When you first have a kid, you want to believe that you won’t have your television on 24/7, because every study and website out there lambasts you for even thinking of turning on the boob-tube while your kid is anywhere near it. So, for awhile, you tried to be that household – the one that consumes less television. When you just had to have the television on, you pointed your baby away from it, toward more educational stuff – like the wall.

But let’s be honest – you’re human and you’ve got stuff to do. Once your kid learns to walk, you need some sort of wizard’s spell to keep your kid in one place for more than 2 minutes. Toys and books work for awhile, but eventually, everyone goes back to their old friend, the television. All those flashing colors and animal sounds are like magic spells for a kid. And within reason, you can let your kid watch the television without melting his brain.

Now that my son is learning about the real world, and not just taking Yo Gabba Gabba at face value, I’ve been able to filter some “normal” adult television back into our evening schedules. The four shows I’ve had the most success with, after the jump.

Iron Chef America
And to a lesser degree, most other Food Network shows. It’s a perfect opportunity to help practice the names of foods and colors. Also, I’m finding that my boy just wants to say “mix”, “mess”, and “cook” over and over. Anything that’s yellow, he calls a lemon. Any chicken, beef or pork he calls meat. Anything white is milk. He also incorrectly identifies a truckload of other stuff as “corn” and “peas”, but really what am I going to do? One time he said “peas” and pointed and I said “no buddy, those are…oh, chickpeas.” So, that was the end of my authority on anything.

The only opportunity for mindf**king your kid with Iron Chef is when someone cuts the head off of a live fish. Watching the thing squirming around a cutting board as the chef slams through its spine with a cleaver is not the most eloquent thing in the world. Plus, then it bleeds all over the place, and my kid is just now getting to understand that blood means pain. Usually when it looks like someone’s about to gut a fish, I pull the boy over to me and tickle his armpits, which causes him to double-over. Problem averted. This is where the other home-chef shows have a slight advantage; generally you won’t see Rachel Ray slapping a live trout down on her cutting board.

America’s Funniest Home Videos
Somehow, the affectionately-and-incorrectly-abbreviated AFV is hilarious even to a 2 year old. I mean, who doesn’t love watching peoples’ misfortune, one nut-shot to the next? In fact, I think that might be where my kid got some of his moves. As my son watches video clip after video clip, I see a whole range of emotions go through him. It’s almost like he’s narrating the disasters he’s watching, one or two words at a time: “Oh no…baby…fall…*laughs*…doggie…peepee *laughs*…yayyyyy”

There’s really nothing to be afraid of my son seeing on AFV since it’s a family program to begin with – and he’s thrilled to bits watching babies dump food on their own heads and little toddlers kick their dads in the junk.