Ultimate List of Top TV Shows for Kids: Entertaining and Educational Series for All Ages
In today's fast-paced world, finding quality entertainment for kids can sometimes be a daunting task. With the vast array of options available, it can be overwhelming to determine what shows are both enjoyable and educational. Luckily, we have compiled a list of the top TV shows for kids that not only captivate young audiences but also provide valuable lessons and entertainment. From beloved classics like Sesame Street and The Flintstones to newer hits like Bluey and Octonauts, there's something for kids of all ages to enjoy. So, grab a bowl of popcorn, gather the family, and get ready to embark on a journey through the wonderful world of children's television.
When it comes to screen time, finding quality TV shows that kids will love while also keeping parents sane can be a challenge. That's why we've compiled a list of 13 guilt-free TV shows for kids that real parents and parenting experts swear by. These shows not only entertain, but they also provide educational value and teach important life lessons. From the classic favorites to new YouTube series, there's something here for every family.
Numberblocks is a catchy cartoon that makes learning math fun for preschoolers. Created in collaboration with the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, this show covers numbers, counting, and basic math skills. Parents have praised the show for its ability to turn their kids into math whizzes. In fact, one mom even had to buy the Numberblocks math cubes so her child could count along. It's not uncommon for kids who watch this show to have a better understanding of math than their older siblings!
Watch it on: Youtube and Netflix
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
For those who grew up on Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a must-watch. This popular PBS Kids show follows Daniel and his family on relatable everyday adventures. It's not just entertaining, though. The show provides practical wisdom and teaches valuable life skills, such as managing emotions and dealing with difficult transitions. Parents have found themselves reciting Daniel Tiger songs to help their children navigate real-life challenges. Plus, there's even a free app that provides additional resources for caregivers.
Watch it on: Amazon Prime, PBS Kids
Bluey is a universally-loved Australian animated TV series that captures the essence of modern parenting and marriage. While it may appear to be about a family of heeler dogs engaging in imaginative play, it offers much more than that. With its social-emotional learning, problem-solving, and relatable storylines, Bluey provides valuable lessons for both kids and parents. The episodes are short and sweet, making it an ideal choice for family viewing.
Watch it on: Disney, Disney Jr., and the Disney Channel
Sesame Street has been a beloved children's show for over 50 years and continues to set the standard for educational entertainment. It offers a fun and diverse approach to learning, covering a wide range of topics through humorous skits, vibrant animations, and memorable characters like Big Bird, Grover, and Elmo. The show's impact goes beyond entertainment, as it promotes inclusivity, emotional intelligence, and cultural awareness. Watching Sesame Street is a nostalgic experience that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Sesame Street streams on HBO Max and PBS Kids.
Little Einsteins takes preschoolers on exciting adventures around the world, teaching them about art, music, and culture along the way. This show incorporates classical music and art to stimulate brain development and inspire creativity. Real children's voices are used to give life to the characters, making it relatable and engaging. Parents might even learn something new themselves while watching with their kids!
Watch it on: Disney
Rainbow Rangers is an action-adventure series that combines magical elements and ecological themes. While it may have a moral message, the show doesn't skimp on entertainment value. It follows a group of girls with special powers, similar to the X-Men, as they tackle various challenges. Celebrity guest appearances add an extra touch of excitement. Rainbow Rangers offers a unique blend of fantasy and valuable life lessons.
Rainbow Rangers streams on Netflix.
Teen Titans Go!
Teen Titans Go! is a superhero show like no other. It cleverly incorporates DC comics canon and meta-awareness to create a hilarious and entertaining series. The show strikes a balance between fun and educational content, making it perfect for kids and adults alike. It's a great entry point to the DC Universe while still delivering on the superhero action and humor.
Teen Titans Go! streams on HBO Max.
The Magic Garden
The Magic Garden is a whimsical and musical show that takes place in a magical garden. Hosted by Carole Demas and Paula Janis, the show features enchanting songs, delightful puppet characters, and imaginative storytelling. It's a unique and captivating show that sparks creativity and brings joy to young viewers. The hosts recently reunited for live performances to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary.
You can watch The Magic Garden on YouTube.
The Flintstones is a classic cartoon that has stood the test of time. Inspired by The Honeymooners, this show follows the humorous escapades of the Flintstone and Rubble families in their prehistoric world. With its punny names, visual gags, and lovable characters like Dino the pet dinosaur, The Flintstones has become a stone-cold classic. It may not always make sense, but its enduring charm continues to captivate audiences of all ages.
The Flintstones streams on HBO Max.
