The BBC began broadcasting television programmes aimed
specifically at children in 1946. These were broadcast
under the catchall title of “For The Children” and
aired around 5 o'clock each day. Among the favourites
was Annette Mills with the stories of her puppet friends
including Muffin the Mule.
An experiment in the Summer of 1950 saw a programme
aimed at the pre-school audience at home with mother.
Airing at the tail end of entertainment made for housewives, Andy Pandy was a puppet toddler who would encourage the
real toddlers watching to join in his songs and dancing.
The four trial films proved a success and more episodes
were made and heavily repeated on successive Tuesday
afternoons under the banner For The Very Young. Andy
gained a second weekly airing on Thursdays in Summer
1952 but it was clear that more series for toddlers were
Andy Pandy was joined by Bill
and Ben, the mischievous
Flower Pot Men, in December 1952. At this time Head of
Children's Programmes Freda Lingstrom hoped that Andy
and The Flower Pot Men would be joined before long by
more playmates in the new year and hinted these programmes
might well be aired under the new title Watch With Mother.
It wasn't until 1953, with the expansion of programmes
to three afternoons a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and
Thursdays) that the Watch With Mother title finally came
into use. The banner was intended to deflect fears that
television might become a nursemaid to children and encourage
Later additions included Picture
Book and Rag, Tag
and Bobtail, the adventures of a hedgehog, mouse and rabbit.
At last the service became daily with the first episode
of The Woodentops on Friday 9 September 1955.
The classic Watch With Mother line-up was now in place: Picture Book on Monday; Andy
Pandy - Tuesday; The
Flower Pot Men - Wednesday; Rag,
Tag and Bobtail - Thursday; The Woodentops - Friday. This pattern would remain largely
unchanged and be repeated countless times for a decade.
A new generation of series were ushered in with the
60s, including Tales
of the Riverbank, Joe and yet
more puppet/animated series such as Camberwick
Green, Trumpton, Chigley,
and Pogles' Wood. The mid-60s
saw a change in the broadcast pattern, with airings now
at 10.30am, 1.30pm or sometimes both.
With a colour television service imminent many of the
series were now being made in colour with a view to future
repeats. All of the Watch With Mother characters had
been quite heavily merchandised since the 50s; the 60s
saw the launch of Polystyle Publications' magazine Pippin,
a junior companion to their TV Comic.
The early 70s brought in such delights as Fingerbobs, Mary, Mungo and Midge, Mr Benn and the imported Barnaby
but it also saw the end of the longstanding banner title.
The use of the words Watch With Mother became increasingly
rare in Radio Times through 1972 and by early 1973 had
In the 70s, post-Women's Lib, the title seemed dated.
Many children watched at playgroup or with child-minders
while mother went out to work. The pre-school slot continued
nameless through the decade, firmly cemented in its post-lunchtime
Only the occasional use of a see-saw graphic device
in Radio Times in Autumn 1977 tried to link the disparate
programmes together. On 1 October 1980 the abstract title
See-Saw was used for a double bill of King
Bric-a-Brac before quickly spreading to become an umbrella
title for all series through the week.