You’ll get square eyes!

Don’t sit too close to the TV, you’ll get square eyes!

This was one of the usual threats used by mother when I was a child. I never believed her, really, but I did sit a little further back from the screen every time she said it. Then when I became a mother, I decided that my daughter would never watch television. She’d only eat organic green food (while sitting nicely at the table, obvs), never ever lay eyes on a tablet and never see a mobile phone. Judging by the way my daughter chatters away into the remote control and the face she made when she first tasted broccoli (below), I can safely say I’m losing a few of these battles.  Being an advocate of STEM (personally and professionally), my daughter’s sudden interest in television has been somewhat softened by the number of programmes available that subliminally teach them all about science and how things work.

Now I’m not saying kids should watch telly all day every day (square eyes remember). But I am saying that are maybe a few programmes here and there, that aren’t so bad. Particularly for the young’uns, inspire them while they’re young and impressionable! (Half joking)

Former director of BBC Children’s, Joe Godwin, says: “The best children’s programmes educate and inform kids without them even realising!”

My current favourite programme is ‘Bitz & Bob’. Bitz is an 8 year old (female) inventor that takes viewers on an engineering adventure by creating cool and exciting gizmos for her toys to play with. She does this with the help of her little brother Bob through inventive stories that encompass the principles of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). The toys sometimes face problems that Bitz and Bob have to find engineering solutions for, often similar to life like situations. This is followed up with a demonstration of trial and error from real life children, acting as engineers.

Children are natural engineers. They learn through play. They love to discover, understand, and try to make things better. Usually by pulling everything apart and trying to put it back together! They do say ‘practice makes perfect’! This is what I tell myself every day, as I’m putting my house back together following a whirlwind of ‘discovery’ when my daughter gets home from nursery.

Children also learn by copying their peers and the adults that surround them. You’ll often see younger children sitting drinking ‘tea’ with their friends and pretending to eat plastic pieces of cake while trying to feed the teddy sitting next to them. For that reason, another CBeebies gem is Biggleton. A group of children of all abilities, play the roles of some of your typical jobs found in a town. The idea is that they all work together to keep the town of Biggleton running, and help each other should a problem arise (it often does). Not to ruin a children’s TV programme by overanalysing, the thing I like most about Biggleton is the gender balance. The workforce is very much gender balanced and it shows females in senior and often stereotypical ‘male’ roles. With a female inventor, firefighter and businesswoman, it’s hard not to love. Due to the way the world is developing, young people today will be doing jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, so it’s important both genders see themselves on a level footing when it comes to careers. It’s also important that children can see what problems are often best solved when you work as a team.

My final pick of best kid’s TV programmes goes to ‘Nina and the Neurons’. I have to admit, this programme has definitely taught me a thing or two and has refreshed my memory of things I learned at school. Nina is a female neuroscientist that answers scientific questions with the help of five neurons that represent the five senses. One of the senses usually helps Nina solve a scientific problem and then tests and proves the answer with the help of some children and their families. The programme makes quite difficult problems or complicated subject matters, much easier to understand for young children by showing them how things are done. The appeal for me is the changing themes each series. From engineering to building to digital to eco experiments, there’s always something for budding young scientists to enjoy.

Now it wouldn’t be Thursday without a bit of a throwback (you know I love a look down memory lane). STEM TV (which I’m now calling it), isn’t a brand new thing. When I was younger, there was a good mix of ‘How to’ programmes that involved creating through science and art. Now it would be too easy for me to just tell you the names of them, especially when I’m sure you’ll remember them all, with a few little hints.

So I’ll leave you with these little teasers, until next time…

  • 1) In this fun and frantic world, the presenters were assigned three boxes to create something arty, functional and wonderful, within a mere 3 minutes (they always succeeded)….

     

    2) With questions from a young Carol Vorderman, such as “How can you have a thunderstorm indoors” and “How do you ski uphill”? This 90s programme had you thinking laterally to solve their brilliant and bizarre questions…

     

    3) Every person at my school wanted to be on this programme if only to meet the eccentric presenter and win a few precious gems…

     

    4) Possibly the ultimate classic, starting in 1965, this was the BBC’s flagship science programme and it ran for nearly 40 years. Predicting what could (and quite often did) happen in the future …