Digital Babysitters: Recommended TV Shows For Toddlers & Preschoolers

Oh, so you NEVER let your 3 or 4 year old watch any TV ever? Ever EVER? You’re either part of the .00001% of rare breeds of superhuman that make for perfect parents OR … your pants are on fire.

If your kid’s anything like mine, her first question EVERY single morning is, “So where are we going today?” followed by some version of, “Let’s GO, Mom! The SUN IS UP! GET UuuUUUUuUUUUP!” And, on days when you’re not chauffeuring her around, she asks you every 5 minutes to play with/help/make/see/fix/move/do something. You know, because our child-centric living room filled with arts & crafts materials and toys that would make any indoor play place look deserted  is STILL not enough to keep her busy…………

WELL, in those moments, the TV or iPad seems like such a lifesaver.

Sometimes, you just REALLY need that 20mins of time to hide in the restroom and eat something out of your daughter’s Halloween loot of 6 months ago while you talk to Delta about the transatlantic flight you’d like to book…. or….. do things like this, right here. It’s all about finding a healthy balance for you and your kids.

The good thing is, children’s TV today is SO much better than a lot of the mindless junk it was 20 years ago.



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 1. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (5/5 on Common Sense Media)
I am such a HUGE fan of this show for social/emotional growth. It addresses many of the common challenges that our little ones face and, fittingly, my daughter even sings the songs whenever it’s relevant. It discusses big milestones like first days of school or new siblings and day to day challenges like feeling scared at night or trying new food. Zee would sing Grown Ups Come Back when she or kids at her previous preschool would get upset at drop off or If You Have To Go Potty when she or a friend needs to go to the restroom. Some of our other favorites include When You WaitFind a Way to Play TogetherUse Your Words, and When You Feel So Mad. Great kid music that also offers ideas for topics to discuss with kids in the car….Mom’s Rating: 5/5
Zee’s Rating: 5/5

Zee LOVED it at ages 2 & 3, at 4 prefers other shows but still wants to listen to the music in the car. May just be bored.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Videos, YouTube, DVR

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2. Sid the Science Kid (4/5 on Common Sense Media)
This show really encourages kids to ask unique questions and seek answers through research, hands-on exploration, and focused observation. My daughter started watching it when she was around 2, and it introduced her to insightful concepts like how the fruits we buy and other things go through a process of change and eventually decay, how our lungs work, and why it’s important to brush your teeth. Jokes can be a bit lame, but my kid’s idea of a joke is saying, “Grasshoppers doing jumpingjacks!”Mom’s Rating: 5/5
Zee’s Rating: 5/5

Zee LOVED it at ages 2 & 3, at 4 prefers other shows but still wants to listen to the music in the car. May just be bored

Where to Watch: Netflix

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3. Team Umizoomi (4/5 on Common Sense Media)
This show is pretty great for it’s implementation of early math concepts including counting, shapes, patterns, and measurements. I had the song, “Dodecahedron” stuck in my head for weeks when we first watched that episode. Oh, GREAT. It’s back. Eeaaaaarrrrwoooorrrmmmmm.Mom’s Rating: 4/5
Zee’s Rating: 4.5/5

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Videos

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4. Super WHY! (4/5 on Common Sense Media)
This show takes (sometimes odd or irrelevant) situations that children might encounter (not wanting to share) and finds answers through popular fairy tales and children’s stories. Children are given the opportunity to change the course of the story by replacing words while, in the process, slowly learning to recognize letters/words.Mom’s Rating: 4/5
Zee’s Rating: 4.5/5

Where to Watch: Netflix

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5. Peg + Cat (5/5 on Common Sense Media)
This show instills an early love for math. One major gripe I have about this show is Peg’s tendency to say, “I am totally freaking out!” What a little drama queen. My daughter picked that one up early, too. *eyeroll* Also, there is an episode about Peg’s alien friend coming from a planet without toilets and having accidents all over someone’s house. So they taught him how to use a toilet, because otherwise they’d have to leave. Some parents may disagree with the potential association between accidents and shame, but my daughter wasn’t really affected by it, as evidenced by the many times Lysol wipes and vinegar were used for cleaning up the floor after watching this episode at least five times at her request.Mom’s Rating: 3.5/5
Zee’s Rating: 4/5

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Videos

– Yo Gabba Gabba
– Tumble Leaf
– Little Einsteins
– Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
– Doc McStuffins

– Bubble Guppies
– Octonauts

– Shimmer and Shine
– Sofia the First
– Backyardigans
– Elena of Avalor
– Dora and Friends
– Dora the Explorer
– Peppa Pig

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Raising Strong Girls.. and Boys

We are born into a world that’s filled with people who still have preconceived notions about the role that gender plays in determining a person’s potential and eventual purpose in their communities. So how do we ensure that our children are equipped with the confidence not to be easily influenced as they continue to explore their own desires and develop their own sense of self?

