Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Blaze and The Monster Machines

Blaze and The Monster Machines

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Producer: Nickelodeon
Rating: TV Y

Blaze and the Monster Machines is an animated series airing on Nickelodeon, suggested for viewers ages 2 - 5. Blaze is a Monster Truck and he and his human buddy A.J. are both driven by adrenaline and ready for adventure as they tool around Axel Town. Along the way, they encounter a cast of equally lively pals, including human Gabby, the town's mechanic; and a number of other monster machines. Those characters fit some typical personality types kids will recognize from the playground or pre-school class - among them the shy guy, the daredevil, the extrovert, and yes, the "nemesis" with a competitive streak and a penchant for underhanded behavior.

According to the Nick Jr. website, this program is embedded with STEM curriculum, using "the scientific principles that children encounter in their everyday experiences and relate it to the exciting world of monster trucks." In the episode titled "Epic Sail", a water rescue puts the focus on wind energy. It includes a short and bouncy light rock tune about the ways wind powers our world, from lifting kites to powering turbines, and Blaze and A.J. ultimately use a sailboat to reach their stranded friends. In the episode "Tool Duel", the concepts of "friction" and "resistance" are explained when the town nemesis steals mechanic Gabby's tool box. Our heroes help viewers figure out what it takes to "get a grip" on the road and on the water as they pursue the thief. The episode also includes practice with number-recognition skills, and concepts such as "right" and "left."

Storylines also include elements of Character Development education, incorporating familiar themes such as cooperation, fairness, and seeking fun while still following the rules-but there's still plenty of time for sequences devoted to monster-truck staples like epic jumps, tight turns, and incredible loop-the-loops.

Blaze and the Monster Machines feels too familiar to be a true standout. Kid-vid offers a long list of programs about humanized groups (toys, animals, vehicles, machines, et al) who take on new challenges and in the process learn lessons about strong character, smart choices, and basic problem-solving. Its attention to STEM concepts is admirable but sometimes uneven. For instance, a show aimed at children ages 2 - 5 may not be presenting realistic and age-appropriate educational content simply because it asks little viewer to shout out the word, "hydrofoil!"

Despite its predictability and somewhat uneven attention to STEM content, it's still a high-octane half-hour with some useful points that will hold huge appeal for budding gearheads, helping them figure out their place in the crowd and discover praiseworthy ways to navigate physical and social obstacles they encounter.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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