Remember the Teletubbies, Rolie Polie Olie, and Bear in the Big Blue House? Today’s little ones actually find some of their favorite shows on YouTube, like Little Baby Bum, and they are a little different than the shows you remember — namely, there's a lot more music. Turns out, there are some scientific reasons why your toddler is obsessed with Little Baby Bum and other shows like it.
If your toddler isn’t a Little Baby Bum groupie, here’s some context: the YouTube channel was started by two parents in 2011, named after the nickname for their own baby girl, who just wanted to make some nursery rhyme videos for her to listen to, Inside Edition reported. Today, some of their 60-minute episodes have been viewed millions of times, and the show has 35 million subscribers, as well as a series on Netflix. Every video features animated kids and critters singing well-known songs and some originals about things like getting boo boos, learning to use the potty, and going to the doctor.
What's The Big Deal With Little Baby Bum?
So, what is it about this show that toddlers love so much? Stephanie Chapman, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women, tells Romper in an interview that children’s shows are (not surprisingly) designed to be entertaining for kids and keep them watching.
“I think they have a formula that helps kids know what to expect,” she says. “Kids grow through their senses and are interested in hands-on learning, so these shows have call-and-answer questions, opportunities to sing and dance along with the characters, a lot of color, and simplistic figures that are easy for kids to understand. This is with most really popular preschool and toddler shows, like Sesame Street or Thomas & Friends.”
“A lot of those shows look very basic, but there’s a lot of research behind them, and it’s not accidental the pace at which they go,” says Bethany Atkins, M.D., board-certified pediatrician with Baptist Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, in an interview with Romper. “It’s a novelty too, and new and novel things stimulate dopamine releases, which is our pleasure center."
How Much Can My Toddler Watch In A Day?
Chapman says the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends children ages 2 and younger avoid media use, except video chatting with family, and that preschoolers stick to one hour or less. Atkins cites the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which says that for kids 2 years and older, limit media to an hour or two per day of “high-quality programming" while parents are engaging in the show with them.
“For the younger kids, if it’s informational, educational, and paced properly, it’s OK as long as you’re engaging in it with them and not just plopping them in front of the electronics as a babysitter,” says Atkins. “If you can’t be sitting right next to them, be in the room and engaged in the show, like, ‘Wow, look at that,’ or, ‘Oh, let’s sing this song, clap to it, or get up and stomp your feet.’”
(But to be fair, if your toddler needs an episode or two so you can get dinner done without the screaming, it's probably OK if you aren't clapping and singing along the whole time.)
How Should I Engage In The Show With My Kid?
Atkins notes that every Little Baby Bum episode is divided into shorter segments, each with their own story or lesson. Talking about them afterwards — "Remember how the cat went to the doctor today? We’re going to the doctor soon, too." — helps your tot fully absorb those ideas.
Chapman says that you can use Little Baby Bum screen time as a reward by setting expectations around when you’ll watch it, and what you’ll do before and after.
“We can use shows as rewards in the routine, like first we do cleanups and then we get to watch this show together for 20 minutes. It can help kids learn that privileges like TV are earned, which can really help down the road with school-aged kids," she says. "Then, we can take the themes and characters kids are interested in and help them play creatively. It might be, ‘OK, now it’s coloring time.’ ‘Now we’re going to sing the songs that were on the show, or take the cars on the rug and reenact what we saw.’ Help kids play those things again to reinforce that learning.”
Stephanie Chapman, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women