How do we raise strong girls who will nevertheless persist? I have no idea. But… I’ve got a pretty strong willed kid with some real sass.

I’m sure much of that is her personality, but below is a list of some simple things I do that may have also contributed.



Always remind her to use the power of her words to express herself. Listen to her whenever possible to show her that it works. Teach her to say no if she doesn’t like how someone is treating her, whether it’s a fellow child or an adult. Even if it’s you. Let her make some of her own choices; picking outfits, choosing between options for meals or snack time; have her decide which classes she’s interested in taking.



Don’t MAKE her hug, kiss, or speak to people when she doesn’t want to. Yep, this includes Mom and Dad. If you want her to do something, try your level best not to use your size to physically force her to do it; like grabbing her or picking her up against her will. No, it’s not always easy. This last part is hard for me at times, especially when she’s being headstrong *cough* tantrum.



Don’t insist on calling her cute, pretty, or beautiful all.the.time. Point out when she’s brave, strong, or is good at something. Be specific when you compliment. Here are a few compliments I gave her this evening: “Wow, you’re really good at counting!” “You are really good at remembering things!” “I’m glad you noticed where we kept your helmet in the garage. You are so observant!”



Don’t be too quick to help her out. If she puts her shoes on the wrong feet, so be it. If she wants to wash her own hair, let her. If she shows an interest in mixing the eggs or batter when you’re cooking, let her try. When she doesn’t do something correctly, guide her gently to the conclusion that she may need to try again. Or … to rinse her sticky hair. It may mean more of a mess and take more time, but it’ll be worth it.




Talk about Malala Yousafzai, Amelia Earhart, Joan of Arc, Sacajawea, Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, and others like them. Remember when all the classic princesses needed to be rescued? Thankfully, Disney has introduced plenty of strong and independent female characters in recent years; Mulan, Tiana, Belle, Merida, Rapunzel, Elsa, Anna, and, amongst others, Moana.





Who decided that trains and cars were for boys and that dolls or kitchen sets  were for girls? Do boys not end up being Dads one day? Will they never cook? Do girls not drive cars? Whether she wants to play soccer, basketball, football, do ballet, tap dance, practice figure skating, or look at bugs – encourage her. She can wear a dress if she chooses to and still be fascinated by bugs as she climbs trees.




Don’t assume she feels/thinks something out loud in front of her. Refrain from saying, “don’t cry” or, dismissively saying, “you are fine” when she’s visibly upset. Instead, ask her to explain how she feels to you and tell her it’s okay to be sad/disappointed, but remind her that using her words will make it easier for you to understand and find a way to help her if she needs it. Her feelings are valid. She is allowed to be sad or disappointed when things don’t go her way, as long as she isn’t hurting anyone or being outwardly disrespectful towards any specific person.



In our home, when my daughter sees me exercise or pass on sweet treats, I tell her it’s because I’m trying to “be healthier” or “be stronger” as opposed to “be skinny” or “lose weight.” It’s unfortunate that society and Disney has managed to instill some outdated assumptions into a 3 YEAR OLD; long hair is prettier than short (she talked about how she missed my long hair for weeks after I cut my hair last summer), straight hair is better than curly (she started complaining about her curls just before her third birthday). Now, I have developed a tendency of pointing out great short and long haircuts, toned arms and shoulders on swimmers, strong calves on joggers and cyclists, and, because of the obsession with fair skin and whitening treatments among many Asian communities (like the one I grew up in), the beauty in the general uniqueness of ALL people.


I’d be lying if I said I was consistent across the board with this. These are the self-imposed guidelines I deeply believe in, though. My 4 year old is a very convincing (and sharp-witted) negotiator, so I like to give her the chance to appeal when I’ve said no – assuming she’s using her words to articulate her needs and being respectful. However, there are times I do get frustrated (gritting my teeth here as I recall the chaos that we just went through hours ago at bedtime) when she’s being too strong willed and, uhm… not using her words effectively. At times I get impatient when we are running late and it takes her an extra 15 minutes to do something that might only take me one. All we can do is try our best & hope our kids grow up with the confidence in their ability and potential that we believe they all possess.

Interview Questions for Parents to Ask Prospective Preschools

Last summer, we were considering moving to Jakarta, Indonesia. Part of the decision making process involved a hunt for preschools. Here is a self-created list of questions that personally helped me determine which schools were a better fit for us than others.

Please feel free to use this as a guide while touring prospective preschools and do let me know if there are any additional questions you think should be added to this list. If you’re wondering why I asked some of these, feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail. Thanks for reading and please do take the time to subscribe if you’d like to see more posts like this.

