Children’s television is different. Though parents don’t want to admit it, we often use TV as a type of babysitter, a way to keep the kids quiet while we steal away a few minutes to cook dinner, make an important phone call, or in my case, write a blog post.
The people who make kid’s programmes are very clever and have figured out that if they create something entertaining that will keep a child's attention, but also make it educational, parents won't feel so guilty about letting them watch it.
So when my family was invited to attend a screening of Chuggington, which is billed as the next big thing in children’s television, we decided to see what it what all about.
Chuggington's creators include a Who’s Who of children’s television, including director Sarah Ball, who won a BAFTA for her work on Bob the Builder.
I had no idea so much thought and research went into the development of a children’s TV show. I just wanted to know if my children would become ax murderers by watching it.
And to my delight, I don't think they will. Chuggington hits all my children's television requirements.
Non violent. Tick.
Modern values. Tick.
Good role models. Tick.
Chuggington is about a group of trainee engine chuggers – Wilson, Brewster and KoKo. Its Pixaresque 3D animation gives it a contemporary feeling, and it covers a diversity of cultures and geographies. I especially liked that Koko, a female chugger modeled after a Japanese bullet train, is often the leader of the pack with the boys following. I have three daughters. Excellent.
Chuggington is set to be a hit, already licensed in 142 countries. The US is not on the initial list, but it will come soon. As we all know, much of the best of children’s TV originates in the UK, including Bob the Builder, Teletubbies, and Charlie and Lola.
The programme also has a huge online component. The current web site is a bit static, but in January it will be an interactive site where kids can build their own trains. When my six-year-old daughter saw the preview, she looked at me with wide eyes that I took to mean she wanted to try it ASAP.
OK, so Chuggington doesn’t have the cache of Ringo Star, but MY KIDS LOVED IT. Trains, modern yet timeless values, a huge online component – what else would a kid (and parent) want?
Chuggington can be seen every week day on BBC2 at 8:45 (the CBeebies slot) and is also available on BBC i–player and You Tube.