Captain Kangaroo holds a special place in the hearts of millions of viewers worldwide. This beloved show, hosted by Bob Keeshan, aired for 29 seasons and became a cultural phenomenon. Each episode featured heartwarming stories, entertaining puppets, educational segments, and celebrity guests. The show's warm and nurturing environment made it a comforting presence in many children's lives.
Captain Kangaroo is available on the "Beta Max Channel" on Roku.
The Jetsons is a futuristic cartoon that captures the imagination with its imaginative vision of the future. While the original series only ran for one season, it left a lasting impression. The show depicts a world filled with flying cars, high-rise apartment complexes, and household robots. Its lighthearted humor and family-focused storylines make it a joy to watch for both kids and adults.
The Jetsons streams on HBO.
Waffles Mochi is not your typical kids cooking show. It goes beyond the surface-level competition and showcases the joy of cooking and experimenting with food. The show's hosts, two muppets named Waffles and Mochi, embark on culinary adventures while learning about different ingredients and cooking techniques. With appearances from influential chefs and a focus on curiosity and exploration, Waffles Mochi inspires kids and adults alike to get creative in the kitchen.
Waffles Mochi streams on Netflix.
The Smurfs may have their share of problematic elements, but their energy, family dynamics, and overall goofiness have endeared them to audiences for decades. The relatable characters and entertaining adventures make it a show that both parents and children can enjoy together.
Smurfs is available on Tubi.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a classic franchise that has captured the hearts of generations. Whether it's the 1987 version or the newer adaptations, the show is centered around themes of family, teamwork, and friendship. It offers valuable parenting lessons through the wise teachings of Splinter, the turtles' mentor. TMNT strikes a balance between action-packed adventures and relatable teenage experiences.
The 1987 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available for rent on Apple TV.
Ada Twist is a Netflix show based on the popular Questioneers book series. It aims to demystify science for kids by presenting it as a normal and exciting part of everyday life. Ada and her friends tackle scientific mysteries and explore the world of facts and curiosity. The show empowers kids to embrace their curiosity and engage with science in a fun and relatable way.
Ada Twist streams on Netflix.
Larva is streaming for free on Tubi.
The Facts of Life
The Facts of Life is streaming on Tubi.
You Can't Do That on Television
You Can't Do That On Television streams on Paramount.
Kim Possible is streaming on Disney.
Inspector Gadget streams on PlutoTV.
Captain Planet streams on YouTube.
Here's Fatherly's guide to streaming Looney Tunes.
Classic Care Bears streams on YouTube.
Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb streams on Disney.
Doug is streaming on Paramount.
New and old Ghostwriter stream on Apple TV.
The Backyardigans streams on Paramount.
The Adventures of Puss In Boots
The Adventures of Puss In Boots streams on Netflix.
Shaun The Sheep
Shaun the Sheep streams on Prime.
The Wild Thornberrys
The Wild Thornberrys streams on Paramount.
Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain is available for rent on YouTube.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Embark on a global adventure in search of Carmen Sandiego.
PBSWhile many children in the '90s might not have been geography experts, they were more than willing to put their knowledge to the test and help track down the elusive Carmen Sandiego. Although Carmen Sandiego was a niche game show, it offered something for audiences of all ages and knowledge levels to enjoy. While the show aimed to educate, what kept us hooked were the catchy geography-themed songs performed by Rockapella. Lyrics like "She put the 'miss' in misdemeanor / when she stole the beans from Lima" continue to stick with us to this day. — CG
Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego can be found on YouTube.
Double Dare continues to entertain.
Variety/Penske Media/Getty ImagesWhile game shows were a staple on network television, Double Dare was one of the first shows that allowed kids to be the contestants. Marc Summers, the show's affable host, struck a balance between being a "cool dad" figure and a firm enforcer of the rules. The questions ranged from easy to challenging, catering to its target demographic. However, it was the physical challenges that kept us coming back for more. Getting slimed, covered in whipped cream, and messy substances became the highlight of the show. Double Dare truly embodied Nickelodeon's philosophy of putting kids in charge. — CG
Double Dare is available for streaming on Paramount.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Explore the deep and captivating stories within Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
LucasfilmThe live-action Star Wars shows, such as The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, have recognized the richness of the Star Wars animated series and incorporated their plots. Star Wars: The Clone Wars offers some of the most compelling storytelling in the franchise. It provides detailed insight into how the Jedi and the Republic, despite their best intentions, contributed to their own downfall. Additionally, The Clone Wars presents thrilling week-to-week adventures set in a galaxy far, far away. Most notably, the series introduces the character of Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi hero who became an emblem of strength and inspiration for young girls. — JG
Star Wars: The Clone Wars can be streamed on Disney.
