Friday, June 24, 2011

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer... where do I start on this one? Well, first I will tell you that before I had a child and just had nieces and nephews, I swore up and down that my child would not watch this show. Dora was (is) annoying. However, that went out the window rather quickly, and not by choice. My son FORCED me to watch this show. He loves playing along with Dora's endless questions. I still think she's shrill.

Let's start with the basics of the program. Dora the Explorer is about a 5 year old Spanish-speaking girl named Dora who likes to explore the world around her. She has many animal friends. Boots the monkey (seen perched on her shoulder) tags along with her everywhere. There is also Benny the cow, Tico the squirrel (who only speaks Spanish), Isa the iguana, The Big Red Chicken, and a most-of-the-time foe, a fox named Swiper. I'll talk more about him in a moment. Other characters in the show are an anthropomorphic backpack and map, each with their own theme song when they are mentioned, and in newer episodes, smiling stars who have different talents and can be caught and added to Backpack's star pocket.

As far as family appearances, we only see Dora's on rare occasions. Dora's parents have only made a couple brief appearances, but her twin baby siblings have made a few (including an episode where they are born, interestingly enough at home!) and even have had a couple of their own dedicated episodes. We have also seen Dora's grandmother at least once, when she bestows the star pocket unto Dora and her backpack. We have also met a few cousins, including Diego who later gets his own spin-off. This is one of my little peeves with the show, because Dora goes on her adventures with no supervision. I know, I should chill because it's just a kids show, but it bugs me. There. I said it.

Dora is an animated series on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in several different and ever-changing time slots. Both channels are only available through cable or satellite providers, please check local listings for times and channels.

The format of the show is basically Dora encounters some sort of problem or obstacle, and must follow her map to get to a destination where the problem will be solved, while solving puzzles and completing tasks along the way.  Dora encourages children to play along with her, asking questions and pausing to give children time to answer for themselves. She usually has to read her map to figure out where to go (and to give the map a chance to sing its song "I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map..."), and she has to find an object in her backpack (and its song is "Backpack, backpack..."). The newer episodes she must also catch stars to put in the star pocket, one of which usually has a special skill that helps her out later in the episode. Also there is usually a chance to foil Swiper the fox from "swiping" something important on their journey by chanting "Swiper no swiping!" three times. 

Ah, Swiper. He deserves his own paragraph. Most of the time, he's just a plain old jerk. When he succeeds at swiping something, he doesn't keep it. He throws it away somewhere inconvenient for Dora and her pals to get to and laughs maniacally as he dashes off into the background. However, occasionally he has a heart and Dora helps him on her adventures. Usually these are the episodes where Swiper is the star and is charged with learning some heartfelt lesson. I think Swiper gets the short end of the stick. I mean, obviously he has a kleptomania problem, and the only help he gets is stern reminders not to do something he apparently enjoys? How fair is that? Swiper, I'm in your court buddy! You take whatever you need to take! Just don't be a jerk and throw it somewhere only the Spanish speaking squirrel can get to, okay?

This show is geared towards preschool aged children, but the bright colored animation appeals to a wider audience, both younger and older. I don't see it being much of a hit for kids older than kindergarten age though (whereas the spinoff show "Go Diego, Go!" might because Diego is older and the lessons are slightly more focused, but more on that in another post).

So, what does your kid learn?
  • Cultural Education: Spanish language and culture, including holidays and festivals.
  • Mathematics: Counting, patterns, colors, shapes, sorting, memory skills.
  • Problem solving: Making choices, answering questions, critical thinking, map reading.
  • Social and Emotional Development: Caring for friends, learning about feelings, taking care of our world, being a good neighbor.
As a parent watching, it's an easy show to get your child to interact with. Dora pauses to allow for the child to shout out their answer, and she (loudly) encourages your child to play along and even help by doing something themselves (flap your arms to help the chicken fly!). And yes, in case you missed that, I pointed out that Dora is LOUD. She seems to yell everything. I know it's just to keep a child's attention, but as a bystander, you're going to be reaching for the volume down button when this show comes on. My husband and I joke that she's an awfully demanding little child for being allowed to travel long distances unsupervised. That's my biggest peeve with the show, the volume. Other than that, I see the benefits of the program when my two year old shouts answers to Dora's questions. It's definitely one of the more interactive programs out there. It's still not my favorite, but I'm not the key demographic on this one.


  1. The one show we don't watch! :)

  2. Shrill is the perfect adjective for Dora. Great post...

  3. I agree about the pauses for your child to answer being annoying I can't stand how loud boots is and his monkey noises drive me nuts!