Let’s be honest, kid’s programming
is the worst can be pretty annoying even at the best of times. But there is value to be found if, in the midst of dinosaurs singing and dancing or a monkey causing a huge ruckus in an Italian restaurant, there are lessons taught while entertaining your young audience. I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly stoked when my son first selected a Wonder Pets! DVD at the library, but he would not be swayed, and at least it wasn’t The Wiggles (NOT welcome in my home) or Power Rangers. Over the course of several years, I have come to not only accept Linny the guinea pig, Tuck the turtle, and Ming-Ming the duckling’s occasional presence in my home, but to consider myself lucky when it isn’t something much more irritating. (I’m looking at you, Dino Dan.)
This trio of unlikely heroes are classroom pets that travel the globe to help rescue animals and sometimes insects in need of assistance. Most of the dialoged is sung, and the animation is done with puppets and what looks to be little kids’ art work with construction paper flowers and cotton ball clouds. I appreciate the creativity and attention to detail in making every aspect feel as though it really could be from the minds and hands of preschoolers. The comedy is intentional with a good mix of irony and sarcasm, usually provided by Ming-Ming, who pronounces her “R” sounds like a “W.”
So, without further delay, here are five good lessons that our kids are inadvertently learning from the Wonder Pets!
1. “What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”: Working cooperatively with others is the principal lesson imparted in each episode. None of the tiny creatures would be able to accomplish their goal on his or her own. They must work together to problem-solve and overcome any and all challenges. “We’re not too big and we’re not too tough, but when we work together, we’ve got the right stuff!”
2. Perseverance: In conjunction with teamwork, this is the attribute that allows this little band of heroes to succeed in their countless missions. There are often several challenges in each episode and they aren’t always easily overcome. But, like anyone who hopes to be successful in life, they don’t let a few setbacks deter them from their objective. They reflect on how they’ve solved problems in the past, get “se-wious,” and get the job done. Their ability to stick with a challenge and see it through to the end without becoming frustrated is a good lesson for kids of any age.
3. Empathy and compassion: In every episode, Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming too are called upon to rescue animals, insects, and imaginary creatures in need of their help. The call comes at the end of a busy school day and the crew is ready to relax. Once the call comes, though, they don’t even consider not going out to help the creature in desperate need of their assistance. When they reach their destination, they try their best to allay the fears and concerns of the one in need of rescuing. Tuck often offers hugs and keeps the animal company while the other two work to resolve the issue at hand.
4. Introduction of different animals and cultures: The Wonder Pets! offer their services to any creature in need of it. Sometimes the rescue occurs in their own classroom, but, more often than not, the trio must travel far and wide to reach the distressed animal. Your child will get a glimpse of Greece when the crew goes there to help the Inchworm whose friend the Caterpillar is transforming into a butterfly. They will be exposed to Venice when the pets help save the Kitten, Japan to help the Crane, India to assist the Bengal Tiger, Costa Rica to rescue the Gecko, Kenya to help the baby Elephant, and on and on. At the very least, your child will be introduced to the idea that this world is made up of many different animals, regions, and cultures.
5. “Be happy with what you have.”: This song, featured in Wonder Pets! Save the Nutcracker was permeating my house the other night as I was preparing dinner. It caught my attention because it is the very same message that I am constantly trying to get my son to understand. Being happy with what he has, is a quality I dearly want my son to possess. I want him to be able to look at what he has and what he’s able to do and to be grateful for it. His good health and strong mind are nothing to be taken lightly, but I’m not sure he’s old enough to derive that from the scenario of the trio only finding one gift lying under their tiny Christmas tree and the disappointment that this dearth of presents causes. Their sorrowful attitudes transform once Tuck changes the perspective by singing, “One present is better than none.” Indeed. Two ninja turtles may not be as good as four, but two is certainly better than none at all.
There you have it, folks. Your kids can be entertained and educated at the same time. The true bonus is that the show is quite funny and won’t have you wanting to chuck your TV out of the window.