Saved by the Bell
Relive the classic moments of Saved by the Bell.
NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty ImagesFor younger viewers who have yet to start high school, Saved by the Bell depicted an idealized version of a school that children would truly want to attend. The show's charming setting included The Max, a trendy restaurant conveniently located next door and staffed by students during school hours. While the main couple of Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski took the spotlight, jock A.C. Slater and feminist Jessie Spano provided an interesting dynamic on the show. Some may have hoped for a romantic connection between quirky nerd Screech and fashionista Lisa Turtle, but alas, it was not meant to be. — CG
Saved By the Bell can be streamed on Peacock.
Join the Winslow family in the heartwarming series of Family Matters.
Bob D'Amico/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty ImagesFamily Matters, a spinoff of the sitcom Perfect Strangers, quickly established its own identity. It began as a series focused on a Black family in Chicago but shifted its focus to Jaleel White's lovable character, Steve Urkel. With his catchphrase "Did I do that?", Urkel caused chaos, conducted scientific experiments, and pined for his crush, Laura Winslow. The show managed to maintain interest through clever storylines, including the introduction of guest stars like Donna Summer as Urkel's Aunt Oona and Michelle Thomas as his girlfriend Myra Boutros Boutros Monkhouse. Despite some decline in quality towards the end of its run, the show left a lasting legacy for kids. Urkel became a beloved "geek icon," while the morals explored in each episode continue to resonate. — CG
Family Matters can be streamed on HBO Max.
Experience the zany and unforgettable world of Animaniacs.
Warner Bros/AmblinThe Warner siblings, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, stole our hearts in the beloved show Animaniacs. While they were the stars, the series featured a delightful ensemble, including Pinky and the Brain, Slappy Squirrel, and Chicken Boo. The theme song itself is a catchy earworm filled with clever wordplay and references that have stood the test of time. Animaniacs became synonymous with fun and excitement, offering a diverse range of characters and entertaining adventures. Warner Bros. showed us that there's no other studio lot as exhilarating as theirs. — CG
Animaniacs is available for streaming on Hulu.
The Little Rascals
Rediscover the timeless charm of The Little Rascals.
Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty ImagesWhen Hal Roach brought together a diverse group of children with different ages, races, sizes, and talents in the 1920s, he inadvertently created an enduring classic. Originally released as theatrical shorts under the title Our Gang, The Little Rascals remain a timeless masterpiece. Each viewer has their own favorite character, sight gag, wordplay, or memorable performance. While each 10- or 20-minute short is enjoyable on its own, watching them in order allows us to witness the growth of the kids as they join and eventually leave the gang. For newcomers, we recommend starting with "Our Gang Follies of 1938," a high-budget entry that showcases the series' enduring appeal. — CG
The Little Rascals can be streamed on Freevee via Amazon Prime.
Garfield and Friends
Indulge in the delightful adventures of Garfield and Friends.
Warner BrosEven at its Reagan-era best, Jim Davis' creation, Garfield, was a pleasant, if pandering, mediocrity. However, Film Roman elevated the franchise with their classic animated specials like Garfield on the Town and Garfield's Halloween Adventure, followed by the series Garfield and Friends, which aired from 1988 to 1994. Lorenzo Music, a co-creator of The Bob Newhart Show, provided the perfect voice for Garfield. The series showcased Garfield's laziness with charismatic charm, surpassing even Bill Murray's portrayal in the film adaptations. The talented team at Film Roman, known for The Simpsons, The Critic, and Family Guy, ensured that the animation and character design were visually appealing. Unlike the original comic strip, Garfield and Friends proved to be not only popular but also highly enjoyable. — NR
Garfield and Friends streams on Tubi for free.
Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973)
Join forces with Kid Spock and Adult Spock in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
CBS Photo Archive/CBS/Getty ImagesIn the 1970s, when Sesame Street dominated the Emmy Awards for best daytime children's show, Star Trek briefly broke that streak in 1975. Star Trek: The Animated Series, a reboot of the famous sci-fi show, was created as an animated series for children. The show traded Captain Kirk's fist fights for more rescue missions, representation, and imaginative alien encounters. While the animation style may feel dated by today’s standards, the series still captivates with its intelligence and wit. Each episode presents a unique exploration of assumptions about villains, often resolving conflicts through dialogue or using phasers set to stun. Notably, Star Trek: The Animated Series was also one of the first major children's TV shows to address the death of a pet on screen in the emotional episode "Yesteryear." It remains a compelling and engaging entry in the Star Trek universe. — RB
Star Trek: The Animated Series can be streamed on Paramount.
