Kiddie shows without the goofy voices?
August 18, 2011 5:03 PM   Subscribe

What are some good English-language TV shows for toddlers where the characters aren't speaking in overly affected voices?

I'm looking for kids' shows where the characters speak normally.

My kids (ages 2 and 3) understand, but for the most part do not speak, English. They speak Korean (even to me, and even when I only address them in English). I want to They kind of like shows like Elmo and Sesame Street but to be honest, I think those may have little value for their language skills since many of the characters speaks in a rather distorted, overly-affected voice. (Think of Elmo's high-pitch squeaking and curious third-person references, Cookie Monster's raspy speech and similarly curious reluctance to use the word "I", the Count's accent, etc.)

The Korean shows they watch suffer a little from the same phenomenon, but not nearly as much as typical western fare. What's are some good shows that are both engaging for kids that age, and have characters speaking (or narration) in a plain voice?
posted by holterbarbour to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mr. Rogers, of course. (Even though he's dead, I'm sure they're still being rerun.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:07 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Online, I would suggest going to PBS Sprout Online. I've linked to the Video by Shows page (although there's much more on the site that's great.

You can watch a bit of all the shows (which are also all great for the toddler set) and decide which ones are something you'd prefer for your children to watch.

And if you get PBS Sprout on your digital cable, it's a god-send...
posted by kuanes at 5:11 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Curious George. George himself doesn't speak English, just some oo-oo aa-aah's, but the narrator, Man with the Yellow Hat, and all supporting characters speak in normal voices.
posted by apparently at 5:13 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Australian version of Playschool can be viewed online. Don't blame me if all your toilet rolls go missing after they watch it.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:20 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: "Backyardigans" is far less affected than most, and doesn't have that yelly quality that shows like "Dora The Explorer" have. "Blue's Clues" was one of my little girl's favorites, and while Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper do have accents, the rest of the characters do not. "Olivia" might also appeal. "Little Travelers" is narrated pretty well by the little girls.
posted by moira at 5:22 PM on August 18, 2011

(Unless American English is accented for you.)
posted by moira at 5:24 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Give Kipper the Dog a look. Not too overly twee, low key, and some quite good deadpan humor. Videos are widely available. Check youtube if you like.

Also, the Beatrix Potter videos. Mixture of live action and cartoon, extremely well done.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would try Caillou. Its canadian and it streams on netflix or is a PBS sprouts show. My 2 year old loves it and I can actually stand having it on. Its about a 4 year old boy and his daily life. Nothing goofy or silly, just regular stuff a boy would do. He bakes cakes with his grandma and goes to playschool with his friends. Has a cat and a baby sister. Its nice and straightforward.

Thanks to Caillou my son has learned about museums, magnets and to say "cheese" when having his photo taken.
posted by bhkart at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2011

(Tintin videos when they are a little older.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Arthur, Magic School Bus, PINGU (well, Pingu isn't really "English"...)
posted by superiorchicken at 5:57 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Little Bear and Max and Ruby are big hits for my 2yr old charge. The children and the adults speak in normal clear voices.
posted by Swisstine at 6:00 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Peppa the Pig
posted by infini at 6:05 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Check YouTube for Come Outside, which is a documentary series for small tots. Very, very nicely done.

Mr Dressup, though the episodes are in short supply on-line...
posted by kmennie at 6:13 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Charlie and Lola is voiced by actual British kids (as opposed to adult actors) using their natural voices.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Only the narrator talks in Maisy. The clip I'm linking to is apparently the UK version - the theme song is different for the US, and the accent is American.

FWIW, watching Sesame doesn't seem to make kids talk like those characters, unless they're purposely imitating. I think the speech constructions the characters use may have a basis in linguistics (or maybe I'm repeating a half-remembered urban legend, in which case, sorry!).
posted by lakeroon at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: I'm a big PBS fan, my daughter likes Word World and Word Girl a lot. Super Why is another favorite. She's turning four in two months and from a baby, I let her watch a couple of hours of PBS every day. I think she enjoys all of the programs that teach her to read.
posted by Yellow at 7:14 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: If UK English is okay, I think Charlie & Lola is the most original and imaginative kids' show around. They use actual child actors for the voices and they couldn't be more natural. I was so impressed when I saw it for the first time.
posted by Dragonness at 7:20 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Oops, missed Flannery's response.
posted by Dragonness at 7:21 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: I love Mr. Rogers but I can't remember how the puppets talk - is it weird and affected?

Blues Clues is great (very soothing for some reason as an adult!) and they talk normally.

Tangential to this, I wonder how necessary this is? Some bilingual kids use one language more heavily when they're younger but balance out when they get to school. You might want to speak with an education or language-acquisition professional if you are concerned - they could tell you what is "normal" and what is cause for concern.
posted by radioamy at 7:25 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: I'd recommend Kipper, Little Bear, Caillou and Franklin. Nice, gentle shows with normally speaking characters. In fact, many of the voice actors on these shows were children when the shows were made.
posted by meringue at 10:22 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: If you can find reruns of Polka Dot Door (perhaps online), it always had two adults who spoke perfectly clear and normal English, and who interpreted for the toys (who didn't speak aloud at all). They also read stories aloud very clearly.
posted by jb at 11:31 PM on August 18, 2011

One thing: bilingual parents have told me that the only way that thy have gotten their kids to use both languages (rather than default to what they prefer) is a strict rule that they must speak one language with one parent, and the other with the other. It forces them to practice, otherwise they won't.
posted by jb at 11:33 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Jack's Big Music Show. The characters are muppets, so they're voices don't exactly sound normally human, but they speak with correct grammar and syntax, ie "I want a drink" rather than "Me want a drink". Plus there are regular appearances by human characters who speak and sing in regular voices with proper grammar.

Oswald is a cartoon, where the characters are animals but speak in very quiet, sedate, normal human voices.
posted by katyggls at 11:52 PM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: If you are open to Australian stuff, the ABC's Playschool is wonderful. The presenters speak normally, repeat basic games and phrases a lot, and do a lot of singing, again in normal, clear voices. Bonuses: hosts vary, so there are a variety of faces and voices on offer, and out-of-studio segments also feature a wide variety of people performing a wide variety of everyday activities. Plus, ther are lots of simple get-up-and-sing-or-dance-with-us bits so it's not passive TV viewing.

Whoever films Playschool has an amazing sense of what makes the 2-3 year old set tick - my 3 year old nephew and all of his buddies are absolutely enraptured by every episode of this.
posted by Wylla at 5:47 AM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: These are all fantastic. We don't get most of this stuff in Korea, and I never would have known about them without you all. Thanks (and keep them coming)!
posted by holterbarbour at 4:44 PM on August 19, 2011

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