The Story of When We Watched With Mother


by Malcolm Batchelor.

This 15-minute slot for pre-school children featured some very popular series broadcast on BBC-1 during the day and grew out of the popular radio programme Listen With Mother. Across the years the pre-school strand has been a true reflection of changing times in the UK and the world in general. As the title suggests Watch With Mother was a chance for a bit of Parent-Child bonding but by the 1980’s and into the 1990’s it was more about keeping the child mind occupied until now with non-stop entertainment for the little ones it can be seen as a defacto child minder.

Through The Years

Watch with Mother was the BBC’s umbrella title of individual programmes shown on television to compliment the popular radio programme Listen With Mother.

From 1946 programmes were under the umbrella title of For The Children which had made famous Muffin The Mule with Annette Mills.

In 1950 it was replaced with a few experimental transmissions of Andy Pandy under the banner For The Very Young.

From the summer of 1950 Tuesdays became a regular day for Andy Pandy and it was shown once a week at 3.45pm until the summer of 1952 when it was shown on Thursdays as well.

In December 1952 on Wednesdays The Flowerpot Men joined this new afternoon slot. By 1953 the new umbrella title of Watch With Mother was born and Rag Tag & Bobtail entered the fray.

Picture Book

Then early in 1955 Picture Book was introduced and by December 1955 with the introduction of The Woodentops Watch With Mother was now showing programmes for pre-school children five days a week.

Monday – Picture Book.

Tuesday – Andy Pandy.

Wednesday – The Flowerpot Men. (Bill and Ben).

Thursday – Rag, Tag & Bobtail.

Friday – The Woodentops.

This line-up of programmes remained the same into the mid-1960’s. The 15-minute time slot however was moved back from 3.45pm to 2.30pm by 1959.

In 1962 the slot was moved three times, 2.00pm, 10.30am and back to 2.30pm again.

By the autumn of 1963 two slots a day had emerged with Watch With Mother now going out at 10.45am in the mornings and at 1.30pm lunchtimes.

As there were only the five programmes available they were shuffled around so that in the 1.30pm slot Rag,Tag & Bobtail was on Monday. The Woodentops on Tuesday.

Picture Book on Wednesday. Andy Pandy on Thursday and The Flowerpot Men were on Friday.

By late 1963 Tales Of The Riverbank was put in as part of the next generation of Watch With Mother programmes. Soon to be followed by The Pogles, Bizzy Lizzy, Camberwick Green, Joe and The Herbs. Then Trumpton, Chigley and Mary, Mungo & Midge bringing colour with them into the late 1960’s.

By 1966 just the 1.30pm lunchtime slot remained and this continued until 1973 when it was moved forward to 1.45pm.

Up until now Watch With Mother had been purely a weekday programme. But from 1972 a 15-minute slot was allocated to 9.00am on Saturdays and a lunchtime early afternoon slot around 1.15pm or 1.55pm on Sundays.

Into the 1970’s with Mr.Benn from 1971 and Fingerbobs from 1972.

During 1972 signs of the Watch With Mother banner in the Radio Times were becoming less and less until in 1973 the umbrella title had completely disappeared.


The arrival of the saggy cloth cat.

1974 saw the birth of the all-time classic Bagpuss, followed by Bod and The Mister Men in 1975 and The Flumps in 1977.

By 1978 the Saturday slot had gone and the Sunday slot was put back to 9.00am.

The Monday to Friday slot remained at 1.45pm with 1.30pm during the summer months.

In October 1980 the See-Saw banner appeared in the Radio Times for the first time for the programmes King Rollo and Bric-A-Brac.

Postman Pat made its debut in 1981.

The time slots remained as they were until 1985 when See Saw was dropped on Sundays.

Reverting back to being a Monday to Friday programme again but gaining an extra afternoon slot at 3.55pm or 4.20pm along with the 1.45pm or 1.50pm slot.

Fireman Sam made its debut in 1986.

By 1986 the See-Saw banner was showing signs of diminishing.

In the Autumn of 1987 the See-Saw slot was moved across to BBC-2 and took a 1.20pm or 1.25pm lunchtime slot only.


From 1989 the See-Saw banner had gone completely and although programmes such as Postman Pat, Mr. Benn, and Pie In The Sky were to continue in this lunchtime slot of 1.00pm (1989), 1.20pm (1990) etc and throughout the 1990’s on BBC-2, the slot was now placed under the Children’s BBC banner and hosted a new range of programmes like Greenclaws, Joshua Jones, The Brollys, Philomena’s Cat etc. mixed in with shorter programmes (5 and 10 minutes) such as The Adventures Of Spot and PC Pinkerton.

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