Immerse yourself in the delightful British world of Peppa Pig.
ilbusca/iStock Unreleased/Getty ImagesPeppa Pig embodies the charm and quintessential Britishness of tea time, cricket, and the Queen. The show follows the amusing and endearing adventures of Peppa Pig, her brother George, and their parents. It romanticizes life in jolly old England, creating a sense of idyllic and quaint beauty that led to a surge in fake British accents from American children who immersed themselves a bit too deeply in the show. Peppa Pig stands as an irresistible and unmistakably British export, much like Wallace and Gromit. — NR
Peppa Pig can be streamed on Paramount.
The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
Experience the heartwarming stories of Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown.
SonyBill Melendez and Lee Mendelson introduced Charles Schulz's iconic Peanuts characters to television through legendary animated specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin. In 1983, Melendez expanded into episodic television with The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. The series successfully captured the delicate brilliance and bittersweet nature of Schulz's comic strip and its special spin-offs. In a departure from tradition, actual children lent their voices to the show instead of adult voice actors. Notably, Stacy Ferguson, also known as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, portrayed Sally Brown and Peppermint Patty. — NR
The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show can be streamed on Apple TV.
Embrace the heartwarming and educational world of Arthur.
PBSDid you know that Arthur holds the record for being the longest-running animated educational kids' program in history? Since its debut in 1996, Arthur has delighted young viewers with its lovable character, Arthur himself. Arthur embodies qualities such as sweetness, hopefulness, honesty, caring, earnestness, and creativity as he navigates the joys and challenges of life at the age of 8. The show tackles various themes like problem-solving, bullying, making friends, bedwetting, death, and sibling relationships, all in a way that is age-appropriate for children between the ages of 4 and 8. — IS
Arthur is available for streaming on Amazon with a PBS Kids add-on.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Embark on scientific adventures with Bill Nye.
Mathew Imaging/WireImage/Getty ImagesIt wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Bill Nye made science "cool." His genuine enthusiasm and slight awkwardness made him endearing and relatable. With a background in mechanical engineering, Nye brought his scientific expertise to the series, captivating audiences with his exciting experiments. The wonkiness of his demonstrations ignited our curiosity, making us share in his excitement. — JG
You can rent episodes of Bill Nye on YouTube.
Thomas and Friends
Embark on adventures with the cheeky and lovable Thomas and Friends.
Gullane EntertainmentThomas & Friends exudes a charmingly British appeal that sets it apart. The original episodes from the '80s and '90s, in particular, embrace a unique style that sets it apart from modern-day children's TV shows. The deliberate and lovingly crafted model train animation carries a certain jankiness that adds to its charm. Rather than speaking, the trains' actions are described by a narrator, evoking the feeling of hearing a story. The overall experience is delightfully uncanny. — JG
Thomas and Friends streams on Amazon Prime.
The Electric Company
PBSThe Electric Company, which aired from 1971 to 1977 and consisted of 780 episodes over six seasons, stands out as one of the most lively and exciting children's entertainment series ever produced. Its theme song is an absolute banger, and the star-studded cast includes the likes of Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman, Irene Cara, and even Denise Nickerson, who portrayed Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! Not to mention the incredible lineup of guest stars, including Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Gene Wilder, Diane Keaton, Walt Frazier, and Carol Burnett, both in live-action and voiceover roles.
The show features a variety of segments, ranging from sketches to animated bits like "The Adventures of Letterman!" and catchy songs—all with a lesson, moral, or piece of advice. Although the show may seem dated, it has had a significant influence on subsequent children's programming and can truly be described as one-of-a-kind. And let's not forget that it was co-created by Paul Dooley, who played Molly Ringwald's dad in Sixteen Candles and Pops in The Wonder Years. Now, who wouldn't want such a fantastic group of performers entertaining their children? — IS
The Electric Company is available for purchase on Amazon.
Molly of Denali
If we're talking about representation, Molly of Denali deserves a spot at the top of the list. This relatively recent addition to the PBS lineup tackles the theme of indigenous peoples in a natural and whimsical manner that some other so-called "classic shows" still struggle with. As a native of Alaska, Molly brings to life a range of storylines that provide a heartfelt and educational glimpse into indigenous cultures. Among the newer PBS offerings, Molly of Denali truly stands out as an instant classic. — HS
Molly of Denali streams on PBS Kids.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
When it comes to capturing the hearts of a certain generation, Avatar: The Last Airbender has certainly made its mark. This Nickelodeon series, paying loving tribute to anime and Eastern cultures, is a masterpiece in terms of world-building, characters, animation, and storytelling. The fusion of these elements creates an epic story that can rival the impact of Star Wars or Harry Potter for those who fell in love with the Gaang.
