Monday, June 27, 2011


Caillou (pronounced "kai-you" for you newbies... don't feel bad, I called him "kally-oh" at first) is one of those shows that you either love it, or you hate it. I will openly admit, initially I was in the "hate it" camp. However, what I like and what my two year old likes are sometimes two different things. And so, I watch Caillou. He's not as bad as I once thought.

Caillou is a four year old boy who experiences things in life. Caillou has a family consisting of a mom and dad (whose names are not expressly mentioned, however upon digging I found out they are technically named Doris and Boris... I don't blame them for not sharing) and a two year old little sister named Rosie. We also meet Caillou's grandma and grandpa, who I have deduced to be his dad's parents. He also has a pet cat named Gilbert. Depending on which season you watch, you may or may not encounter puppet characters based on his pet and favorite toys (Gilbert and toys Rexxie and Teddy). Caillou attends "play school" aka preschool, and has several friends, including Clementine, twins Jason and Jeffrey, and Leo. He also plays with his older neighbor Sarah on occasion.

For the most part, the show's design follows the original books' layouts in terms of look. Borders of the screen are blurred in a way to mimic illustrations in the books, and the colors are almost a watercolor effect. The show is narrated by an older woman, as if she were reading a story. In the newer versions, the stories themselves are broken up by songs about siblings, friends, and helping... that sort of thing. However, in older versions there are generally two or three stories that are interconnected by topic.

The show itself isn't deeply educational. Caillou learns things about his world in much the same way your child does. He goes places with his parents, he learns things in school, and he just lives life. Most of the lessons your child will take away are those dealing with friendships and the way the world works. He also encounters different people doing different jobs around the city: police officers, postal workers, firefighters, construction workers, etc. Caillou often imagines himself in these roles as well.

One thing I hear a LOT of my parent friends complain about when it comes to Caillou is his voice. During the newer seasons, the voice actor changed, and with that change came a change in the character of Caillou himself. The newer voice actor makes Caillou a lot more whiny of a child than in older years. Along with this, his parents seem to dote on his whines a lot more than they used to, which as a parent watching, can really make you want to reach through the screen and remind them that they are indeed the parents and therefore the parties in charge. They really don't need to cave into what their four year old is demanding of them.

Another often-heard complaint I hear about Caillou is that he is bald. I did some digging on my own (back when I was dying to know what his parents' names were), and found out that the reason behind Caillou's lack of follicles is because that the series is based on a series of books in which Caillou is actually younger than his television counterpart. Younger children tend to have less hair, and therefore, in keeping with the book style, TV Caillou has no hair either. While it's a valid explanation, I still think they could have given him at least a tiny hint of hair, like Charlie Brown, who at least has those strange bangs.

The show does a great job of showing tight family bonds, something I'll admit I don't see a lot of in kids television. The family genuinely likes spending time with one another, and Caillou loves playing with his little sister. Is it realistic? Not a chance. But, as we often tell our children, it's fun to pretend.

Caillou is shown on both PBS and Sprout channels. PBS is available on basic television, while Sprout is only available through cable or satellite providers. Check your local listings for times and channels. I know for a fact that currently Sprout shows an hour of Caillou daily at noon (including weekends) EST, followed by Sesame Street. There are also lots of Caillou DVDs, many of which are available on Netflix instant play. 

What your child learns:
  • Social and Emotional Development: Empathy, caring for friends, neighbors, and family, learning about emotions, valuing family.
  • Learning about Society: Different jobs, places to go, how to stay safe in public, school life.
  • Fostering Imagination: Pretend play, dress up, picturing the future, etc.
There isn't much else I can say about Caillou except that my son is utterly and inexplicably drawn to this program. Recently, putting Caillou on my Netflix instant was the only way to derail a massive "Daddy left without me" tantrum. I'm not sure if it's the soft watercolors, the soothing grandma-esque narrator, or what, but it worked. As a parent, it's not my favorite show, but I'm getting to the point of tolerance after a year and a half of watching it. You may not be so lucky, so consider yourself warned. Your child may just fall in love with it to spite you. Good luck.


  1. my boys love to imitate Cailou's tantrum from the opening titles. they beat their fist on the floor.
    I could have written that first paragraph! I think your childs love of a show makes you like it aswell.

  2. That was an awesome summary of the show. My 1.5 year old lives the show. I think because it's a little boy who he can relate to. Although, when he gets older I would rather him not watch it & catch onto the tantrums & somewhat bratty behavior, like mentioned

  3. As a parent who just welcomed a new one into our household the fact that Caillou is focussed on the needs of his younger siblling has helped out a lot in the transition with our almost 3 year old. My son is fascinated by Caillou. My only complaint is that sometimes the story arcs have Caillou behaving poorly, only to correct his behaviour later on. Sometimes our son will focus on the negative behaviour and forget about the correct manner to behave.