Here’s the thing: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends
only 2 hours of screen time for kids a day. Actually when I looked it up to confirm they say 1 hour. Holy wow. There’s no way I could keep to that! I wanted to start this by explaining my own screen time policies/practices. Which are very different from the recommendations by the experts. Here’s what I think about that:
I will not apologize for using screen time to get a little peace and quiet. Also, I genuinely enjoy TV! I can’t exactly watch TV for enjoyment and then deny it to my children. I grew up watching sitcoms and longer shows like Voyager with my parents. Every night we would all gather in front of the TV and have those shared pop culture experiences. I want to have the same with my kids. Also sometimes I need to study, or do dishes without a small person hanging all over me. So if you don’t allow screen time in your house, good for you! I promise no sarcasm, it’s just not something I want or could even attempt to accomplish. It took me a long time to be ok with that. I study pop culture and media for gosh sakes. I finally realized there was no way I couldn’t guilt myself all the time for using it. It’s a tool for parenting just like other inventions people now enjoy like baby carriers or strollers. Everything in moderation.
Now that I’ve established that, I’ll get to the real reason you’re here. I have
hastily written down carefully curated this list of TV shows I watch with my kids and actually enjoy. It has some helpful notations by it to guide you, I’ve tried to create a key for at the top. At the end of the day, every parent is in charge of their own kid’s watching habits, so why not choose a show you’ll actually also enjoy or at least can ignore easily. (Hahahahaha. That’s actually bullshit. If it were true I wouldn’t be trying to ignore so much Power Rangers.) But every caregiver CAN at least be in charge of what their kid watches /with them/. There are actually some great cartoons out there adults can enjoy too! We watched some of these like Avatar, My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic, and Phineas & Ferb before we actually had kids. I’m not ashamed!
The things I look for in a show I can watch WITH my kids:
- Great animation. I’m something of a design snob and I really enjoy unique animation. Legend of Korra (especially the second season) has done some amazing things to experiment with different animation styles I just love. Steven Universe is another I love the unique style of.
- Good characters and engaging story lines. You can scoff all you want at My Little Pony, I love the adventures with those adorable little ponies. The stories are heartwarming and show that feminine characters can have lots of different sides. Steven Universe’s main character using his caring and protective nature to activate his powers. He is a strong character without falling into the macho-masculine or super-smart and snarky stereotypes found in a lot of kid’s cartoons.
- Diversity. I want the media my kid consumes to at least help expand his view of the world. Some of these shows have great blended families (Phineas and Ferb, Steven Universe), non white characters (this is actually harder and super sad but Steven Universe comes out high again as does Avatar and Voltron, I’m actually conflicted about the way Justin Time depicts other cultures but at least they do exist), and non binary/hetero-normative (IF YOU’RE NOT WATCHING STEVEN UNIVERSE YOU SHOULD BE!!!!).
Last note: Some of these shows do have fighting in it, which I totally respect Fantasy violence is ok to me. My kid knows that it’s pretend. When he gets too ramped up after watching a show (usually Power Rangers) I put on something more soothing like Sarah and Duck (QUACK!). I’ve taught him through ways other than TV how to treat people and animals with kindness. He knows that, and a TV show or two isn’t going to turn him into a serial killer. I’m a Freud denier and I don’t even care.
Now what you’ve been waiting for!!! I’d love to try new shows and expand this list. Coming next is a list of movies! I tried to keep this one just to TV shows.
*easy to ignore in the background
#childhood nostalgia alert (if it’s a remake I’ll also use this in case you watched the original)
%no really you should also watch this, its really that good
&low to no violence
(where you can watch it)
Here they are in no particular order:
- Voltron (Netflix) % #
This was originally an attempt at a new background show but I got pulled into the story. Love the animation style and the humor, especially Coran. There are great voice actors here! (This is another thing that hooks me on a show.)
- My Little Pony (Netflix) #
I will not apologize for loving those Cutie Mark Crusaders.
- Trollhunters (Netflix) %
Created by Guillermo Del Toro, a master of storytelling, this is a great show we watched together as a family. Love Kelsey Grammar as the voice of Blinky.