If you're looking for a fantasy show that not only captivates kids but also provides valuable life lessons, look no further than Avatar. Its ability to engage young viewers without confusing them sets it apart, making it the ultimate winner in the realm of children's fantasy. — JG
Avatar: The Last Airbender streams on Netflix.
The adorable puffins may steal the show, but there's more to Puffin Rock than meets the eye. As one of the gentlest shows made for toddlers and preschoolers in the 21st century, it takes young viewers on a whimsical journey alongside a group of creatures living on a quaint island near Ireland. What truly sets Puffin Rock apart, however, is the narration by Chris O'Dowd, who brings a constant sense of slight bewilderment to the show. It's as if he's channeling his character from Bridesmaids and transforming into the omniscient god of this charming children's universe. The unflappable voice and narration style of Chris O'Dowd serve as an inner mantra for parents, providing comfort and levity in challenging moments. So, why not dive into the serene world of Puffin Rock? You'll feel better in no time. — RB
Puffin Rock streams on Netflix.
The Magic School Bus (Classic)
PBS/NetflixJoanna Cole and Bruce Degen's Magic School Bus books opened the doors to imaginative adventures for kids, as they joined Miss Frizzle and her students on incredible journeys in their trusty yellow school bus, which doubled as a time machine. The animated version of The Magic School Bus, which aired from 1994 to 1997, took the concept to new heights with its vibrant visuals, catchy music, and the incomparable talent of Lily Tomlin, who lent her voice to the iconic Miss Frizzle. The spin-off series, The Magic School Bus Rides Again, continued the magic for two seasons (2017-2018) with Miss Fiona Felicity Frizzle (voiced by Kate McKinnon) taking the lead, while Tomlin returned as Fiona's older sister. — IS
The Magic School Bus streams on Netflix.
The Real Ghostbusters
In 1984, Ghostbusters wasn't initially intended for a young audience. However, everything changed with the arrival of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series in 1986. Not only did this show revolutionize our understanding of ghosts (seriously, some of those creatures were pretty out there), but it also challenged the preconceived notions of reality for '80s and '90s kids.
The first script editor of The Real Ghostbusters was J. Michael Straczynski, known for his work in comics and sci-fi TV, including creating Babylon 5, co-writing the first Thor movie, and co-creating Sense8. Straczynski's involvement ensured that the early seasons of The Real Ghostbusters had a legitimate science fiction flavor. He is truly a master of his craft. — RB
The Real Ghostbusters streams for free on Crackle.
Who needs laser eyes when you're Superman?
Warner Bros/DCWhen it comes to introducing kids to the Man of Steel, nothing beats the Max Fleischer animated shorts from the 1940s. These timeless classics, despite their age, continue to captivate audiences with their brilliant storytelling that transcends the need for excessive dialogue. The minimalist art forms employed in the Fleischer shorts are a testament to the power of superheroes as art themselves. These animated gems are a must-watch for any young superhero enthusiast. — RB
All the 1940s Superman cartoons are streaming on YouTube.
Not every children's show needs to be exclusively educational. Enter SpongeBob SquarePants, a whirlwind series that follows the adventures of a hyperactive yet well-meaning sea sponge living in a pineapple under the sea. Alongside his dopey starfish friend and fellow workers at the Krusty Krab, including the money-loving Mr. Krabs and the ever-cranky Squidward, SpongeBob will have you hooked with its vibrant animation, fast-paced editing, and a plethora of visual and verbal jokes that cater to both kids and adults. Since its debut in 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning movies featuring A-list actors like Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves, a successful Broadway musical, and a wide range of merchandise. Nickelodeon continues to dish out new episodes, with the show fast approaching the 300 mark! — IS
SpongeBob SquarePants streams on Paramount .
In 1984, the debut of Transformers undoubtedly left a lasting impression on an entire generation. This show combined two things that captivate little kids: sheer absurdity and unwavering dedication to said absurdity. Moreover, the sci-fi world-building of Transformers was more cohesive than that of Star Wars, fostering a deep attachment among multiple generations of children to these sentient robots who could seamlessly transform into cars, planes, trucks, and even cassette tapes. The brilliance of Transformers lies in its ability to ignite a child's imagination, allowing them to envision anything around them as a potential robot in disguise. These robots were always there, accompanying us on our adventures. — RB
Transformers (1984-1987) is streaming for free on Tubi.
