If you have a young child who likes princesses, your child should be watching Sofia the First. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, Sofia is a Disney Junior cartoon about a young village girl who suddenly becomes a princess when her mother marries the King of a mythical land called “Enchancia”. She attends a school just for royal children with her new siblings, and has adventures adjusting to royal life.
EC just discovered Sofia about 6 months ago, but I think we’ve seen pretty much every episode by now (some of them I could probably recite by heart). I think I’m pretty good at shamelessly manipulating my children into only liking shows I can tolerate, but I actually find that I like Sofia. Here’s why.
Unexpected delights in the actors voicing the characters. The first time I watched, I remember thinking “That Baileywick guy sounds just like Tim Gunn!” until I realized it WAS Tim Gunn!! As I watched more, I recognized more and more voices, including Wayne Brady as Clover (Sofia’s rabbit friend), Sara Ramirez as Sofia’s mother, and Ariel Winter (from Modern Family) as Sofia. The last one took me longer to figure out than it should have – one of those how-did-I-not-recognize-her-before moments.
It’s cute without being saccharine. Sofia is a nice girl who wants to be friends with everyone (including animals). Her magical amulet allows her to talk to animals, which adds another dimension of cuteness. Sofia treats everyone equally regardless of species or social standing. She also expects everyone to have the same good intentions she does, and she’s not afraid to let them know (nicely of course) when they disappoint her.
The kids are sweet and normal (just, you know… royalty). Sofia and her peers encounter the same problems that real kids do. Well, mostly anyway. I guess real kids don’t have people stealing their magical necklaces, or baby dragon friends whose fire makes it hard for them to sing. But Sofia encounters “mean girls” (and somehow makes them nicer), bad sports, cutthroat competitors, and jealous siblings… there’s even an episode where her brother breaks a window and she takes the blame, and of course they both learn lessons about honesty.
There are parents/adults visible and involved (and not annoying, either). I’ve never watched Caillou, or Max and Ruby, or lots of the other kids’ shows that I hear parents complain about, but a common complaint I hear is that the parents either never appear or are just as annoying as the kids. Sofia’s mother and stepfather (who she happily calls “Dad”) are kind, loving parents who seem to want to raise good children.
It teaches good lessons. Teamwork, cooperation, kindness, selflessness, honesty… what more do you want? And it does it without being preachy. As often as Sofia (kindly) shows someone else a different choice, she makes mistakes herself and learns from them.
Even the bad guys aren’t really bad guys. The closest thing the series has to a recurring “bad guy” character is Cedric, the royal sorcerer, who is the only one who knows that Sofia’s amulet has magical properties, and is constantly scheming to steal it. He never succeeds because he’s actually a pretty mediocre sorcerer… and I also think that deep down, he can’t help but like Sofia, which adds a slight layer of guilt for his devious thoughts. I mean, really, she’s hard to dislike!
So, if you haven’t yet, check it out. What shows do your kids watch that you actually enjoy, too?