With the ability to go outside still somewhat limited because of the lingering pandemic, more parents are now thinking of better ways for their children to spend their time. While some families might be able to go without TV, there are still plenty of kids who watch it every day.
While not every educational TV show is the most thrilling for kids to watch, quality has only gone up since you were a child. There are now tons of options for kids of all ages to both be entertained and learn at the same time. Whether you want them to learn more about math, reading, basic science concepts, or social skills, there is a show for them to watch, ideally with you. Watching together means you can discuss what they saw and explore other concepts that they might be interested in.
There are many shows on every platform, but here are ten of the best:
These are presented in no special order. While we might have a recommended age range, it might be different for your child one way or another. Try out an episode or two of each of these and see what your child likes and what you feel is appropriate for them.
Sesame Street is perhaps the one show on this list that you might have watched as a youngster. You might have thought of it before even considering what else is out there, and you would be right to think of it. Sesame Street is as fun, educational, and relevant as it always has been. The show still features the characters you know and love such as Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch, and addresses many topics with diverse guests, so children will never feel the show is just more of the same. You can feel more assured your children are being taught a wide range of topics and situations.
It has been picked up recently by HBO, and you might need a subscription for your child to watch it. It is well worth it and will probably come with other things both you and your child might enjoy.
Sesame Street is suitable for children of any age, and teaches basic math, reading, social skills, and a wide variety of other things. It worked in segments in the past, but in more recent years the show has changed into a more narrative format that lasts 30 minutes per episode. Of course, you can expect there is a wide variety of additional Sesame Street media to explore if you want to get your kid away from the TV screen for a while.
Arthur is the longest-running children’s animated series in the United States, on air since 1996. It is a Canadian-American show about eight-year-old Arthur Read, the anthropomorphic aardvark, his sister DW, and his family and friends all throughout the fictional Elwood City. It often tackles important real-world issues and showcases characters from many backgrounds.
As you might expect, there is a massive back catalogue for you and your children to work through if you need something to watch this summer. There is still more to come, although it is reported that the 25th season of the show is to be the last. The show will have reached over 250 episodes with several specials to watch as well. Whatever you need to talk to your child about, there might be an episode of Arthur to introduce the concept.
Arthur is recommended for children ages 4-8, and mostly focuses on teaching social skills and how to best interact with people of all types and backgrounds. We would recommend that you watch the show with your children and discuss the lessons and events from each episode with them, as Arthur focuses on more complex social scenarios and emotions than most cartoons meant for this age group. By doing so, you will better guide your family through similar situations and gain an understanding of how your children think and feel.
In this animated/live action show, the StoryBots are five beings that live behind the screen. They are curious and will journey out into the world to help kids answer important questions such as “Why is the Sky Blue?” or “Where Does Rain Come From?”. These questions lead the StoryBots to fun new locations to find the answers to the questions and hint at even further questions beyond that.
The show jumps formats as needed, from slower talking segments to a music video at the end of most episodes. It also has some fun guest appearances where parents might recognize the voices. It always tries to keep things fun for the children, as opposed to strictly being aimed at cramming information into their heads.
The show is appropriate for kids ages 3 and up, and teaches them the benefits of curiosity, teamwork, and the answer to scientific, health, and nature-related questions. It is highly regarded, winning multiple awards, and it is available exclusively on Netflix, making it a superb choice for those with the streaming service. There are currently 22 half-hour episodes to go through with your child.
Recently brough over to Peacock after a long time on PBS, this show follows Curious George and his friend the Man with the Yellow Hat and their everyday lives. Though when you are a monkey like George, everyday life can be filled with adventures, problems, and messes that need fixing.
Curious George has a strong storybook approach to narration, with all of George’s actions and feelings being pointed out for the viewer to follow and the art style pleasing to the eyes and not overwhelming to children.
You can find Curious George streaming on Peacock. All the older episodes and seasons dating back to 2007 can be found on the streaming service with a premium subscription. There is a lot to go through, and all the episodes have something new to share with your children. There are plenty of books you and children can explore as well.
This show is suitable for kids age three and up and mainly focuses on teaching responsibility, some problem solving, and that it is important to keep learning. While it does not touch upon the specific skills that many other shows listed here do, these are important lessons that often need to be impressed over time as opposed to a single episode or thought.
Super Why! is a show aimed mostly at preschoolers to help them learn to read through the various adventures of the characters. In each 22-24 minute episode, a bunch of superheroes (mostly fairy tale based) go into storybooks and solve problems, most of which young children will relate to through reading skills. It is focused on reading and designed to teach a variety of skills meant to provide those building blocks.
