If you’re like me, I don’t like to rely on a lot of screen time in my parenting, however, when it is advantageous to occupy the little guy in front of a screen, three things are most important:
- I want to feel like it’s worth it, like he’s learning something valuable. Educational stuff.
- I’m not annoyed. While I rarely sit down and watch with him, I’m usually nearby making lunch/folding laundry/cleaning up, and I don’t want to be subjected to whiny voices, annoying, get-stuck-in-your-head-forever songs, and downright senseless storylines.
- He’s well entertained. The point is to occupy him, but honestly, I’m pretty sure any video would do that. The point is, he should be drawn in enough to actually want to watch it. I already have to convince him to do enough, I don’t have time to convince him to watch the show I’d prefer he watch.
So, here we go! Allow me to submit for your consideration Ready, Jet, Go! a show by PBS.
The main goal, per the page on PBS’s website specifically for parents, is to build on kids’ natural curiosity about astronomy and earth science through entertaining storytelling and relatable characters learning about space, science, and technology. A new “kid” moves to the neighborhood and immediately befriends Sean, Sydney, and Mindy with his fun-loving, friendly, and optimistic personality. He’s Jet Propulsion, actually an alien from a planet called Bortron 7, and his parents are travel writers currently on assignment on Earth. Bortron 7 is more advanced technologically, so Jet’s mom, Celery, can easily zoom the kids around the solar system in a flying saucer to explore and learn.
The curriculum includes all the basics about planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and our star, the sun. But it’s not too basic (a pet peeve of mine), actually including lots of significant information and fun facts. Eddie can now thoroughly explain the process by which Enceladus (one of Saturn’s moons) is actively adding to Saturn’s ring system as it’s many geysers spew freezing water into outer space. It’s pretty much the cutest thing, ask him about it!
As far as other valuable messages presented, there are three that stand out: Curiosity, the value of Earth, and important character qualities. Exploration and curiosity are encouraged. Asking questions and seeking observable and practical answers is promoted whether by the kids blasting off into the solar system to find the answer or asking their parents or Face 9000 (Siri of the future, or at least of Bortron 7). Secondly, as any astronaut has felt as looked down on our green and blue planet, Earth is presented as beautiful, unique, and extremely valuable (“There’s no planet, like my planet…” the kids sing). Without overemphasizing the specifics of living green or contributing to save-the-planet mantras borne of fear, kids are subtly introduced to the idea of loving our planet and being motivated by appreciation to care for it. It’s not overdone, but it’s a positive message borne of the right motivation in my opinion. Finally, the character qualities displayed are so inspiring. Jet exudes optimism and persistence. He’s always having fun, even when experiments fail and the others get discouraged. “If at first you don’t succeed, fail a bunch more times until you do!” he enthusiastically proclaims! Sydney is a girl with big dreams, and an ambitious go-getter, admirable qualities. And Sean, he’s my favorite, because he reminds me so much of Eddie. While he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, he’s naturally very cautious and fearful. He almost never wants to go along when they go into outer space, always needs convincing and even then is apprehensive. The wonderful thing is how Jet’s dad, a “Space-trekker and a Galaxy-crosser”, sympathizes with Sean and talks about how he always feels anxious during space travel, too. A very valuable lesson, and something I work hard to teach my own nervous little guy.
One last thing to consider in the careful process of choosing what shows are worth our kids’ time: the annoying factor. There are so many irritating cartoons out there. (Trust me, our kids provide us with enough whiny, illogical, super-obnoxious chatter, we don’t need 30 minutes of it over some speakers too.) While Ready, Jet, Go! does boast some catchy musical numbers, it’s not too bad or too much. I don’t mind singing as long as it’s musical, not laborious. And I can get behind a song about the scientific method or Jupiter’s many moons. It’s kind of quirky in a nerdy sort of way. Other minor annoyances include a few side stories, like a trip to Bortron 7, that come across too fantastic and over-the-top and less relevant and educational. And while Jet’s parents are portrayed a little too silly for my liking, most of it stems from their cultural adjustment to Earth which is also kind of fascinating.
If nothing else, we geek out about the real science bits at the end of each episode when they feature the JPL Mars yard or the Deep Space Network. Overall, as you may be able to tell, I like Ready, Jet, Go! and would offer it’s more worth the precious screen time than many other lesser shows. Not to mention it just might foster the kinds of things that turn rocket babies into rocket scientists!
What kids’ shows would you call worthwhile? I’d love to hear about them!