Cartoons to watch during COVID times, SEL-wise.

Imagine if you could fly like Perman, move with super-speed like Ninja Hatori, travel through time like Doraemon, help your friends like Chota Bheem, or even in your tough times you are as calm as Oswald? 

I have a four-year old, curious nephew at home. I love watching the world from his lens. The meaning he adds to things leaves me with joyous feelings. Conversations with him break a lot of stereotypes that I was living with. He is an epitome of helpfulness. I have always seen him supporting his Nani ( grandmother) in household chores. Recently we both were playing Lego and I asked him, “I see you helping Nani, how did you learn to do that?” 

After thinking for some time, he replied, “arey chachu, Shiva apne dost logo ki madad karta hai. (Uncle, Chota Bheem also helps his friends when they need him).” My heart was filled with joy hearing that. We often talk about Bheem in our conversations. 

Cartoons are a great medium for building self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making,  healthy relationships, and self-management. In this blog, we have listed a few of them with an intention of creating an alternate space of hope, joy, and laughter in the recent time of the pandemic.  

“Cartoon characters have become logos. And when you are constantly exposed to them at a tender age, they become a part of you,” says Dr. Dayal Mirchandani, a Mumbai-based consulting psychiatrist, and author. While reading about cartoons and its effect on kids’ mental and emotional wellbeing, we came across psychologists who emphasize the negative impacts of cartoons on children. According to their conclusions, kids who watch cartoons 3-4 hours a day are prone to violence. Moreover, marginalization of cognitive functions, divergence from realities, and an increase of negative behavior might develop over the course of time.  It becomes an adult’s responsibility around the child to expose them to the right kind of animated series or cartoons. Here we bring to you a list of 7 such cartoons:

1. Sesame Street/ Gali Gali Sim Sim

Sesame Street began in the 1960s, an era when researchers and government officials were just beginning to understand that investing in little kids made sense from a social, political, and economic perspective. It was designed to help preschool kids, especially children from low-income backgrounds, learn the skills they would need to keep up in school. To begin with this cartoon we would share our favorite episode from it. This video beautifully talks about individual differences and how all of us have different skills. The other half of the video talks about conflict and cooperation. We hope you enjoy this series.  There’s also an Indian version of this series, called Galli Galli Sim Sim. Check it out:

2. Peppa Pig

Peppa pig is a beautiful story of a pig family. Peppa Pig lives at home with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig, and her little brother George. She spends a lot of time at home, out on adventures, visiting Granny and Grandpa Pig, or playing with her friends. Peppa has lots of friends including Suzy Sheep, Zoe Zebra, Emily Elephant, Candy Cat, and many more. Peppa pig hopes to bring a sentimental experience. The well-crafted character design is enough to make its audience lay on the sofa for days on end just to watch Peppa Pig. All of its videos will touch your heart.

3. Chota Bheem

 Chhota bheem is one of the most popular Indian series. Chhota bheem being the main lead with his friends Raju, Jaggu, Chutki, Indumati, Dholu, and Bholu & Kalia sometimes.  Chhota bheem teaches us to work collaboratively be it a joyous moment or a difficult time. Bheem having extraordinary powers yet being very kind and humble, leading his group and trying to keep everyone safe.

4. Doremon

Doraemon is a Japanese anime character; specifically, a robot sent back in time to help better the life of a man named Nobita.  Doraemon is very friendly and intelligent, it helps you see alternate stories of individuals at times when it’s difficult. The two form a close bond and every episode sees Nobita with a new problem and Doraemon with a new gadget to help him solve it. It also very beautifully portrays the friendship between them and how doremon always tries to maintain a healthy relationship by helping her during her crisis. 

5. Akili and Me

Ride the rainbow to Lala Land, and join Akili and her friends on a magical learning adventure. Sing with numbers, dance with letters, draw, play, and learn English with Akili!  

Akili is a curious 4-year-old who lives with her family at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. She has a secret: every night when she falls asleep, she enters the magical world of Lala Land, where she and her animal friends learn all about language, letters, numbers, and art while developing kindness and coming to grips with their emotions and rapidly changing toddler lives!  

Research by the University of Maryland shows that kids who watch Akili and Me perform better in counting, shape recognition, language skills, and fine motor development Source

6. Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit is based on a classic British character created by Beatrix Potter. His adventures are set in her beloved English Lake District. Peter Rabbit is full of adventure and excitement, tapping into children’s innate desire for exploration. It celebrates the themes of friendship, nature, discovery, and adventure as Peter investigates the world around him.

7. Ninja Hattori

This series is filled with amazing powerful characters. While everyone is so powerful yet they help each other to become stronger and better than before ninjas. It portrays the relationship between siblings and they take care of the younger ones. 

As we have hardly come across the situation of lockdown ever before. It is very much true for all of us to understand and accept that we are new to this kind of situation. When we accept it, we hope to create more possibilities of creating safe and joyful spaces for ourselves and our young minds at home. Often watching cartoons, we also recommend you to have conversations around these cartoons with your young minds at home. You can use the following list of questions in your conversations

  • How was this cartoon for you? 
  • What did you like the most about these characters in these cartoons?
  • If you wish to be any character from these cartoons what character would you like to be? Why?
  • What interests you about this character?
  • Have you ever done anything like this character before? What did you do? 
  • How do you want the world to be like for you? ‘
  • What kind of friend/person do you want to be? why?

I often do drawing activities with my nephew after our conversations on these cartoon characters. Once after watching Chota Bheem me and my nephew drew his superhero. I asked him how he wanted his superhero to be like?  He wanted his superhero to be full of colors. Here is the picture of our drawing. 

The above questions are just conversation-starters, we believe you are the expert of your experiences and you can accordingly frame your questions. The only thing we would suggest is to be full of curiosity and really try to understand the perspective of your children. You can also quote instances of help, empathy, support that are visible in these cartoons. 

We believe this is a new challenge in our life. A lot of time hopelessness may be visible around us and that’s okay. It is important that we stay indoors and keep ourselves and our kids engaged with meaningful content on television. The list mentioned above is telecasted on television or available on Youtube. 

Happy conversations with your kiddos!

About the authors:

Priyanka Shrivastav is currently  pursuing her Diploma in Early Childhood Care from National Academy. She is a B. Com. graduate from Mumbai University. She teaches in pre-primary grades at Khoj Community School. She also facilitates Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for a diverse group of youth at Apni Shala. She loves to watch series and doodles in her free time.

Shahid Shaikh is a Program Facilitator with Apni Shala Foundation. He facilitates SEL with children, teachers, and caregivers in government and private schools of Mumbai. As part of Apni Shala’s curriculum team, he is also working on integrating Narrative Practices, Diversity & Inclusion, and mindfulness within the SEL curriculum. He seeks and believes in creating safe spaces for everyone. When Shahid is out of his classroom facilitation, you will find him doodling and writing poems. His keen interest in sharing the art of poetry has led him to be the co-founder of SHOR, a Poetry Club.

Loved reading this piece? At Apni Shala, we are committed to bring you more SEL-aligned resources during this pandemic. Our work is dependent on generous donations from our supporters. If you found this useful, make a donation here: I would love to donate to Apni Shala.


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