Top Five TV picks for purposeful screen time

We don’t really do screen time. Up until Joseph was over one he didn’t watch any television and then it was only tiny chunks of a tractor DVD. Joseph and Alice have a set time of 20 minutes in the day when they watch something of their choice. Then that is it. Sometimes I will split the time so they have one programme in the morning and one in the afternoon. The TV isn’t on unless it is their specific time to watch it.

It became apparent quite early on that Joseph is particularly sensitive to what he watches. Cartoons and animation are a no go. Actually, anything that is fiction, has a story where a problem occurs or anything that is ‘wrong’ he cannot watch. He will turn himself around on the sofa and ask for it to be turned off. We showed him Postman Pat, the old version, the one I remember watching when I was little. In the episode, it snowed and Pat’s van got stuck. That was it. He couldn’t watch anymore.

We have managed to find a few programmes, all on Cbeebies, that we’ve enjoyed watching as a family. They are all non-fiction without characters

Our favourite has to be ‘Do you Know’.

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  • It is hosted by Maddy who finds out how things work and how they are made. It has just the right amount of information and specific vocabulary. It is about 15 minutes long and covers two things that she looks at like zips and t-shirt printing or cranes and bricks. It even helped Joseph learn how to do up his zip as he watched how zips work and then wanted to tell us over and over every time he put on his coat.We are eagerly awaiting Season 2! Season 1 has been watched over and over until they know it off by heart!

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  • ‘Down on the Farm’ hosted by JB (former JLS member!) and Storm. It is an under 5’s version of BBC’s Countryfile. Very topical in our house as we love all things outside and farm related! It covers a few items related to the countryide and farming, like a potato farm, how mistletoe is harvested and a school making a bird box. Each episode is related to the current season so everything is up to date with the current weather. This has evoked lots of seasonal conversation and activities that Storm and JB have shown us.

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  • ‘My World Kitchen’ is relatively new to Cbeebies and is a cooking programme following one British child per episode with an international heritage. They cook one dish that they then share with their friends. The child talks through the process of creating the dish with the voice over of Ainsley Harriott (therefore making it a legitimate cooking programme…). It is currently Alice’s favourite and the one she asks for. I think it is good that it features dishes from around the world like borak from Algeria, as it has started up conversations about the different foods people eat. One thing that annoys me though, is that they don’t use knives to cut things it is always scissors. Our children use knives to chop and have been taught to use them safely so Jospeh was a bit confused a few episodes in, when herbs kept being cut up in a small glass jug. That said, it has inspired lots of imaginative cooking play and also prompted conversations and questions about where in the world food has come from.


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  • I’ve banded these two together as they are pretty similar. The lovely Ferne and Rory travel around Britain to different families and their pets. ‘My Pet and Me’ focuses on pet care, whereas ‘Ferne and Rory’s Vet Tales’ is more about pets visiting the vets. Again this has prompted some fabulous imaginative play, often with me playing the part of the vet. Our rocking horse has given birth to a foal about six times in the last two weeks…I have had to brush up on my animal anatomy as it needs to be the real deal. Poor Bonzo, our actual pet dog, has had his heart listened to by the wooden stethoscope more times than he really wants. I’ve had to film Joseph introducing Bonzo to the camera and stating he needs to go to the vet because his claws need clipping.

At the moment these five programmes are on rotation depending on mood and interest that day. We don’t always watch television in the day but it is a positive time for them when they do. I think it is because it is an event to sit down and choose a programme. They use it as a bit of down time but it also fires their imagination, even if it is the eighth time they’ve watched the same episode. For this reason, the screen time they have is purposeful and part of their learning experience.

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