The Wonder Years
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty ImagesRunning from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, and spanning from 1968 to 1973, The Wonder Years has rightfully earned its place among television's greatest dramas. The show follows Kevin Arnold's coming-of-age journey, delving into topics like first love, friendship, sibling rivalry, and the ups and downs of middle-class family life. Everyone watching couldn't help but develop a major crush on Winnie and yearn for a best friend like Paul. Beautifully filmed and sensitively written, The Wonder Years showcases stellar period costumes, a perfect theme song with Joe Cocker's rendition of "With a Little Help from My Friends," a talented core cast, and memorable recurring characters, such as Coach Cutlip played by Robert Picardo. It's a true classic through and through. — IS
The Wonder Years is streaming on Hulu.
Batman: The Animated Series
When it comes to Batman adaptations, Batman: The Animated Series stands head and shoulders above the rest. Produced by Bruce Timm, this heavily noir-influenced series remains a masterpiece, presenting a fully realized world of superheroes and crime. While unafraid to explore the darker aspects of Gotham City, the show never crosses into inappropriate territory, demonstrating immense respect for its audience.
It's safe to say that this is the definitive Batman, with the late Kevin Conroy setting the bar as the voice of the Dark Knight. Batman: The Animated Series proves that superheroes can be a form of art, delivering unforgettable stories that continue to resonate with viewers to this day. — JG
Batman: The Animated Series streams on HBO Max.
Enter the imaginative world of Doc McStuffins, a concept that combines the general premise of Toy Story—that toys come alive—with a science fiction hospital twist. Created by Chris Nee, one of the most brilliant minds in contemporary kids' programming, Doc McStuffins offers an upbeat and charming experience for viewers. Each episode features lovable characters and surprising ailments unique to each toy. At some point, the show stops worrying about finding direct analogs for every toy situation, diving headfirst into the sheer enjoyment of its imaginative premise—a key factor in its success. So, join Doc McStuffins on her sci-fi adventure and witness the magic unfold! — RB
Doc McStuffins streams on Disney .
The Muppet Show
Shirley Bassey on The Muppet Show in 1981.
TV Times/TV Times/Getty ImagesThe brilliance of The Muppet Show lies in its simplicity. Jim Henson's beloved felt and foam characters take center stage, putting on a delightful variety show in a charming theater. With a healthy dose of hecklers and celebrity guest stars, the show strikes the perfect balance of humor for all ages. Just like The Flintstones before it, The Muppet Show defies demographic boundaries, making it a truly inclusive program that captures the hearts of viewers of all ages. While some may tune in for the star-studded line-up, the comical interactions between Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the rest of the gang are reason enough to keep coming back for more. — CG
The Muppet Show is streaming on Disney .
NickelodeonThe Rugrats universe introduced us to a colorful cast of characters, with Tommy Pickles as the adventurous and adorable 1-year-old who leads the way. What makes Rugrats a true gem is its ability to tell stories from the perspective of Tommy and his fellow babies and toddlers. Parents, grandparents, and neighbors are depicted as quirky, unpredictable, and loving caretakers. Similar to other shows on this list, Rugrats became a merchandising phenomenon and spawned films like Rugrats in Paris, a spin-off called All Grown Up!, and a recent reboot featuring the return of the original voice talent, including E.G. Daily as Tommy. The new Rugrats series is set to debut its second season on April 14. — IS
Rugrats is streaming on Paramount .
Tom and Jerry
We would tell Jerry to watch out, but, well, you know.
Warner BrosNo cartoon quite embodies physical comedy like Tom & Jerry (sorry, Wile E.). The ceaseless chase that unfolds in each of the show's 164 episodes is a symphony of action, with multiple movements that build up and down, constantly shifting expectations. All of this culminates in an epic finale where Jerry, the resourceful mouse, evades the clutches of Tom, the mischievous cat. However, to simply dismiss this cartoon as just a chase would be like reducing Charlie Chaplin to a talented faller.
