My husband and I are quite selective about what our children watch. In fact, they don't watch any live television, but they've seen their share of Pixar films. For entertainment and language comprehension, though, my four-year-old daughter and I occasionally watch French cartoons on YouTube while her little brother naps. Here are my top four favorite French cartoons (dessins animés) for young children, selected for their clear language, amusing and age-appropriate plots, and entertainment value:
Trotro is a young donkey character originally from children's books by Bénédicte Guettier. The three- to four-minute TV episodes revolve around his interactions with his parents, his friends Lili and Boubou, and Nana, his curly-haired love interest. The episodes only date from 2004 but their simple animation makes them seem like a nostalgic cartoon from your own childhood. You'll find a list of all the episodes in order at Planet Jeunesse. YouTube also includes episodes translated into German.
2. Léo et Popi
Léo is a two-year-old boy with a stuffed monkey ("Popi"), both characters originally from Helen Oxenbury's Tom and Pippo book series from the late 80s and 90s. What I appreciate about the animated series is the clear and descriptive narration, which is a great example of how to use French with children who aren't speaking yet. The two-minute episodes have prompted the sale of many stuffed Popi dolls in France as well as subscriptions to Popi magazine, which is great for toddlers--you'll find my review here).
3. T'Choupi et Doudou
Hands down, T'Choupi is my daughter's favorite French cartoon. T'Choupi is a penguin-like boy created by Thierry Courtin in the 1990s. His book series has sold more than 6 million copies and inspired a full-length film in 2004. (The books are good for learning basic vocabulary as they usually include a brief visual dictionary of the nouns used.) Doudou (a generic French term for a soft, cuddy toy) is the animated teddy bear who accompanies T'Choupi on his adventures along with Pilou and Lalou.
4. Petit Ours Brun
Had I grown up in a Francophone environment, I'm sure Petit Ours Brun would have been part of my childhood memories. Dating from 1975, Petit Ours Brun was originally a character for Pomme d'Api magazine. While I find the episodes simplistic, the stories are perfect for reading to babies and toddlers. (You can also find his stories in Popi magazine, mentioned above.)
What are you and your child's favorite cartoons to watch in a language other than English?