Happy touring!



What is the school’s teaching philosophy?

When was it established? Is it a franchise?

Who designs or determines their curriculum?

What is their teaching method? Is it mostly directed? Do the kids have any opportunity for free play?

Do they use worksheets? At what age do they give the kids homework?

How do they track the children’s progress? Will parents be able to see this?

How do they handle children who have a hard time following instructions or listening?

Do they have a transition plan for children who may have a rough time adjusting?

How do they handle children who might bite or hit another child? Are the parents notified? Do they have a logbook to keep track of this type of thing?


What is the student to teacher ratio? How many students are in a classroom?

Are all the adults in the classroom typically teachers or do they have nannies/helpers?

How long have the teachers been there? Do they sign a contract to ensure that they don’t leave before the end of the school year?

Are there parent teacher conferences? Are the teachers available for discussions about the child’s individual progress or potential struggles?

What is the criteria to becoming a teacher at the school? Do they have to have a degree in early childhood development or education or are they trained in house?

Do they have specialist teachers or visiting teachers for subjects like Mandarin, Music, or Dance?


Do they have a playground?

Do they have a library or any other special rooms or facilities that set them apart from other preschools?

How many restrooms are there? How far is the restroom from the classroom? Do they have large toilets or small toilets? Are the children accompanied to the restroom by an adult?

Is there a waiting area for parents or nannies?

What sort of learning materials do they use? Do they have a wide variety of play based learning tools for children in the classrooms?

Do they own the building or rent?

Do the children have access to screen time while at school?


Do they provide snack and lunch or do the parents have to pack a daily lunch?

If it’s provided by the school, what does the menu look like? Is it nutritious? Do they accommodate dietary restrictions and/or allergies?

Do they teach a second language? Which? Are they taught by native speakers?

Do they offer extracurricular activities? Which? Are they included in the cost of tuition?

Are all the teachers certified in CPR and/or First Aid? Is there an in-house nurse?

What is their policy for sick kids? Do they check the children’s temperature prior to coming in?

Do the kids take field trips? Where to? Are they included in the price? What type of transportation do they use? Are parents or nannies expected to and/or allowed to join?

What is their protocol in case of a medical emergency? Do they always have a vehicle and driver ready to transport any children to the hospital? Who accompanies the child(ren)? Which hospital do they take the children to?


What is their sign in/sign out policy? Are parents and/or nannies given a badge and is there some method to ID the person who picks up the child?

What happens if nobody who is on the previously approved list is able to pick up the child?

Where do children wait when parents or nannies are late for pick up? Who stays with them?

Are drop offs and pick ups inside a secure and gated area?

Are there security guards? How/where were they trained?

Are there CCTVs inside and outside of the school? Are there CCTVs near/around restrooms?

Is the parking lot private or shared?

Do they have a plan set in place for bomb threats, abduction, intruders?

Do they hold fire and earthquake drills with the children? How frequently?


Are children able to try out at the school? For how long? Will parents be allowed to observe?

Do they expect all children to be potty trained? If not, who changes diapers and where?

Are parents expected to sign a contract that commits their children to the school for a period of time? How much advance notice do they need prior to withdrawal?

Do they have a part time program or do all children have to attend 5 days a week? Do they provide any options for after care?



I will be posting a downloadable comparison table to show the key differences between the schools that my then 3-year-old daughter tried out at while in Jakarta. The list of these schools include Bambino Cipete, Discovery Menteng, EtonHouse, HighScope Simatupang, HighScope Kelapa Gading, Jakarta World Academy, Leap Schoolhouse, Mighty Minds Hang Tuah, and Royal Tots Academy. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about any of the above preschools, feel free to contact me!


Zee is 4: Kids’ Moana Birthday Party Ideas

Zee is FOUR. I guess I should get some kind of prize for every single day that I managed not to totally screw up this whole parenting deal. It’s a good thing I don’t do to kids what I do to plants.

AND HEY, guess what? I did win! I won the love of my life.

This party had it’s bumps, honestly. We had to switch dates one day before the party, lost our original picnic spot, and half the guests were no longer able to make it because of the last minute change. Also, the cake fell apart and they completely forgot about the cupcakes. However, in the end, we made it all work and it came together pretty nicely. Just look at my kid’s face. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?


We made sure the kids and parents had enough to do to keep them entertained.

Aside from the leis that we handed to everyone that came, we provided the materials for anyone interested to make their own floral necklaces and bracelets.

We also filled a wooden planter with sand and seashells for kids to find their own “treasures” and take them home. The planter was a handmade gift from my father-in-law.


