A decade or two ago, fluffy, low-budget cartoons attracted huge audiences. But today parents are much more skilled at steering children towards quality programmes, adeptly employing shows as tools to sharpen and shape young minds and bodies.
To succeed now, children's shows must not only satisfy rigorous educational and values criteria but also engage young viewers, turning them into active participants, intellectually, emotionally and often physically.
With that in mind, here are five shows on JimJam, a network created specifically for preschoolers, that parents and children can enjoy together. Best of all, these shows disguise all of that dreary educational stuff behind pure storytelling fun.
If your little girl is turning into an internet slug, tune her in to this eight-year-old mouse from the other side of Chipping Cheddar who winds up at Camembert Academy, a school for the performing arts, under the tutelage of her doting dance teacher Ms Mimi.
Inspired by the award-winning children's book series written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig, this animated series celebrates music with ballet, modern, tap, jazz, classical and ethnic dance. As Angelina works to achieve goals and learn from life's stumbles, she inspires kids to dream their big dreams.
Bob the Builder
This dungaree-wearing character could have ended his days bobbing for coins in some silly video game like those ne'er-do-well Mario brothers. Instead, this animated guy proudly wears his construction helmet like a thinking cap - and teaches kids the art of problem-solving. "Can we fix it? Yes we can!" is his motto.
Bob the Builder and his Can-Do Crew – his anthropomorphic construction-machine pals Scoop the scooper, Muck the dump truck and Lofty the crane – hammer out solutions that show the power of positive thinking, problem solving, teamwork and follow-through. Nip your child's procrastination in the bud. As Bob says: "The fun is in getting it done."
Put a twinkle in your preschooler's eye and language skills on his lips as he learns proper English from the Jarmies, an animated gang of six stars who, when they're done glittering in the night sky, zoom down every morning to their treehouse to play in the live-action Tim and Holly's garden. Jarmies are invisible to humans in this programme aimed at children ages 2 to 5.
Based on the bestselling books by Mick Inkpen, Kipper the Dog packs the wag and the swagger to enchant children under 5.
This sweet hound is one big kid himself, with an overactive imagination. He naturally wins children over with his endearing antics and unforgettable charm. With all of his questions, Kipper's mind even mirrors a child's. On any given day, expect Kipper to be on the trail of adventure and magical capers with his friends Tiger, Pig and Arnold. While the scenarios may change daily, Kipper is the go-to bowser when it comes to general learning and life skills.
The Magic Key Adventures
If you think dealing with trolls or playing characters in a computer game might prove fascinating for your offspring, then follow the lives of Biff, Kipper, Chip and their dog Floppy. In each episode, a magic key transports them to another world and they face a challenge before being allowed to return to the real world. This has to be one of the niftiest educational shows ever devised about text and sentence structure since it introduces the notions of full stops, sentence cohesion, capital letters, patterns, sounds and more.