The show’s format also shows that lessons learned from reading can have applications in the real world as well. There is usually a “real world” preschool issue at hand that is later solved using the lesson learned in the storybook the characters enter during the episode. The show encourages interactivity and thinking, taking moments for kids to solve the problems for themselves. If you do not want your kids to be passive with their entertainment, this show (and a few games available featuring the characters) can be a brilliant choice.
Super Why! is on PBS KIDS and is best for kids ages three to six. It generally focuses on reading and vocabulary skills, though may also teach other things when it has the opportunity, such as empathy and some social skills.
While the new Mickey Mouse cartoons you might find on YouTube might not be best for younger children, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a computer-animated show aimed at young children that features Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and many other famous Disney characters. They work with the viewer to solve some sort of problem every episode.
In doing so, Mickey will often use tools and teach kids about how to be nice to others in the process. The show often incorporates early math and problem-solving skills over each half-hour episode.
While the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse might be a bit too energetic and colorful for some kids (or yourself) who might find it overwhelming, it remains a great, educational, and entertaining choice for others. It is best for children ages two and up, and there are over 125 episodes, with the last airing in late 2016. You can find it airing on Disney Junior and available for streaming on Disney+. On top of the regular episodes, there are also additional specials and media available.
While you might remember The Magic School Bus in one form or another from your childhood, here is another franchise that has taken new life for the next generation. Ms. Frizzle has passed the keys to the bus to her younger sister, who is teaching the kids in a new year. Outside of this, the show follows much the same format as previous versions of the show.
This Magic School Bus features broader scientific concepts and a field trip (usually magical) to better understand that concept in a few key ways. One student is usually dealing with a problem, and the field trip helps them to solve it.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again is best for children ages five and up, and focuses mostly on teaching kids about science, the scientific process, and that there is a much larger universe out there than just what they see. It is a great addition to nearly any rotation and fills a much needed gap in many parents’ watch lists.
This is another show you might have watched or books you might have read when you were your kids’ age. Clifford the Big Red Dog is a show about a girl called Emily, and her big red dog Clifford, who grew to an enormous size after Emily loved him a great deal.
This is not the first series featuring the characters, and in fact follows several specials and a long-running series. Unlike previous series, Clifford can talk to Emily, but only when they are alone together. Overall, you can expect plenty of shows involving standard worries and concerns, with Clifford and Emily helping to find a solution.
We recommend Clifford the Big Red Dog for children ages three and up. While not as dense in educational or math lessons as some of the other shows on this list, the show roots itself in kindness, empathy, and making wonderful friendships, as well as companionship with animals. If you want something nice and sweet to watch with your kids, you can find Clifford the Big Red Dog on either Amazon Prime Video or PBS Kids.
The Ruff Ruffman Show is a bit different from the others here, often leaning into the fact that everything is online nowadays and the world can be a little fast-paced and confusing. In the show, which is generally only found online on PBS Kids or via YouTube, the titular Ruff Ruffman (an animated dog) with human friends tries to figure out problems using science and scientific thinking. All of this happens in a fun and engaging manner that never outstays its welcome.
It did not last particularly long in terms of production time and there are only so many episodes available, but we find that the show’s short length and focused nature make is great for times when kids have just 10 minutes or so and you want to put in something on for them to watch or do.
We recommend The Ruff Ruffman Show for children ages four and up, and the show primarily focuses on science concepts, but also can focus on tangential skills such as proper measurement and categorization, which have many practical applications in other subjects. Whether you want your kids to learn more about the scientific methods or have an entertaining option for a while, Ruff Ruffman has you covered.
While Einstein might have his name associated with the sciences, Little Einsteins focuses on culture. It covers well-known art and music, which is something that is not explored so much in other shows of this type.
In the show, four friends, each with their own talents, work together to have adventures and solve problems. The show features a backdrop of classical music and outstanding works of art and architecture. The episodes are varied and show a wide variety of cultures and styles, giving kids a lot to look at and think about.
While it may or may not help with higher learning functions, Little Einsteins likes to have kids interact with the show a little bit by patting their heads or singing along. While there might not be as much as in other shows, it will keep kids engaged and paying attention when new works of art and music are shown. It can be a great jumping point for you to show your children some of the things you love as well.
Little Einsteins is best watched by children ages four and up and teaches children about music, the arts, and a bit about nature.
To get the most out of these programs this summer (or whenever) with your kids, we recommend:
Of course, you should have the final say in what your child watches and what might be appropriate for them at their age, both in terms of content and in their ability to absorb the information being presented. There are other shows to explore as well, and new ones coming out regularly that you should check out. We hope you find something new for your child to try out among the above shows, and that you can turn the television into something to bond over and grow from.