Trains and monkeys are on trend: My 2 year old son’s video hit list

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

Sanctimonious parents, please abstain: 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 version of MTV). Still, we’ve always been very implicated in interacting with our son.

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 my son’s gotten older, he’s expanded his horizons and developed his own tastes. As much as I long for the golden era 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’d spend an hour playing near mom on the bed as she wrote. When he’d get 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 reindeer 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 Maru. La 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 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.

is a writer & worrier. She lives in Paris with an eccentric Frenchman, a clever toddler, & a charming cat. Besides them, she loves books, travel, & cookies.

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