After nearly 9 years of parenting, I'm still trying to make sense of children's television.
At the risk of sounding like a baby boomer (I'm actually from Generation Y), children's television has certainly changed since I was a kid. It used to be just Saturday morning cartoons and whatever was on between 3 and 5pm on the ABC. Now there are whole channels dedicated to 24/7 kids' programming, and streaming services with endless G-rated options, ranging from the very boring to the completely creepy.
As a babysitter in the mid-to-late 1990s, I watched many episodes of Barney and the Teletubbies with my charges, and they were so weird compared with the Play School, Mr Squiggle and Romper Room fare of my childhood.
Fast-forward to now and after seeing a few episodes of In The Night Garden, Twirlywoos and Yo Gabba Gabba, it's clear the appetite for bizarre kids' shows remains.
I returned to the world of kids' TV shortly after my first daughter was born and I was up feeding her at ungodly hours. In my sleep-deprived state, I tried to make sense of the shows, wondering about pressing issues such as how Spongebob Squarepants came to live in a pineapple under the sea, and why the hell Dora the Explorer's parents let her run around the jungle all the time unsupervised.
As she got older I tried to steer her toward shows with some kind of 'educational' value, but eventually just decided to find any value in the shows she liked, such as Go Diego Go, in which Diego teaches kids about animals (even if he does have an improbably tame jaguar as his sidekick).
Just before my second daughter was born, Netflix arrived in Australia and I was no longer limited just to the shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. ABC Kids came around soon after, and then Stan, and my oldest daughter jumped between different shows every week, while my second daughter became just as obsessed with Dora the Explorer as her sister used to be. In fact, my now nearly nine-year-old's third word after 'Mum' and 'Dad' was 'map', as learnt from Dora, which makes me feel equally proud and embarrassed.
The other huge difference between television in the 90s and now is the range of merchandise you find yourself buying for your Powerpuff Girls and PJ Masks obsessed children. It's always interesting to see how many different toys can be made from one show, once it becomes incredibly popular among the preschool set. The pressure to stay relevant has forced classics like Thomas The Tank Engine and Fireman Sam to re-brand themselves in the haste to keep up - there must be at least 150 types of different toy trains now in the Thomas The Tank Engine collection.
If a show has a non-annoying theme song that doesn't get stuck in my head for days after I see it, then it's much easier to tolerate. Sometimes it's a case of evaluating which is the lesser of two evils, and if I'd prefer to listen to a loop of Wiggles songs, or hear the Paw Patrol theme over and over. My vote for the most annoying and pointless song on a kid's show ever has to be the Bing Bong song from Peppa Pig though!
All jokes aside, I actually think it's a good thing children have so much choice, especially now that I have 3 kids (a tween, a preschooler and a baby) who all want to watch different things. Some shows can even be surprisingly entertaining. Bluey is a perfect example of a show that both parents and kids love, and it's completely deserving of all the buzz it has received.
It's a relief to know the kids' channels are always there to turn to on long nights when my kids will absolutely not go back to sleep. My son has just turned 1 year old and is starting to develop his own favourite shows, instead of just watching whatever his sisters like. The characters my kids are watching now will eventually become nostalgic childhood memories, just like Rainbow Brite and The Jetsons are for me.
Which kids TV shows do you love to hate, and which ones do you like or tolerate?