Who Inspired That Cartoon?

We know our kids’ favorite cartoon or storybook characters. We can list their names, tell their jokes, possibly even remember what they are usually wearing. But, do we know what inspired these lovable characters? Some of us might assume that the illustrated object of our child’s affection was created in a darkened computer studio somewhere in Hollywood, where children are simply test subjects and demographics. This might be the case for some children’s media, but a little research shows that many of today most loved characters were created for or inspired by real boys and girls just like our own.

Some examples:

Olivia the Pig- This rambunctious piglet makes mischief and fun everywhere she goes. Her creator, Ian Falconer, created the character as a gift for his brand new baby niece. The book was eventually picked up by a publishing house that had been impressed by Falconer’s work with The New Yorker. Today, Olivia is the star of various picture books, board books and gifts. Olivia toys can be purchased at many toy stores across the nation and she has her own animated television show on Nick Jr.!

Charlie and Lola- This is yet another television show adapted from popular children’s picture books. The characters are Charlie and his younger sister, Lola. Much of the stories surround the duo’s relationship and the everyday scenarios that most brothers and sisters encounter. The author, Lauren Child, was inspired to create the series of books after meeting a young, inquisitive stranger on a train in Denmark!

Thomas the Train- Although not based on an actual child, this very popular character comes from a series of train stories told, originally, from father to son at bedtime. Those stories—published as The Railway Series books—were developed into a British television show that eventually made its way through various adaptations and into the Thomas and Friends series that we all know and love.


It appears that inspiration is all around us! It might only be a matter of time until your lovable child becomes the next star of his own television series!

Hop on the Dinosaur Train with Dr. Scott

The PBS television show Dinosaur Train is enjoying a successful run as one of modern preschoolers’ favorite shows. It pairs two of their favorite things—trains and dinosaurs—and follows an adorable young tyrannosaurus named Buddy as he discovers the differences between dinosaur species. During each episode of the show, Buddy and his adoptive family of pteranodons travel on the Dinosaur Train to meet different dinosaurs and explore different prehistoric time periods. But one of the aspects of this show that makes it so great is the depth of actual scientific knowledge it offers for kids. And “Dr. Scott” has a lot to do with that.

Dr. Scott D Sampson is a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and educator who appears as the trusted expert at the end of every Dinosaur Train episode. After Buddy and his family have had their adventures, Dr. Scott appears on the scene to help young viewers wrap up the content of the episode into a cohesive concept. With the help of a few small children who answer his science questions onscreen, Dr. Scott closes the show with a solid “take it home” element that many children’s shows simply don’t have. It’s nice have an expert on board the Dinosaur Train!

If your kids have not seen Dinosaur Train, check it out! The Dinosaur Train storybook, I Am A T. Rex, is a good introduction to the show’s concept. And, in addition to television programming, you can order a few DVDs here. What kid wouldn’t enjoy learning more about prehistoric animals with the help of both the sweet dinosaurs on the show and the resident expert, Dr. Scott? It’s only a matter of time before your kids become experts themselves and you’ll need them to explain the difference between the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods!

A New Chuggington DVD!

Just in time for summer break, there’s a new Chuggington DVD for your kids to enjoy!


In “Wilson And The Ice Cream Fair,” the Chuggington trainees are embarking on new adventures, this time to an ice cream fair, the mayor’s banquet, and the ice caves! Wilson is the main character, but Brewster, Koko, Old Puffer Pete, and Mtambo make an appearance on the DVD, as well. By following along, your kids will learn lessons about cooperation, bravery, and responsibility.

The DVD is about sixty minutes long and was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, the company that distributed Thomas & Friends videos up until a few years ago. This is the seventh Chuggington DVD they’ve released. Other releases include “Let’s Ride The Rails” and “Traintastic Adventures.” In addition to the Chuggington DVDs, Anchor Bay Entertainment also distributes childhood favorites like Nick Jr’s Wubbzy and the storybook-based Eloise DVDs.

“Wilson And The Ice Cream Fair” is available in DVD stores nationwide and can be purchased online. If you want to know more before you buy it, you can even watch the trailer!

Let PBS Help Your Kids Learn All Summer

Summer is finally here and I’m sure your kids are very excited! After countless hours spent studying math, science, and reading during the past nine months, that final school bell signifies freedom to them. The sun is out, the pool is open, and it’s time to stop learning, right? Wrong! Summer doesn’t necessarily mean the learning ends; it simply means that parents may have to find creative ways to keep their kids’ minds turned “on” while still allowing them their much-needed vacation from school. Thankfully, our good friends at Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) are already on the task, providing multiple television shows that will engage your children in fun while educating them, too. The programs that PBS Kids provides, both on television and their kid-friendly website, will provide both entertainment and a quality education for your children on these days off.

Some of our favorite PBS Kids programming:

Sid the Science Kid- This show is perfect for preschoolers and early elementary school children who have a natural curiosity and interest in science and discovery. The show follows a funny preschooler named Sid as he searches for answers to questions such as, “Where did the water go?”

Super Why!- Does your child need a little extra help developing their literacy skills? Or maybe your child simply loves books! The PBS show Super Why! follows four young storybook characters as they use their special literacy powers to solve a problem in a different story.

Dinosaur Train- This is the perfect educational programming for children who love dinosaurs, trains, or both! In Dinosaur Train, we meet a family of dinosaurs who have adopted a dinosaur of a different species as one of their own. Together, the family travels on the Dinosaur Train to visit and learn about other species of dinosaurs.

A note to parents: Be proactive about educating your children, even when school is out of session! PBS provides an excellent online resource for parents where you can find information about their programming, lessons and projects related to the shows themselves, and general ideas for continuing your child’s education year-round.

Beach Time!

Summer is almost here, which means that many of us are gearing up for an annual family vacation! If this is your child’s first trip to the beach, or if your trip will be a particularly long one, you may want to consider bringing along his or her favorite friends:

Before packing for your trip, read Olivia Learns to Surf together to get your child in the mood for a vacation and then let your little girl try on her Disney Princess swimsuit before she packs it in her suitcase. Don’t forget a hat to block those harmful sun rays! If your child is a fan of Yo Gabba Gabba! you can have this Brobee bucket hat personalized!

You can purchase beach towels featuring all your child’s favorite characters—Strawberry Shortcake, Super Why!, Ben 10, and Caillou. (Those can all be personalized, as well!) Before you leave, pack a good beach bucket like this Thomas & Friends tin pail. And then put together a healthy lunch and grab your child’s Clifford lunch box to bring it along.

To keep it all together, toss it in a big, linen bag like The Wiggles Summer Fun Tote Bag and head out the door! Now, on a family vacation, a day at the beach, or a sunny day in the park, your child can have all their favorite friends along for the adventure.