If you haven’t yet watched Bluey, the heartwarming Australian show for preschoolers (and their parents), then it’s likely you’ve been living under some kind of stone. Premiered in October 2018 and now into its third season, the show follows Bluey, a six-year-old blue heeler puppy, her four-year-old sister Bingo, and their parents, Chilli and Bandit.
My two-year-old son loves Bluey for the insanely catchy opening music (If you’re reading this, creator Joe Brumm, it wouldn’t hurt if it were a little longer!), the depictions of relatable day-to-day occurrences (The garbage truck is always a huge hit.), and Bluey and Bingo’s slightly manic but infinitely loveable cousin Muffin. I suspect, however, that my husband and I enjoy watching Bluey considerably more than he does.
The series has gained consistent praise in the media for its honest depiction of modern family life, constructive parenting, and relatable storylines. Dads across the world want to be Bandit Heeler, a family-focused archaeologist who has boundless energy for imaginative play and always seems to be able to say the right thing to his girls. Moms want to be Chilli, maybe because she’s married to Bandit, but also because she’s a great model of a working mom who knows that not every day is good, and not every day of motherhood fills your cup. The show is both hilariously funny and heart-warmingly sweet, and we love it.
With my love for the Heeler family in mind, I decided to put together a list of parenting life lessons I’ve so-far gleaned from my favorite episodes of the show. If you’re a Bluey mom, I hope you can relate! If you’re not, I hope you’ll find a little wisdom and the inspiration to take five minutes and watch one of the best kids’ shows on TV right now.
1. Run Your Own Race
Let’s start with my favorite episode, “Baby Race,” which never ceases to make me cry (happy tears) however many times I see it. At the park, Chilli is presented with the opportunity to tell Bluey and Bingo about her experience of being a first-time mom, and wanting to ensure that Bluey was meeting milestones at the same time (for this read, earlier) as her peers.
Told across a series of flashbacks, we witness a young Chilli who is totally bowled over by how early Bluey is able to roll over but quickly starts to doubt her (and her mothering ability) as the other pups in the mothers’ group she attends begin sitting, crawling, and walking before she does. The competition heats up as Judo’s mom (I think we all know an incarnation of her.) parades her daughter’s superior progress for all to see. Anyone who has raised a developmental milestone issue with their pediatrician will also relate to her frustrations at Bluey’s doctor’s nonchalant assertions that “some babies” just do things out of order, or slower than their peers.
The crowning glory of this episode is when Bella, a pink poodle who is a veteran mom of nine, comes to the Heeler house to see Chilli, who has stopped going to the mothers’ group out of fear and shame. She gives her the pep talk to end all pep talks, and it’s the one that every first-time/overwhelmed mom needs to hear: “You’re doing great.”
Bluey does, of course, learn to sit, crawl, and walk eventually, and her little sister Bingo benefits from the considerably more laid-back parenting style Chilli adopts when she learns that all kids must ultimately run their own race.
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2. Parenting is Messy
If you’ve seen the back of the Heeler car (multiple episodes, but especially “Road Trip”) then you’ll know just how relatable the mess of snack debris, stickers, small toys, pamphlets, and other useless junk you must buy at a gas station just to keep road trips interesting is to most parents.
Similarly, Bluey’s house (especially in “Duck Cake”) is a refreshing reminder that parents of young children are constantly tripping over large and intricately constructed play areas that cannot possibly be dismantled yet and small pieces of cast-off LEGOs, or tidying a play kitchen at the end of the day, only for it to be utterly decimated in five minutes the next morning. Sure, Instagram influencers might have catalog-perfect homes, but in reality, having a living room full of toys is a rite of passage. My mom reminded me when she visited recently that there’s a relatively quick progression from small toys to large ones, before going back to small toys, then no toys at all.
Bluey serves as a reminder to embrace the chaos because play and toys are the work of childhood. So as I build a wooden train track for the fourth time today, I know that the days of rebuilding it are long, but the years of play are short. And that across the world, parents are doing the same in their less-than-perfect, but very happy, toy-laden homes.
3. The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
The fictional Bluey world equivalent of Lowe’s or Home Depot is called “Hammerbarn,” and the episode of that name is a reminder to kids and adults alike that gratitude for what we have is one of the most important life skills we can teach.
The episode opens with Bandit and Chilli cleaning the outside of their house, when she complains that it’s falling apart. Bluey comes to complain that her watermelon isn’t as red as Bingo’s, and Bandit’s life lesson that “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence” is interrupted when their neighbor, Pat, boasts to him about his new outdoor pizza oven. As dads frequently do, Bandit decides that the family MUST go to Hammerbarn to look at a pizza oven of their own.
At the store, Bandit rushes off to the pizza oven section leaving Chilli with the girls, who sit in the cart and each create their own “garden” using items that Chilli wants to buy (pizza-making gear, gnomes, outdoor lighting, etc.). Bluey ultimately causes a scene as she can’t cope with Bingo having what she perceives to be more or better stuff in her half of the cart. Good old Chilli loses her cool (Which mom wouldn’t?!) when Bluey breaks something, but the girls ultimately learn their lesson that they can’t always have it all, and they play a different, more fun game with free (!) paint sample cards.
At home with their new pizza oven, Bandit and Pat bond over the fact that they can both make great pizza that their kids love, even if it doesn’t always look perfect.