I found some Moana-themed temporary tattoos online and the ever prepared Moana brought her own blue colored water and a sponge to apply them onto the kids’ wrists.


Obviously, the star of the party was Moana herself.


Moana was able to do so much in 1.5 hours. She chatted with the kids, told a story, did some magic,

put the temporary tattoos on the kids, played some simple toddler games like “Maui Says,”

and then guided everyone (parents included) in a group hula dance. There was definitely a lot of giggling.

Party Favors

We found these great beach buckets with shovels at the Dollar Tree and decided they would make great party favors. We also bought bubbles and blow-outs then stuck homemade Moana stickers on them to have them match with our basic theme.


My daughter’s birthday party is the one day per year that she gets to eat a bunch of sweet treats without some sort of compromise or extensive negotiation. And we had plenty of options for her.


For food, my visiting mother-in-law bought teriyaki chicken and Kalua pulled pork from Ono Hawaiian BBQ, cooked Jasmine rice at home, and bought 3 pizzas. I also made a pineapple cole slaw to go with the pulled pork and Hawaiian rolls. The chicken teriyaki was a favorite so we ran out of it quickly. There were also rainbow fruit skewers (not pictured).

We made jello “boats” with graham cracker sand (not pictured).

And upside-down pineapple cupcakes.

After a bit of a mix-up and a 40min delay at Safeway, lesson learned: pick up this kind of stuff the day before.


BUUUUUT, look at these awesome Kokomora cake pops!


A lot of the themed decoration was printed at home on cardboard paper or on full sized label paper, including the banner. However, we also did the standard balloons, plastic table covers, raffia table skirts, and a tiki bar.

My personal favorite purchase was the teepee. It’s $95 on Amazon but I managed to get it in practically new condition from a Dad on Craigslist for $30. And yes, I am completely aware that teepees have nothing to do with Moana or Polynesia, but hey, they’re awesome.

Personal Thoughts

It’s been 5 days and she’s still talking about her party multiple times a day. I meaaaan, she was talking about her 3rd birthday party until the day of her 4th. Parties like these are a ton of work for everyone involved, but I was lucky to have had assistance with set-up from my Mom, her husband, their friends Ernie & Connie, and for the first birthday ever, my in laws. I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without help. Zee’s genuine appreciation and joy makes it all worthwhile though. Plus, I’m going to be milking this period of her life where she’s still so enchanted by the sheer magic of themed birthday parties for as long as I possibly can.

You know, just in case she goes through that phase where she decides she’s too cool for everything in a few years.

Yep, bugs are pretty darn magical too.


Photos taken by Ross Marlowe.

I Should Be Skinny By Now….. [Repost From When Zee Was 9mo]

Note: This post was an old post from when Zee as 9 months old. Coming across this reminded me of what it was like back then and how much she’s changed between then and the currently wise, dictatorial, defiant age of 4.


I should be skinny by now …

… with as much as I’ve been carrying Zee at nights.

In fact, we all should be – or at least those of you dealing with can’t-sleep-unless-I’m-being-held-itis. What happened to your love for the most expensive pacifier a mother could ever afford? Boobies not good enough anymore?

It’s been 3 weeks. Naps are perfectly fine, but come nighttime, all bets are off. Her newest thing is waking up 1-3 hours after falling into a deep sleep (aka being held/walked/swung for 1.5 hours because God forbid I put her down too soon since it would then take double the time to get her back to sleep) and then staying up for 2-3 hours. No crying, of course. Just lots of babbling and trying to pull off my lips and my glasses and MY FAYCE. “No, honey. Momma’s face doesn’t come off. Ouch, love. Didn’t I *just* cut your nails 3 days ago?” Unless I carry her the ENTIRE TIME. And not upright, either.

At one point 2.5 hours into our little late night dance, I busted out the Moby Wrap to try to figure out if I can McGuyver it into safely holding her 20lb self in the cradle hold. Nope. Only time tonight she got pissed at me, too. All this is, of course, in the dark (so as to not break the day/night association and all that). At least the sordid 4 (and 5) month sleep regression didn’t require hours of staying awake at night because the human pacifier would put her back to sleep in less than 15mins.

Oh, well. At least she’s still so damn cute and full of lubs and joy and she’s already growing up too much as it is, I’d really rather she stop trying to crawl towards and climb on top of (or eat) all the electronics in the home all the time and go back to the place where being nursed brought her (and subsequently me) bliss.

250 calories burned per hour carrying 20lb load x 4 hours = 1000 calories burned
20oz breastmilk consumed x 22 calories each = 440 calories burned

So, my question today is, “WHY AM I NOT SKINNY? Whyyyyyyyyyy?”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The end.

Thank you for listening to my rant of the day.