As a parent, you start with strong principles, and gradually erode them. So on watching TV, we were of the view it would be none to minimal. Then it was a small amount each day as part of a routine. Now it's whenever they are hysterically upset, fighting each other, hysterically upset because they're fighting each other, or we need to do something uninterrupted - it can be anything from 30 minutes to all the time, daily.
So I've watched a lot of ABC4Kids and feel confident in the accuracy of the following power rankings.
You can feel confident in the ratings too, knowing this is a scientific endeavour with a rigorous mathematical scoring system.
I used three equally-weighted criteria, on a 0-3 scale.
1. Stick-to-itiveness Score
Kids are terrible at almost everything, including paying attention to stuff. The longer they sit transfixed to the screen, the higher the score.
2. Dance Dance Revolution Score
My boys love to dance. It's hilarious. Currently R is trying to add a jump to his shapes, but he can't stick the landing yet. He either falls or looks like he's walking on the moon. Like Neil Armstrong, not Michael Jackson. J basically runs on the spot, or if it's a slow song, bends his knees and squats deep. So each show gets a score based on how much the opening and/or closing credits is one of their jams.
3. Parental Advisory Score
It's not just about them. You're going to spend a lot of time watching these shows too, and the less you have to fake it the better.
I also gave one bonus point if I could recall a specific (good) episode. Because lots of these shows just blend into waves of colour and sound.
That gives a score out of 10. In the event of ties, I made a call to split the shows based on the vibe.
It's a reverse countdown, so the top show is revealed last.
25. Guess How Much I Love You
This is a show about a hare and his father. Every episode ends with one asking "guess how much I love you?" The other will answer "as much as..." and is always wrong, deeply underestimating the love. It makes me want to vomit. Fortunately the kids are not interested in their boring, lame forest adventures either.
24. Grandpa In My Pocket
An irresponsible grandpa uses his magic cap to shrink and get into misadventures. Being small also seems to give him the speed of a cheetah because he cannot be caught until he almost ruins everything. Only his grandson Jason knows of his secret shrinking ability, while everyone else is oblivious. Including his granddaughter, which seems pretty unfair. Grandpa is a bit of a dick.
A reggae band - Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew - solves mysteries. And everyone in the show is a Jamaican mouse. I don't think it's racist, although I'm not ruling it out. It's definitely clichéd.
22. Thomas and Friends
Too many characters, almost exclusively male. Terrible theme song my kids can't dance to. Steam engines are bad for the environment. And most worryingly, the entire premise of the show is these trains aspiring to be "useful". It's basically an unwitting metaphor for the Bolshevik Revolution. It's Animal Farm if Orwell has chosen train tracks instead of the barnyard.
21. Fireman Sam
I saw an episode where one of the fireman (not Sam) was preparing to sing at a concert. He went to get a giant guitar stage prop from the next village and his van broke down on the way back. So him and his buddy start carrying this giant guitar back to the village, and in the darkness step off the cliff. His mate is hanging on by a giant guitar while the fireman tries to pull him back. As he slips further he decides that now he needs to call Sam for the rescue and gets his phone from his pocket. HE HAD A MOBILE PHONE THE WHOLE TIME. Ridiculous. And the worst part is when he gets to the concert he's not even a good singer.
A show about a drumming dog that can't play until he gets read a story. They are clear it's he can't, rather than won't. So the dog isn't as spoilt brat, he just suffers from a crippling psychological disorder. The stories are read by Z-grade British celebrities I usually don't recognise. My boys prefer their own books.
19. Peter Rabbit
Promotes stealing and property destruction.
18. Dinosaur Train
Dinosaurs are great. Trains are great. Together it's a stupid convoluted mess.
I like this show about a submarine crew discovering the oceans creatures. It's fun and educational. The animals even have accents based on where they live in the actual world. And there is a pirate cat. Yet my kids have zero interest.
16. Small Potatoes
Potatoes sing. That's it. It's weird. The kids dance though.
15. Sarah and Duck
The title is accurate - it's about Sarah and her pet duck. There's an episode where the duck eats a lot of bread I found funny.
14. Bananas in Pyjamas
I don't really like the bananas, although I guess they are well-meaning simpletons. This is probably the turning point in the list where we start getting to the good shows
13. Lah-Lah's Big Live Band
An Australian show introducing the kids to different musical instruments. Lots of songs and colour. Good premise, execution could be better. Lah-Lah's voice is perhaps a bit too well-trained and classical. The band is a bit too old.
12. In The Night Garden
It is baby crack. It will mesmerise them for the full 30 minutes. As a parent, I can see why it works but it's so long and really hard to sit through. I imagine it would be hilarious on drugs though. But I'll never find out, if you're reading DOCS.
11. Sesame Street
Classic show, but I suspect my kids are slightly too young for it. There is also way too much Elmo.
10. Timmy Time
A claymation about a young sheep and his preschool adventures. Timmy is loud and annoying, lacks patience, has no attention span, won't share, and is generally a jerk. I've never met a Timmy like him before. Each episode is about him learning how to interact with others and become normal. I can presently relate - it could be called R and J Time.
I think this is Spanish, translated to English. Great show - getting the balance right between fun colours and songs and educational messages.
8. Play School
Hasn't changed much from my childhood. Encourages creativity and imagination through play. Also seems to be the only opportunity for Australian actors to gain steady employment. It has an all-star cast.
7. Shaun the Sheep
This is the sheep from Wallace and Gromit. It's just as funny. I think I'd watch this even without children.
6. Ready, Steady, Wiggle!
Of course, I knew of The Wiggles, perhaps even a few songs. But it is only now I appreciate the genius of their formula. It's remarkable nobody thought of it earlier. And now that there are replacement Wiggles, it's clear they could go on making millions forever.
5. Yo Gabba Gabba!
This combines the hypnotic trippiness of In The Night Garden with the music of The Wiggles and the stories and imagination of Play School. There are some pretty amazing musical guest stars - basically every indie act from the US in the last decade. It's better than the Top 40.
4. Charlie and Lola
This is a show about a very patient older brother putting up with his little sisters bullshit. My kids absolutely love the theme song - maximum Dance Dance Revolution score.
3. Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom
This is about the elves and fairies that live at the bottom of your garden. It's quite funny. At 20 minutes sometimes the kids check out though.
2. Giggle and Hoot
The segments that hold ABC4Kids together stars Jimmy Giggle and a couple of owls that do the 'nightwatch' while you sleep. It is amazing that Giggle has no formal training - top natural performer. It's also amazing that he is able to maintain his high pitched voice in every scene. The kids love the bright colours and songs (the CD gets a heavy workout in the car) and I appreciate some of the subtle comic absurdity - it's a bit reminiscent of Mel Brooks comedy. Perhaps I'm watching too much kids TV though in making that statement.
1. Peppa Pig
She is a pig but also basically every child - sometimes funny and cheeky, occasionally naughty, inquisitive, and ultimately good and innocent. Daddy Pig is father of the year. I like that it's a cartoon starring a girl that isn't made specifically for girls. My kids could say Peppa before each others names. When the theme song comes on, they rock hard. It got a perfect score - wasn't even close.