4. Naps are Sacred
In “The Sleepover,” Bluey and Bingo’s cousin Muffin arrives to stay over after skipping her nap that day. Muffin is younger than the girls (She’s three.) and is in the process of dropping her daytime nap. Any mom knows that changing the naptime routine comes with a great deal of anxiety, hilarity, early mornings, and horribly overtired bedtimes. Just to reinforce that Bluey is indeed “for real life,” the Heeler families have to deal with this difficult transition, too.
Chilli has promised Bluey and Bingo that they can stay up late for the sleepover, and the girls don’t intend to let her forget just because Muffin is losing her tiny mind. What follows is a hilarious and heartwarming depiction of toddler overtiredness, kids pushing bedtime boundaries, and imaginative play for the whole family.
When Bluey eventually gets with the program, she stops playing and helps Chilli get cousin Muffin to bed, serving as a reminder that our kids can be incredibly perceptive and great helpers when we trust them to be. There are lots of life lessons at work in this episode (Chief among them is that Uncle Stripe really shouldn’t have taken Muffin over there on a no-nap day, even if it meant breaking a promise, surely?!) but mostly it’s a reminder that, in the early years, it’s OK if naptime is sacred. Family members and friends without kids, or those with older ones well out of the nap loop, may not appreciate the inconvenience of having to plan around your toddler’s nap, but these years are short. For most of us, naptime might be the only time we get in the day to sit down, eat without sharing, catch up on vital tasks, and scroll our phones without guilt. Those things are worth preserving, too.
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5. Share Experiences That Matter
There are probably a lot of Bluey episodes that can speak to this parenting life lesson, but “The Creek“ is a prime example—Bandit agrees to take Bluey, Bingo, and their friend Mackenzie down to the creek where he played as a boy when they grow bored of the park.
Bluey is naturally hesitant and worried by how different the creek is, especially compared to anything she is used to. It’s sticky, grubby, full of bugs and creatures, a little dangerous, and immediately pushes her out of her comfort zone. With her dad’s encouragement, Bluey begins to push herself and find the real beauty of playing at the creek.
Bandit tells the kids that the creek has barely changed since his time there as a boy. He encourages them to jump, explore, and identify leeches, before allowing them to subject him to a mud mask at the creek’s Daddy Day Spa. It’s one of those beautiful moments of sharing a special place that holds great memories, while also creating new ones. Those of us who live close to where we grew up, or at least return to visit relatively frequently, will know the joy of sharing places and experiences that mattered during our own childhoods with our kids as they grow.
6. Sleep Evades Us All
“Sleepytime“ is one of the most beautifully made and well-loved of the Bluey episodes so far, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s a story that offers a new twist on the reality of parenting littles at nighttime. I’ll freely admit that I’m in the throes of toddler bedtime refusal, very early wakes, and nap capping, and that sleep has always been a challenge.
So when the episode opens with Bingo asking Chilli for “just one more story”—and Bingo adorably wanting to be a “big girl” and stay in her own bed all night—I am already ready to love “Sleepytime.” Chilli finishes the book about space and tells Bingo she’s always there if she needs her. Bingo begins to dream about space, inspired by her bedtime story, while it’s actually Bluey who wanders through to her parents’ room for a glass of water (eventually evicting Chilli from her own bed and stealing the blanket from Bandit in the process). Bingo’s dream continues with thoughtful glimpses into the way that her parents, sister, and special bunny Floppy represent the different planets of the solar system that her world occupies.
While Bandit and Chilli have one of “those nights” full of restless sleep, midnight wanderings, and being kicked in the stomach, familiar to most (all?) parents, Bingo is soothed in her dream by the sun, the warm and comforting voice of her mother telling her that she will always love and be there for her. Nighttime parenting—especially of the gentle kind—is hard, relentless, and seldom spoken of before you have children. Kudos to the writers of Bluey for celebrating and acknowledging the need for parents to go the extra mile at night, through toddlerhood and beyond.
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7. The Years Are Short
Last but by no means least, “Camping” is a thoughtful reminder of two parenting truths: 1) we must enjoy the moment, especially when unexpected people and places bring with them new joy, and 2) that the days may seem long, but the years will be very short indeed.
In this episode, Bluey and her family are on a camping vacation when she meets Jean-Luc, a blue-black Labrador from France. Despite the language barrier between the two, they quickly develop a strong friendship. Bluey is really upset when Jean-Luc leaves abruptly without telling her first, and finds it hard to enjoy the rest of the holiday without her new friend.
Sorry for the spoiler here, but the episode ends with a short flash forward, with Bluey and Jean-Luc meeting again as teens. Jean-Luc has by now learned impeccable English and greets a shocked Bluey with a sweet and loving hello. I’m not crying, you’re crying. As we raise our little ones through each age and phase, it can be the smallest moments that leave a lasting impression on their hearts. While the days of toddler tantrums, packed school schedules, and teen angst may seem incredibly long (And they are!) our time to mold and enjoy our children as they grow is limited. We must seize the moment and find joy in it whenever we can.
So, there we have it, my favorite life lessons from Bluey. It might be “just” a kids’ show, but it is such a valuable daily reminder that the important moments in our lives as parents happen every day, not just when we make space for fancy vacations or try to keep up with our neighbors, but when we take the time to stop, listen, and connect while we take out the garbage or make an imperfect birthday cake.
If your little one loves the Heeler family, which is your favorite episode and why? (Another one of my favorites is “Muffin Cone”!)