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What dads learn from 'Daniel Tiger' and 'Elmo'

A father reviews three kids programs: "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," "Elmo's World" and "Thomas & Friends."

Before I became a father, there were many things I didn’t know.

For instance, there is a whole world of weird YouTube videos for kids. My toddler loves these clips in which people open plastic or animated eggs with surprises inside. I am not a fan.

But there are alternatives to the weird egg videos. My son likes to watch "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," an animated spin off of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," because it begins with a red trolley and my son loves anything with wheels. Meanwhile, the show reminds me how much I loved the original, and it must be tapping into some deep childhood reserves, because I find the opening song -- a variation on "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" -- way more calming than I probably should.

Here's what else I've enjoyed about "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" and some other kid shows.

(Disclosure: I’ve been a dad for less than two years. I haven’t watched every episode of these shows or any additional spin offs. I have many more years of research ahead of me.)

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”

Pros: This show has pretty much become my guide for “how to be a parent” // “how to talk about feelings // “how to turn basic skills into songs.” I used to make jokes about its simple songs. But now I find myself singing “Clean up, pick up, put away, clean up every day” multiple times a week, usually near bedtime. On a good night, my son yells "Clean up" and the rest of the night goes smoothly.

Cons: I have nothing bad to say about this show, although I do like making jokes to myself about one of Daniel's friends, Prince Wednesday, being spoiled and O the Owl complaining too much.

How we watch: Netflix and

Who likes it more: Probably me. My son likes saying "hi" to Daniel at the beginning and any time the trolley shows up. But I like all of it.

“Elmo’s World - Sesame Street”

Pros: My favorite part of the “Elmo’s World” segment on “Sesame Street” is whenever Elmo -- the red, furry and friendly Muppet -- says, “Now, let’s ask a baby” or a variation of that phrase.

In one video, Elmo asks a baby to show him how to catch a ball. Elmo hands the ball to the baby, who promptly does nothing. The ball drops. Elmo watches it bounce away.

“Thank you, baby!” Elmo says.

Some of my other favorite questions:

“Baby, how do you pretend to be a penguin?”

“Baby, how do you jump over something?”

“How do you get dressed, baby?”

The babies pretty much always do the same thing, which is to say, nothing. The only difference is whether they seem happy when Elmo kisses them. But I keep watching. For one, it seems like the show is acknowledging the absurdity behind so much of parenting children/making TV for children. And who knows? Maybe the baby is going to do something this time!

Cons: Back when I watched “Sesame Street,” Elmo wasn’t such a big deal. His own segment was added to the show in the late 1990s when I was in high school. So I don’t really have any nostalgic affection for him.

Also, I could use less of Elmo’s laugh, and I don’t really get the appeal of the fish Dorothy.

How we watch: YouTube and

Who likes it more: Kind of a tie. I think some of the jokes are legitimately funny. My son’s love for Elmo came before we watched “Elmo’s World.” He reads Elmo books at home and has an Elmo chair for book reading at daycare. Still, there are lot of different skits within “Elmo’s World,” and our interest in each varies.

“Thomas & Friends”

Pros: When you watch on Netflix, it feels like train TV show roulette: Which era am I watching? Is it going to be a CGI animation version? Or is it one using models? Am I getting Ringo Starr as a narrator? Or George Carlin? Pierce Brosnan?

Having these kinds of questions keeps things interesting.

I prefer “Thomas & Friends” over some of the train competitors, such as “Dinosaur Train” and “Chuggington.” Both shows have their charms, but they feel louder with younger sounding characters yelling. “Thomas & Friends” seems like it’s making no effort to be cool, which is refreshing.

Cons: I have no memory of watching this, or an ancestor of it, as a kid, so it doesn’t get any nostalgia points.

The message seems like it’s always the same: The trains need to work hard. The trains need to not get distracted from their work. The trains must do this work so nothing bad happens on the beloved island of Sodor. All hail, the beloved island of Sodor.

How we watch: Netflix and YouTube

Who likes it more: My son, because there are plenty of wheels.

If you go

What: “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!” is a theatrical production that features characters from the TV show, singing and dancing.

Where: Hershey Theatre, 15 E. Caracas Ave., Hershey

When: There will be a 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. performance on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Cost: $20 to $53.  

For more information or to order tickets: Call 717-534-3405, or visit or