Little House Kids

“Are there two ‘Little Houses’ tonight or just one?” Olivia asks as we get home after school and work.

“I don’t know,” let’s check.

So, the first thing we do when we get in the house is turn the TV to the Hallmark channel.

I introduced my elementary-aged son and daughter to the “Little House on the Prairie” series a few months ago. It was definitely one of my favorite shows as a kid in the '70s and '80s. Every Monday at 7 p.m., our family tuned in to the adventures of the Ingalls family.

I didn’t realize that now, in 2012, this would become my daughter’s favorite show, too.

To me, the answer why she likes it is simple. This Western drama delivers quality messages to viewers. And it’s a family program. It’s hard today to find a prime time show on the major networks that a family can watch together. The topics today just don't seem appropriate for young eyes.

“Little House on the Prairie” is an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling series of “Little House” books. The show stars Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as Charles, Laura’s dad. It’s based on the life of the Ingalls family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota in the late 19th century.

Sometimes the show tackles a tough issue, like bullying, cheating, or prejudice. One episode was particularly interesting to my kids. It was about a new doctor who came to practice medicine in Walnut Grove. The town’s doctor, Dr. Baker, was excited about this new assistant, a university-trained physician name Caleb LeDoux. That is…until he meets him. Mrs. Oleson, the local town gossip, thinks Dr. LeDoux is French…again until she meets him. Dr. Baker, Mrs. Oleson and many in the community face their own prejudices because Dr. LeDoux is black.

The Ingalls family is among the few to accept Dr. LeDoux. When a pregnant white woman suffers complications from her pregnancy, her racist husband refuses to let Dr. LeDoux save her life. Luckily, Charles Ingalls intervenes and the mother and baby are fine. Dr. Baker then gives a moving speech at church, basically apologizing to Dr. LeDoux and his wife and asking them to stay in Walnut Grove.

At the end of the show, my kids had questions…about the treatment of Dr. LeDoux. This provided a teaching moment where I talked to them about the Civil War and equal rights for everyone, no matter their skin color.

“I have a friend at school who has brown skin, and I like her,” Olivia said sweetly.

“That’s great, honey! That’s why President Abraham Lincoln led our country through the Civil War, so we could all be friends.”

That night, I told my husband about the show, and the awesome learning opportunity it provided. I could see his eyes tear up a bit.

This is why I watched “Little House on the Prairie” as a kid. And this is why I’m glad we can continue to watch this 1970s show in 2012.

What are those favorite classic shows that your kids now like, too? I'd love to hear from you!


About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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Taryn Vanderford loves being a mom to her two elementary-aged kids, Jacob and Olivia.  Activities with the kids and a full-time job keep Taryn pretty busy, but in her free time she enjoys taking pictures, reading, Jazzercising, gardening, traveling and playing the piano for church.