Watching With (and Without) Mother: Education and Entertainment in Television for Pre-school Children

This essay tracks back from present-day controversies to the very beginnings of television for pre-school children. It focuses on three very well-known, long-running programmes, first broadcast between the 1950s and the 1990s: Watch with Mother, Sesame Street and Teletubbies. It also refers more briefly to other programmes from the same period, including Play School, Barney and Friends and Blue’s Clues. The discussion focuses mainly on the formal qualities of these programmes, and especially on their pedagogy – that is, how they are attempting to ‘teach’ their viewers, rather than what they are attempting to teach. It suggests that differences and changes in this respect reflect broader assumptions about childhood, about education and about media literacy.

You can download the whole essay (without illustrations) by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings to read the different sections:

  1. Introduction: the trouble with Peppa Pig
  2. Watch with Mother
  3. Sesame Street and Play School
  4. Teletubbies
  5. Barney and Friends and Blue’s Clues
  6. Conclusion: change and continuity
  7. Sources and references