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Sofia the First - TV Show Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Sofia
Photo © Disney
Bottom line: Sofia the First is a Disney TV series for preschoolers that teaches positive life lessons through the experiences of an average little girl who becomes a princess when her mother marries the king.
TV Rating: TV-Y
Genre: Preschoolers
Guide age recommendation: 2-7
Network: Disney

Sofia the First - Overview

This Disney show for preschoolers is set in the storybook world of Enchancia. The village looks much like the village from Beauty and the Beast, and the castle is reminiscent of many famous Disney castles. The little princess who stars in the show is Sofia. Her life changed drastically when her mother married King Roland II, as was told in the TV movie that launched this series, Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess. In each 22-minute episode of the series, Sofia learns a life lesson, or helps someone else learn a lesson, through her experiences in learning to fit in and live a life of royalty.

From dazzling gowns and tiaras to castles and royal servants, no component of Disney's princess image has been missed in this show. Sometimes, classic Disney princesses even come to visit Sofia to help her. Fauna, Flora and Merryweather (the fairies from Sleeping Beauty) are the head mistresses at the school Sofia attends: The Royal Prep Academy. The show also features flying horses and other magical elements. Sofia is not your every day princess, however, she is spirited, independent, and modern in her speech, behaviors and desires. Sofia uses her problem-solving skills and logic to help her overcome challenges, and she solidly models integrity, wisdom, determination, compassion and more for viewing children.

Amber, Sofia and James from Sofia the FirstPhoto © Disney

Sofia the First - Guide Review for Parents

Princesses will never go out of style, but in an age when creativity, DIY, saving money, making do and being happy with what we have is in, it seems that the extremely froufrou and blingy stuff we loved so much last decade isn't as cool now. Sofia's world of castles and ball gowns seems so yesterday, but surprisingly, Disney manages to make it feel new. Sofia and her siblings are modern day kids living in a nostalgic fairytale world, and so far, her adventures are exciting as well as meaningful. Of course, the flying horses are a nice touch as well. Kids will love the magical elements of the show that add spice to the stories, and kids will also like the more mature tone of the show. But will parents appreciate the slightly edgier (as far as preschoolers's shows go) content?

First of all, let me explain what I mean by edgier. Many shows for preschoolers generally avoid conflict or examples of bad behavior. For example, in Little Einsteins, the characters are always kind to each other and rarely behave in ways that would be considered a bad example. The show focuses on their adventures and how they solve problems together. Whereas, shows that portray negative behavior can be a teaching tool for parents, but many parents find that kids imitate the behaviors they see on TV even when that behavior was shown to be undesirable and the characters learned a lesson. For this reason, shows like Ni Hao Ki-Lan get bad ratings from some parents even though the characters learn from their mistakes and resolve their issues.

In the case of Sofia the First, some characters on the show (especially other kids) are rude or otherwise misbehave. The show does a solid job of portraying these behaviors as negative and showing a positive example for viewing kids. But, some parents may be surprised by the degree of meanness some characters exhibit. In the launch movie, for example, Amber is jealous of Sofia and convinces her brother to play a mean trick on Sofia at school. She also embarrasses Sofia and talks unkindly about her with other kids. In the premiere episode, a prince deliberately knocks Sofia off her horse so she won't win the race (Amber is mildly smitten with said prince, which is another element not usually seen in shows for preschoolers).

Additionally, Sofia finds herself in some situations that don't really equate with the life experiences of preschoolers watching the show. Some preschoolers shows try to stay on the same level as preschoolers, so the conflicts characters experience will be things like having a problem because little brother wants to join in on a play date, or feeling frustrated because it's raining outside and they can't go out to play. In Sofia's case, she is sabotaged when trying to prepare for a ball, and she wants to try out for the flying derby race but must overcome gender prejudice and a teammate who tries to cheat in order to win. Horse races are just not on the radar of preschoolers' every day lives.

For these reasons, Sofia the First feels just slightly outside of the box when it comes to preschoolers shows. Now, being outside the box is not necessarily a bad thing. Kids will find the episodes exciting. The morals and themes in the show, so far, are a little deeper and more complex, but the stories are well-written and bring out some great lessons that parents can talk about with kids. With only two episodes of the show available, this is a preliminary review which I'll update after seeing many more episodes. But so far, I think Sofia the First offers kids a unique and truly interesting program. Kids will love it (especially little girls), and it will be interesting to see how the storylines sit with young children and how well they will be able to apply them in their own lives.

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