Tom & Jerry is, in fact, a philosophical treatise, an allegory reminiscent of the Sisyphean tale. The roles are clear, the tasks and outcomes predetermined, yet the lessons derived from each escapade are ever-evolving. This becomes most apparent in episodes that disrupt the traditional chase, such as "The Night Before Christmas" (1941). In this classic episode, Tom achieves his victory by locking Jerry outside in the cold snow. But instead of basking in his success, Tom looks at the closed door, silence enveloping the scene. He becomes a cat without purpose—a moment that evokes a genuine sense of dread. Thankfully, Tom reveals his "humanity" by opening the door, thawing Jerry, and sharing a candy cane, ultimately resulting in the expected détente. The chase never truly ends, but it evolves, allowing them to outwit each other another day. What other ending could possibly suffice? — TT
Tom & Jerry is streaming on HBO Max.
Tom Baker portrays the 4th Doctor.
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Despite its current popularity among a much larger fan base, many do not realize that Doctor Who originally started as a children’s program in 1963. Created by Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert for the BBC, the main purpose of the show was to introduce children to scientific concepts and lessons in history using time travel as the storyline. At the same time, Doctor Who aimed to provide family-friendly action and adventure, featuring a protagonist who relied on their intellect and problem-solving abilities rather than firearms.
Even after six decades, Doctor Who has mostly stayed true to its original mission. Although the show caters to more than just families now and is better suited for children aged 8 and up, it still maintains an optimistic and positive atmosphere. The titular Doctor is characterized as “never cruel or cowardly,” and even in the darkest of adventures, the series remains wise, humorous, and compassionate. In fact, within the show's mythology, the Doctor has two hearts, symbolizing the depth and complexity of the metaphors employed. The iconic time/space machine known as the TARDIS is "bigger on the inside," a testament to the show’s ability to captivate multiple generations of fans. When viewed from the perspective of a parent, it becomes evident why Disney’s decision to acquire Doctor Who for 2023 makes perfect sense. — RB
The Powerpuff Girls
The Powerpuff Girls are a unique blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice, with a touch of Chemical X. This highly stylized animated series offers an intelligent and fresh take on superpowers and female empowerment. It boasts a colorful array of villains, including the iconic Mojo Jojo and Him, an evil character reminiscent of Yellow Submarine. The core trio of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup could easily hold their own in any Justice League.
The Powerpuff Girls can be streamed on HBO Max.
The Octonauts stands out by not trying too hard to impress. This animated series features a brave crew of explorers who happen to be talking animals. Together, they travel the world in their undersea ship, the Octopod. With a musical score reminiscent of John Barry’s 007 films and Michael Giacchino’s The Incredibles, this show is all about thrilling adventures. Each character has their own catchphrase that seamlessly integrates with a format reminiscent of beloved series like Star Trek, Voltron, and Thunderbirds. The Octonauts not only entertains but also educates with its non-violent and highly informative approach. Through "Creature Reports" and later "OctoReports," viewers gain knowledge about various animal species and natural phenomena. The Octonauts strikes a perfect balance, engaging young minds with valuable lessons and smart humor, without resorting to overused quirks. Parents will find themselves wishing this show existed when they were preschoolers. — RB
The Octonauts and its various standalone movies are available for streaming on Netflix. The spinoff show, Octonauts: Above and Beyond, can also be streamed on Netflix.
While many cartoons focus on the cute and cuddly aspects of animals, the Wild Kratts takes a different approach. This animated series, hosted by real-life zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt, celebrates the extraordinary abilities of animals. Combining elements of a documentary and cartoon adventure, Wild Kratts showcases the badass side of all creatures, big and small. It not only explores the wonders of the natural world but also addresses the importance of conservation. In each tightly-packed 25-minute episode, the Kratt brothers defeat ecological villains and teach kids valuable lessons about teamwork, communication, and perseverance.
Wild Kratts! streams on PBS Kids via Amazon Prime.
Dora the Explorer
Swiper no swiping! If there's one show your toddler should watch, it's Dora the Explorer. This brilliant animated series effortlessly introduces English-speaking children to the Spanish language, while simultaneously validating Spanish-speaking children's identities. Led by a fearless and adventurous young girl, Dora embarks on thrilling expeditions and is accompanied by her loyal monkey friend. Dora can be likened to an adventurous toddler version of Indiana Jones. Her character is immortal and wonderful, sparking curiosity about whether she resides within a computer or some other realm. — RB
Dora the Explorer streams on Paramount .
LeVar Burton in 'Reading Rainbow.'
LeVar Burton has made a lasting impact through his remarkable roles on television, including Kunta Kinte in Roots and his iconic portrayal of Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, his work as the creator and host of Reading Rainbow is equally inspiring. For more than 20 years, Reading Rainbow has encouraged children to not only read, but also to apply the lessons learned from books to real-life experiences, enriching their understanding of the world.
