I know it's kind of weird that I'm going to tell you about a new kids TV show after I recently posted more reasons to be worried about kids and TV. But I am.
The new show is "Ni Hao Kai Lan," an animated NickJr. creation, about a Chinese girl and her friends and family. It's a lot like "Dora the Explorer" - including cute animal pals and a loving grandparent - but in Mandarin/English instead of Spanish/English. Mandarin is the most widely spoken native language in the world and is growing in popularity in many U.S. cities, including Portland. The show introduces kids (and parents) to Mandarin words and characters and Chinese culture in a kid-friendly way.
In a typical episode, Kai Lan gets together with her friends and embarks on an activity, like celebrating Chinese New Year or going camping. A conflict will arise and they find a way to resolve it, often with the help of YeYe, Kai Lan's grandfather. Kai Lan counts in Mandarin, she sings in Mandarin, she responds to YeYe in Mandarin. By the end of an episode, my 4-year-old is counting in Mandarin, singing in Mandarin and responding to YeYe in Mandarin. By the way, we don't speak Mandarin.
My son is learning the language through an after-school program, and my daughter will probably want to start in the fall. Although I'm not looking for ways to get my kids to watch more TV, I'm happy to let them watch "Ni Hao Kai Lan" for the exposure to the language and culture. I've been waiting a long time for a show like this.