- Steven Universe (Hulu) %
I just can’t explain my love for this show enough. This video comes close:
- Gravity Falls (Hulu)
I love that this show is ultimately about sibling camaraderie. They have fun creepy/supernatural adventures in the woods and the overarching story line is actually pretty complex and engaging. I watched this one before I had kids as well and we rewatched them all with H recently.
- Sarah & Duck (Netflix) * &
Scarf Lady is the best! (Voiced by Lesley Nicol, also known as Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey). Those are my favorite episodes. But also this is pretty chill and easy to ignore.
- Julie’s Green Room (Netflix) &
Julie Andrews. Nuff said.
- Batman Beyond (Amazon Prime) #
- Young Avengers (Netflix)
- Avatar the Last Airbender (Amazon Prime) %%%%%
This is hands down my favorite animated tv show EVER. I watched it and was an enthusiast before I had kids. It’s amazing. Do NOT watch the movie or judge the original if you saw the movie.
- Legend of Korra (Amazon Prime) %%%%%
A little bit older characters than Avatar and not as good but they’ve done some amazing things with the animation in some episodes. It’s still amazing.
- She-ra (Amazon Prime) #
- Digimon (Netflix) #
In general there’s something about the transformation scenes in this one and Sailor Moon that my kids love. Lol. I like the mixed ages and interests in this one. There are some great character arcs.
- Sailor Moon (Hulu) #
- Bob’s Burgers (
Season 7 on Hulu, we rented the earlier seasons from the libraryHurry it’s ALL on Hulu right now!)
This is considered an adult cartoon but a lot of the episodes focus on the adventures of the kids and I feel like a lot of the adult jokes go right over kids’ heads. It’s adorable in my opinion and I love that it shows running a business is HARD. Also I like that the kids are NORMAL. No exceptional talents or special abilities.
- Clone Wars (Own it, I think it’s on Netflix right now) %
Ahsoka. Nuff said.
- Star Wars Rebels (Own it, Disney XD if you have cable)
Hera and Sabine are amazing. Some of my favorite Star Wars characters.
- Phineas & Ferb (Netflix) %
Reminds me of Kim Possible from my childhood. There’s an element of being obsessed with boys that annoys me but the girls also get to be capable and have adventures, so it’s somewhat softened. “Where’s Perry?”
- Puffin Rock (Netflix) ****** &
Narrated by Chris O’Dowd (I knew him from IT Crowd, which is one of my favorite sitcoms) and focuses on the ecosystem of this island. I love the soft colors of the animation. It’s just plain soothing. Plus it mesmerizes my kids.
- Justin Time (Netflix) * &
I can’t help but love the history nerd aspect of this show. It also has some great story lines about dealing with manners and friendship that I feel like is handled really well. This one is great background show that I don’t feel at all guilty about.
- Duck tales (Disney XD, the first two episodes are on YouTube) #
The new one has all the fun nostalgia of the old one but the animation style makes it look fresh. We’ve already watched the first two multiple times and H loves it.
- Clangers (Netflix) * &
I just discovered this show on accident because H picked it. It has knitting/fiber nerdery AND William Shatner is the narrated. Win/Win for me!
- Peg + Cat (PBS App) * &
I love the animation style of this show and the way Peg deals with her anxiety. It’s charming and fun. Plus he can watch it on my phone if I need the TV for watching a film for class.
- Shaun the Sheep (Amazon Prime) * &
This is the ultimate show to put on if you want to read or need to study, because they’re little to no dialogue.
- Lost in Oz (Amazon Prime)
There are so many Wizard of Oz knock offs I can’t count them on my fingers. So I was skeptical about this one. It charmed me anyway. Great for older kids too I think.
- Magic School Bus (Netflix) # * &
Hal loves this and I have zero guilt about his watching it. It was surprisingly diverse for a show made in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Also BREAKING NEWS, they’re making a new one! I’m excited to see how they handle this remake/sequel.
- Voltron (Netflix) % #
What’s your favorite show to watch with your kiddos? Also let us know their ages! I love watching TV with all age kiddos.