Daniel Tiger, Stop Giving My Kid Ideas

TV screen showing Daniel Tiger show“I want to make banana muffins,” my son informed me one morning while we were getting ready for the day. It was a weekday. I had to go into the office for work, and he had to go to school. Not exactly a good day or time for this suggestion.

Not to mention the fact that we don’t bake very often in our home. I’m the farthest thing from a Pinterest mom. I’m OK with cooking, but baking is a whole other beast. Every once in a great while, I may make a banana bread or something of that ilk, but for the most part, my baking looks like those Pillsbury sugar cookies you pop out of the package, put on a baking sheet, throw in the oven, and voila!

So his request to make banana muffins felt quite random at first. But then I recalled overhearing a show he’d been watching, and it dawned on me. I knew exactly where he’d gotten the idea — his grrriffic neighborhood tiger, Daniel.

As far as kids shows go, Daniel Tiger is one of the better ones. It does teach wonderful life lessons that some adults need to reevaluate for themselves. Like taking a deep breath and counting to four when you’re angry instead of immediately blowing your top at someone. And I have absolutely sung the jingles to my kid if the situation calls for it, like when he fights me about eating dinner — “we gotta try new food cause it might taste good!” I will take those little earworms and the sometimes whiney and annoying characters over the flashy but poorly written “Spidey and His Amazing Friends” and the wild fever dream that is “Paw Patrol.”

But, there’s a lot of suspension of disbelief going on in Daniel Tiger’s land of make believe. Like a trolley that immediate comes at your beck and call and magically brings you anywhere you want to go. And zero child labor laws exist as the teenage Prince Tuesday is able to hold down several part-time jobs at once. As an adult, I can understand and be forgiving of this, but my toddler can not yet.

So, because Daniel’s buddy Miss Elena has a ferris wheel near her house, I will get asked questions like, “Can we go on the ferris wheel?” in the middle of February, as if we live down the street from the Santa Monica Pier. And then I have to explain we don’t have exclusive access to a ferris wheel like that.

I have also been asked if we can make show-created concoctions, such as “mozies” and “pan pans.” There’s no Unofficial Daniel Tiger Cookbook, so I have to wing those responses. “These dumplings you don’t like are pan-pans.” “One of these day we’ll make mozies…”

The truth is, I like that he prefers to watch Daniel Tiger over some of the other preschool show offerings. He is learning about empathy, cooperation, and patience.

But I could do without the magical and unrealistic expectations Daniel Tiger gives him.

Lesley grew up in New Bedford, MA, came to Boston for college, and stuck around. She holds a master's degree in criminal justice and an MFA in creative writing. Lesley is a playwright and has had her work produced in Boston, New York, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Texas. Lesley lives in Dorchester with her husband and 3-year-old son. She is a proud and unapologetic "one and done" mom. Lesley loves traveling, true crime docs and inspired scripted series, reading, coffee, face masks, and family game nights.

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