English-language nursery rhymes and the like, apart from my out-of-tune renditions of them, I realized that I could find videos on YouTube of popular kids’ songs. That’s how it started. 

As Julien’s gotten older, he’s expanded his horizons and developed his own tastes. As much as I long for the days when he’d watch the delightful “Olive, the Other Reindeer” at least once a day, he often refuses, currently opting for train videos and, as of today, his new favorite, monkey videos, instead.

Here’s his hit list, from the beginning:

- Traditional Anglophone children’s songs, especially from Muffin Songs and, a little later, the often creative versions made by Little Baby Bum

- Traditional French children’s songs (especially this compilation) as well as, later, some original spins on them, or completely original songs from le Monde des Petits/Les Titounis.

- Petit Ours Brun (Little Brown Bear).  Weirdly enough, although my son watched/watches this in French and they say the word “ours” like, a million times per episode, it was a long time before he said anything but “bear”.  

-  Trotro – Occasionally, for a change.

-  The Sesame Street letters collection on YouTube.  When my son was around 6-8 months old, every day he’s spend an hour playing near mom on the bed as she wrote.  Each day when he got bored, we’d watch an episode devoted to a particular letter.

- Peppa Pig.  Cute but mostly a palate cleanser. (Obligatory grunting noises.)

- This Turkish claymation video featured on Muffin Songs’ YouTube channel.  It is AMAZING at calming a crying, fussy kid (and a frazzled parent) down.  And the person doing the clay stuff has mad skills.

- Various music videos, notably: “Happy” (his all-time favorite), “Shake It Off”, “La Seine”, “Roar”, “Tonight, Tonight”, “All About That Bass”, musical numbers from Mary Poppins, Frozen, and other Disney movies, Sesame Street songs featuring actual singers, especially Jason Mraz’s “Let’s Go Outdoors” and Feist’s “1 2 3 4”.

- Olive, the Other Reindeer.  Interestingly, this taught my son the very American custom of repeating someone’s name in a chanting way to show support (in this case, “Olive!  Olive! Olive!”).

- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  The 1964 claymation classic.  The first time we see one of the reindeers fly always cracks me up.

- Elmo’s World.  Love.  Still going strong.  Pro tip for fellow parents: Watch these via Daily Motion, so you can say “One more episode, then it’s bedtime” without that stupid auto-play ruining everything.

- Oui-Oui (aka Noddy in English).  A cute series but for a while he watched it so often that I came to loathe it.

- Pixar’s Cars Toons, short cartoons based on the characters from Cars.

- Videos of trains, especially real ones, but also toy trains sometimes. My son is obsessed with all things railroad-related.  He often likes to keep them on in the background while he plays with his wooden train set.

- As of today: Monkey videos. Unlike train videos, the number of these online is limited.  And some take place in situations that make you feel bad for the monkey, so those are right out.  Sigh…much repetition ahead.  On the upside, it’s hard to imagine getting tired of seeing a diapered capuchin put change in a vending machine, select a bottle of grape soda, give the change to his owner, mostly open the cap by himself, and happily drink it.  

- Wild cards: Zoubi Doubi, the smartest idea ever – some people basically attached sophisticated googly eyes to remote control cars, trucks, and the like.  Bob le train – A mediocre French adaptation of what I think is an English original.  It does seem to captivate and actually teach my kid stuff like the alphabet, so there’s that.  But it’s grating.  Cat videos, especially MaruLa Maison de Mickey (The House of Mouse), this one episode that accidentally autoplayed after one of his other shows.  It’s REALLY long and about searching for a cuckoo bird that escaped a clock and I find it super-dull but he was into a it for a while.  Fascinating lasting legacy: He seems to like Minnie even more than Mickey, and for a while he called watering cans “Minnies”, since in this episode we see her watering roses.

-Family favorites: American Ninja Warrior, Money Drop, America’s Got Talent, internet video compilations (especially Le Zap de Spi0n), Le meilleur pâtissier.  As he gets older, we’ll mix some educational stuff in there, too.

- Forbidden: “Barney”, “The Teletubbies”, and “Caillou”.

- Oops: Many inappropriate things seen on internet clip shows by mistake; monkeys mating on top of a car.

Views: 131

Comment by marilyn sands on August 17, 2016 at 2:36pm

I remember when he was born on this site - no, he wasn't delivered here - but, you know.  Mine were 6 & 8 when we lived in

Europe - so language-wise & other-wise - it will be a wonderful thing to watch.  R&L

Comment by Zanelle on August 17, 2016 at 5:05pm

Im glad you are enjoying the kid programs.  Soon enough they will be replaced by other things and your baby is an adult.  It happens way too quickly but the days themselves are long.   Peppa Pig  Peppa Pig  Oink   lol   What is the magic of cartoons?  I think they reflect the nature of the universe from before the babies were born...colorful and flat images.  Enjoy every minute. 

