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Waxing Nostalgic for Children’s Television

Waxing Nostalgic for Children's TelevisionI experienced a few moments of Déjà Vu yesterday.  I usually keep Noggin network or a Baby Einstein DVD playing in the background for my daughter during the day. Personally, I prefer to work with no background noise but she seems to be less fussy with it.

I know I’m probably setting her up to watch far too much television later in life, but I do believe the educational programming has some merit, as long as it’s balanced with plenty of one-on-one contact, playtime and reading.

Anyway, the television is usually on in the background and we rarely pay it much attention. Yesterday, though, I left her lying on her back on her blanket for a minute while I made myself a snack in the kitchen. I came back to find her eying the T.V. from an upside-down position. Because she was lying on her back, not facing the TV, she had to look upward and back (it was quite funny, actually, to watch her straining to see the TV). I glanced at the screen to see what she was watching and saw Bill Cosby giving the introduction to Little Bill.

I suddenly flashed back… mumble… years to an image of myself as a little girl sitting cross-legged in front of our old huge console TV with the heavy wooden housing, watching Bill Cosby introduce Picture Pages. I even heard the theme music playing in my head.

A little later in the day, Ashley and I curled up together on her glider chair for story time. I selected a classic Little Golden Book: There’s a Monster at the End of this Book. Long before there was Elmo, there was Grover: the lovable, furry blue monster who resided on Sesame Street. Is Grover still a character on the show?

Parents, do you remember The Electric Company, Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room? Do you remember listening for your name as Paula and Carole greeted everyone in The Magic Garden? Do you remember the words to “Would you be my neighbor?”

I began wondering what happened to many of these people and programs. Sadly, Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003. His children’s show, launched in 1968, enjoyed a 33-year run on PBS.

Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, also passed away recently, in 2004 at the age of 76. Like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Captain Kangaroo was one of the longest-running children’s shows, on the air for 29 years.

Carole Demas and Paula Janis of The Magic Garden are still performing for children and adults alike in the New York tri-state area.

Of course, these classics have given way to new programming like Blues Clues, Toot ‘n Puddle, Dora the Explorer and Little Bill. Like their predecessors, these shows each have educational merit and I’m sure the beloved characters will become indelibly marked in our children’s minds—and imaginations.

But I can’t help feeling old when I remember the exact day back in 1981 when Nickelodeon, the first channel just for kids, launched. Trivia: Nickelodeon actually began in 1977 as Pinwheel—and now I have that theme song in my head…  Where has all this stuff in my brain been hiding for all these years?

Moms and Dads: What’s your favorite childhood media memory, and is it still around today?


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