Adoption Issues in PBS Kids show Dinosaur Train


My boys love watching a show, on PBS Kids, called Dinosaur Train. They’re boys, so of course they love a show that combines two of their favorite things-dinosaurs and trains. When I actually sat down to watch this show with them I noticed that there is a lot more to it than just dinosaurs and trains. The show is about a pteranodon family, Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon and their children, Tiny, Shiny, Don and a tyrannosaurus rex named Buddy. Essentially the show is a about a trans-species adoption which, is the animal version of transracial adoption. The theme song explains the concept of the show fairly well:

Once upon a time, there was a mom.

Her name was Mrs. Pteranodon.

Sitting on her nest, she heard a scratch’n.

She said, "Oh Boy! My eggs are hatching!"

One by one her kids popped free.

Baby pteranodons. One. Two. Three.

"I’ll name you Tiny, Shiny, and Don"

But Tiny said, "Wait! There’s one more Mom!"

The last little baby was a different size

with teeth and a tail and big green eyes.

He didn’t look anything like the rest.

"What am I doing in a pteranodon nest?"

But dear old Mrs. Pteranodon said,

"This is your family and I’m your mom."

"We may be different but we’re all creatures.

All dinosaurs have different features."

"C’mon Buddy. We’ll take a vacation.

I’ll get us a ticket at Pteranodon station.

We’ll travel the world in sunshine and rain and meet all the species on the dinosaur train."

In the beginning, Buddy doesn’t quite feel like he fits into the Pteranodon family; for instance, he can’t fly or catch fish like they do. This sends the Pteranodon family to try to discover Buddy’s species of dinosaur. They compare and contrast the differences between Buddy and the Pteranodons. I love how the entire family joins in on the search to find out where Buddy came from. While I don’t think they ever find or even discuss Buddy’s birth parents, the notion that Buddy wants to learn more about his heritage is very prevalent. I think it is great that his adoptive family supports him to embrace and explore who he is. During one episode, Mr. Pteranodon tells his children about his ancestors and Buddy asks about his ancestors. They embrace the fact that the Pteranodon’s family is also Buddy’s family but that Buddy also has T-Rex ancestors as well. The discussion reflects the conversations that many adoptive families have in their home.

Even though Buddy is adopted, adoption is not the central theme of the show. The shows are back-to-back 11-minute episodes with a short segment from, Dr. Scott, the paleontologist, who reviews the episode and shares more interesting dinosaur facts in between. Dinosaur Train is very educational and teaches the classification of dinosaurs as carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. I think I have even learned a thing or two about dinosaurs! The Pteranodon family travels on the dinosaur train through the Mesozoic era through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods, to learn and explore dinosaur facts. A velociraptor, named the Conductor, shares his knowledge of dinosaurs with the Pteranodon family and he encourages scientific thinking skills and prompts discussion and exploration among the kids. They explore a variety of science issues like how the earth rotates around the sun and questions such as why it is cold at night and warmer during the day. They discuss issues such as how the dinosaurs use their different features to their advantage for protection, to find food and for camouflage.

I love to hear my kids repeat the large words and this show always seems to prompt many interesting discussions in our home including adoption related issues. The show completely avoids the issue that some dinosaurs hunt and kill other dinosaurs- for the sake of it being a kid’s show all of the dinosaurs are friends. I really appreciate the non-violent spin on dinosaurs, especially since the show is geared toward 3-6 year olds. Dinosaur Train is very educational and I love the adoption theme. Check it out on PBS Kids!

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.