Comment by koshersalaami on August 17, 2016 at 6:36pm
Never cave on Barney
Comment by nerd cred on August 17, 2016 at 7:59pm

I watched Sesame Street while breast feeding. It started the year of my first pregnancy. It breaks my heart that none of the grands watch it. I required my kids to watch Mr. Rogers after Sesame Street and Electric Company though none of us were wild about it. It calmed them before dinner.

My kids had the same silly delusions you did about kids and TV. They do keep good control of it, I must say. I don't know if it's a good thing or bad but the kids are not exposed to commercials at all. When the 7 saw one she seemed to think she was required to do what it said. When my One was still 3 she stopped her little sister from demanding the sugary cereals shelved at her eye level with a gruff, "You don't want that, it's garbage." I taught her well. I usually watched with the kids and kept up a running commentary. By the time One was 7 I had to convince her at one point that not all commercials were all lies.

Now my son is out of town and though he isn't that good with both kids when left alone, for his wife it's virtually impossible. I've been over there every night and my daughter joined us tonight. I see that DIL is using the TV a lot more ... that's understandable, though. I bought Judah that "NEVER STOP MOVING" T-shirt for a reason. It's him.

I loved lolek i bolek in Poland. It ran for about 15 minutes at bedtime. Maybe about 7:45? And then every single kid in the country went to bed. It doesn't depend on any language. Here's a clip, followed by the BEST monkey video of all.

Comment by Julie Johnson on August 18, 2016 at 4:23am

I think my youngest two learned to read so well, because I kept the closed captioning on everything.  And what?  No teletubbies?  I used to love them...

Comment by greenheron on August 18, 2016 at 7:32am

Great list and thank you for the synopses rather than making me watch the vids. Maru is the best!

Also wanted to say that Julien is almost grown enough that you can start to see what kind of handsome Frenchman he will become, and imagine all the hearts he will make beat faster. Those blues eyes twinkling with mischief. There is something about French men that gets me every time.

Comment by Alysa Salzberg on August 19, 2016 at 5:43am

marilyn - What you wrote about Julien being "born" on this site/Open made me tear up.  It's true. And how time has flown...  

Zanelle - What a cool insight about cartoons! I'm going to think about that one!  And a Peppa "Oink" back to you! :-)

Kosh - HAHA!  The big age difference between me and my younger siblings made me realize the total awfulness (at least to most adults) that is Barney.  Warning noted.

Nerd Cred - Thanks for the videos. I'll check them out with Julien as soon as I can tear him away from "Bob le train", which has become a favorite he wants on repeat these past few days (and man, is it grating!).  It's interesting what you wrote about your grandkids and no commercials.  Julien doesn't watch a lot of commercials, but that's because most of his videos are DVD's or on YouTube/DailyMotion.  I acutally think it's important to know about commercials, so that we don't end up  like your grandchild, thinking we have to do what they say (glad you sorted that out). Plus, some of my favorite childhood TV memories are catchy jingles that still come to mind from time to time!

Julie - That's a really interesting idea about the closed captioning.  We watch TV through our computer, and in France at least, it's super-hard to get closed-captioning that way, alas.  But if it does come up as an option, I"m definitely keeping what you said in mind!  And the Teletubbies...ugh...that baby sun!  I am so creeped out by it. I feel like The Teletubbies is like being in the Land of the Lotus Eaters, just drifting along....And that makes me realize I guess I have something I want for Julien's TV, after all: I prefer for him to watch dynamic things that will teach him something, if only how to tell a good story.  I guess that, with the exception of the claymation video, I don't see TV as something to soothe him in particular.  That's really interesting - I hadn't thought about that.  Thanks for that epiphany!

greenheron - Thanks for your kind words about Julien.  He definitely is handsome, although I don't think my opinion counts, since I'm a bit biased. :-)  Actually, that picture of him with his Cookie Monster stuffed animal, which he still has, was taken about a year ago already!  But he looks pretty much the same, including that little twinkle in his eyes.

Comment by Alysa Salzberg on August 19, 2016 at 5:44am

Also, greenheron, right on with the Maru love!  A new Maru video always makes my day.

Comment by Dalriadane on August 19, 2016 at 6:08am

Love your review style:  "Cute but mostly a palate cleanser."  I'm sending this to my friend who's in her last trimester of pregnancy here in Austin.  Here little girl will have a French influence without having left the country!  Your little boy is tots adorbs!

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