Follow along as Ottawa-based sports reporter Ian Mendes writes about the joys of raising daughters Elissa and Lily with wife Sonia.
We are finally out of the woods when it comes to watching baby-ish television shows with our kids.
For years, we were glued to Treehouse and the evil cousin it spawned — Treehouse OnDemand.
We would burn through several episodes of Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues each day on a seemingly endless loop. It actually got to the point where Tico the squirrel and that Steve guy with the striped green shirt would regularly appear in my dreams. (One time, the three of us were late for a university exam because we didn’t know how to get to the classroom.)
The shows on Treehouse are geared for toddlers trying to learn basic life skills like counting, recognizing letters and going to the bathroom without urinating all over the floor. It was painful to watch as an adult, but you often had to sit through it with your child.
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You would try and take something out of these shows — perhaps fantasizing about some of the characters. I often accused my wife of being attracted to the “Blue Wiggle” while she stared blankly at the screen.
But now that our kids are nine and six, we can finally watch more mature programming that we can all enjoy. Here’s a list of five shows that we all enjoy watching together:
1. Phineas and Ferb
I would actually consider watching Phineas and Ferb after the kids have gone to bed — that’s how funny this show can be. You wouldn’t think that a cartoon that centres on a non-talking platypus that is actually a secret spy could be that humorous. But it has enough adult humour spliced into each episode that I guarantee you will laugh at least two or three times. And the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz is so funny, he should have his own spin-off show.
2. MasterChef Junior
Our girls can barely make a piece of toast with Nutella on it, so I was eager to get them interested in the first season of MasterChef Junior. By watching other kids between the ages of eight and 13 make gourmet meals, I was hoping to inspire them to be more creative in the kitchen. (In truth, I was trying to shame them by saying things like, “Look at that! Why the hell can’t you make Beef Wellington?”).
The first season of the show was really enjoyable — even if several episodes did end with kids crying after they were eliminated. By the time Season 2 of this show rolls around, I am hoping my kids will independently be able to open a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup.
3. Finding Stuff Out
This show is hosted by a kid named Harrison, who actually had a brief cameo in the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. He played the role of Darren, the kid who actually started the whole “cheese touch” epidemic — but I digress. Finding Stuff Out is fantastic if you have curious kids who annoy you with questions that you can’t answer.
“Why does your hair turn grey?”
“How does an airplane actually fly?”
“Why haven’t the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup recently?”
(OK — that third question was just thrown in there to see if you are actually paying attention.)
I can guarantee you will learn something new when watching Finding Stuff Out and you can act like you knew the answer all along. “Duh – of course I knew how chameleons actually changed color. I was just playing dumb so you guys could watch this show.”
4. Dog with a Blog
As a kid who grew up watching Saved By The Bell, I am a sucker for terrible TV shows that are geared toward kids and have a laugh track. The premise of this show is absolutely brutal; a family has a pet dog who can not only speak to them, but he also maintains a daily blog on his website.
But after you have been subjected to shows like Elmo’s World and Toopy & Binoo for so many years, Dog with a Blog suddenly looks like Season 2 of Arrested Development.
5. New Looney Tunes
Bugs, Daffy and Porky are all back, but in this updated version of a cartoon classic they bring a sense of humour that adults will love. Nobody gets their head blown off with a gun like in the old days. Instead, Bugs and his gang are involved in hilarious plots like waiting for the cable guy to show up at their house between the hours of 8 a.m. — 5 p.m. And there are music videos spliced in as well — including Yosemite Sam doing a rap song. How can that not be funny?