Each episode of Reading Rainbow follows a similar format to Mister Rogers' factory tours. Burton visits different places and engages with experts, discussing their significance. These visits are complemented by readings from a wide range of narrators, including the likes of Ruby Dee, Patrick Stewart, Alfre Woodard, Pete Seeger, Julia Child, Raul Julia, and James Earl Jones. The show's deliberate pace and rich content perfectly cater to young minds, fostering a love of reading and an eagerness to explore the world through books. As the theme song sung brilliantly by Chaka Khan suggests, Reading Rainbow provides an opportunity to go anywhere with friends to know and ways to grow. — IS
Reading Rainbow streams on Amazon Prime.
Ada Twist, Scientist (3 and up)
Ada Twist is a brilliant young scientist who dives into scientific discovery, collaboration, and friendship to help others. This animated series is the perfect way to ignite your preschooler's interest in STEM subjects. Besides providing educational content filled with fun facts, Ada Twist also imparts valuable life lessons.
The StoryBots are curious little creatures who live in the world beneath our screens and go on fun adventures to help answer kids' questions.Courtesy of Netflix
This Emmy-winning children's show is based on an educational app and aims to answer a variety of kid-friendly questions with the help of the StoryBots. These inquisitive creatures reside beneath our screens and embark on exciting adventures to address kids' inquiries. Ask the StoryBots is an excellent introduction to the concept of research. Moreover, it features special appearances from well-known figures like Snoop Dogg and John Legend. The series, along with its several specials and spinoff called StoryBots: Answer Time, is available for streaming on Netflix.
Odd Squad (ages 5 to 8)
Young government agents Olive and Otto use math to investigate strange occurrences in their town in Odd Squad. This live-action series, produced by The Fred Rogers Co., is aimed at preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Odd Squad cases encompass a wide range of challenges, such as disappearing zeroes, missing reindeer, runaway dinosaurs, and characters escaping from books. Throughout the series, Olive and Otto not only learn how to solve problems but also gain insights into the value of teamwork, communication, and perseverance. The critically acclaimed series has received seven Television Critics Association nominations.
Just Add Magic (ages 6 to 11)
When a 13-year-old girl discovers her grandmother's magical cookbook in the attic, the recipes she experiments with have extraordinary effects. Just Add Magic is a live-action family series based on the book by Cindy Callaghan. The show comprises three seasons available for streaming on Prime Video. It offers a simple yet enjoyable premise: cooking something from the cookbook results in magical outcomes. Just Add Magic combines wholesome values, formidable acting, and a delightful blend of magic and life lessons – a rare combination in children's series.
Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock (6 and up)
Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock showcases the enthralling adventures of a group of cave-dwelling puppet creatures called Fraggles. This animated series, available for streaming on Apple TV , captures the spirit of the beloved Jim Henson puppets from the 1980s. Filled with lively music and positive messages, the show brings joy, friendship, and valuable life lessons to its audience.
Siblings Katara and Sokka awaken young Aang from a long hibernation and discover that he is the Avatar, possessing incredible air-bending powers capable of defeating the evil Fire Nation. Avatar: The Last Airbender offers a captivating, action-filled Western anime series suitable for viewers of all ages. This 2005-2008 production emphasizes positive values, showcases strong role models, and presents a distinct art style that sets it apart. The entire series is available for streaming on Paramount .
My Dad the Bounty Hunter (7 and up)
Jecobi Swain portrays Sean, and Laz Alonso portrays Sabo Brok in My Dad the Bounty Hunter.
Courtesy of Netflix
In a sea of shows that often portray fathers as the butt of jokes, My Dad the Bounty Hunter stands out. This animated series, which premiered on Netflix last month, celebrates the role of fathers. The show follows two stowaway children who discover that their dad is the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy. Although the show contains mild violence, it showcases positive family dynamics, teamwork, and bravery.
Anne With an E (10 and up)
Anne With An E is a television series that draws inspiration from the timeless Canadian novel "Anne of Green Gables" written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Created by Moira Walley-Beckett, the second season of the show explores new and daring themes while depicting the journey of Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, portrayed by Amybeth McNulty. The series is available to stream on Netflix and CBC Gem.
For those unfamiliar with the original novel, Anne With An E provides a wholesome introduction. The story follows a 13-year-old orphan named Anne, who is accidentally sent to live with elderly siblings on Prince Edward Island. Throughout its run, the show has received multiple nominations for Canadian Screen Awards, making it an excellent starting point for family discussions about the importance of family connections and historical events.
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