Your children will inevitably be introduced to television sooner than later. It’s up to you as the parent to guide them towards educational shows for kids. There are great benefits if their screen time usage is introduced and managed in the right way.
Based on recommendations, we introduced the wonderful show Puffin Rock to my Toddler. It was the only show he watched at first and it was something that we were able to sit through with him as well. By the time we finished the series a second time, we had already compiled a list of alternatives to try out with him.
The key was to find shows that were streamed on demand and forced our child to think rather than something that was just pure entertainment. Luckily there are a ton of options out there that check both boxes that are great for kids.
Read on to see which ones we chose for the various age groups.
Educational Shows for Preschoolers (Age 2 to 4)
This is when you’re first introducing television to your children. They are developing quite rapidly at this point, so what you choose for them to watch should compliment what they’re learning in the real world as well. Interactive shows are most beneficial for toddlers.
1. Beat Bugs (Netflix)
Beat Bugs uses the Beatles back catalog to teach kids life lessons. This show is filled with fun, music and adventure that will peak your child’s imagination and turn them on to great music.
2. Blippi (Youtube, Hulu, Prime Video)
Blippi helps children’s understanding of the world and encourages vocabulary development. On the show, he visits exciting places and teach valuable things with great enthusiasm. Think a modern version of Peewee Herman.
3. Cocomelon (Netflix, Hulu, Youtube)
Breaking records on Netflix, Cocomelon is a 3D animated show filled with educational songs and nursery rhymes. Your preschooler will learn letters, numbers, animal sounds, colors and more.
4. Creative Galaxy (Prime Video)
Creative Galaxy teaches toddlers about art. Each episode of Creative Galaxy begins with a problem that must be solved with art. They will learn about different art techniques and disciplines that can increase their creativity.
5. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (PBS)
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an animated program based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Each show is carefully researched and scripted in order to maintain children’s attention, encourage interaction, and reinforce specific lessons. It also prepares kids for life’s brutal disappointments and develop higher levels of empathy.
6. Dinosaur Train (PBS)
Dinosaur Train embraces and celebrates the fascination that preschoolers have with both dinosaurs and trains, while encouraging basic scientific thinking skills. It sparks an interest in science, especially life science, natural science and paleontology.
7. Little Einsteins (Disney+)
Little Einsteins uses art, photography, and classical music as a colorful backdrop for the adventures of four precocious young friends. The character signs, dances, and play instruments to solve challenges. Your kid will think big after watching this.
8. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney+)
This is a slick new presentation of Mickey Mouse for preschoolers to be introduced to. Using early math learning and problem solving skills, Mickey leads kids on an interactive adventure of learning and fun. They’ll be exposed to Disney at some point. Might as well have Mickey teach them something useful.
9. Octonauts (Netflix)
Octonauts capture kids’ imaginations. The crew of eight adorable animals explore the ocean in search of adventure and fun. The graphics are very nicely done, which will engage your child to learn about marine animals, environmental awareness and problem solving.
10. Puffin Rock (Netflix)
Puffin Rock is a calm, peaceful show that follows the adventures of a Puffin family on their Irish island. In every episode, Oona and Baba learn how their island’s species and habitats are fundamentally entangled and interdependent. The show is simple in format but is wonderfully animated to teach your child about nature and social-emotional skills. You’ll be watching this one with them also.
11. Sesame Street (PBS, HBO Max)
This is the classic choice. Everyone grew up with Sesame Street so why not your children also? The show continues to stay modern and relevant and remains one of the best places for kids to learn about everything.
12. Super Why! (PBS, Netflix)
The energetic animated series helps children learn key reading skills, including alphabet, rhyming, and spelling. Your child’s literacy, social skills, and problem-solving skills will improve. Super Why! Is one of the most beneficial shows because of its reliance on teaching through books.
13. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! (Netflix, Prime)
This series takes your child on extraordinary voyages of scientific discovery with the Cat in the Hat. In the Cat’s Seussian vehicle, the Thinga-ma-jigger, they fly, float, rocket, and shrink down to the size of a bee to explore natural wonders from the bottom of the ocean to the treetops of the rain forest. Peaking your toddler’s curiosity, and thirst for scientific exploration and discovery.
Educational Shows for Elementary Schoolers (Age 4 to 8)
As your child begins going to school, shows that compliment what they learn in the classroom are preferred. They are smarter now and will have loads of questions that they want answers to. Shows packed with information will keep their minds working.
1. Ask the StoryBots (Netflix)
Join Beep, Boop, Bing, Bang and Bo as they help answer kids’ biggest questions, like “how do computers work?” and “why can’t I eat dessert all the time?” It is nothing less than Sesame Street reincarnated, which will benefit you child’s curiosity and general knowledge.
2. Brainchild (Netflix)
From germs and emotions to social media and more, it’s the science of your world explained in a way that’s refreshingly relatable. Brainchild is the good kind of social experiment that teaches your kid about science and marine biology.
3. Dino Dana (Prime Video)
The follow up to Dino Dan, Dino Dana is about a 9-year old girl who loves dinosaurs. Her life changes forever when she’s given a Dino Field guide, which not only teaches her new things about dinosaurs, but gives her the power to imagine dinosaurs into real life. You kids will love it because there are a lot of dinosaurs.
4. Doc McStuffins (Disney+, Hulu)
Doc McStuffins is an imaginative animated series about a young girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mom and communicates with and heals broken toys and stuffed animals. Doc and her family are great role models for everyone. You child will learn about social skills, problem solving, and basic health and medical concepts.
5. If I Were an Animal… (Netflix)
Curious kids Emma and her big brother Tim observe different animals as they make their way through various life milestones, from birth to adulthood. It’s a solid viewing choice for young animal lovers, and can help kids gain an understanding of some science and biology basics.
6. Julie’s Greenroom (Netflix)
Join Fizz, Riley, Peri, Spike, and Hank, as they explore the magic of the performing arts under the watchful eye of mentor Julie Andrews. What “Julie’s Greenroom” teaches us, above all, is that the arts are the voice of the people and for everyone.
7. Mister Rogers Neighborhood (PBS)
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, would you be my neighbor? Mister Rogers offers children a place where they feel accepted and understood. The show helps children to develop social and emotional skills necessary in their early development.
8. Molly of Denali (PBS)
An action-adventure comedy that follows the life of 10-year-old Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl. The show is a simple and colorful animated series that presents the natural beauty of Alaska. Your child will learn about Alaska Natives and how they use skills like geography, mapmaking, and history, while show them respectful relationships with grandparents, parents, relatives, and friends.
9. Odd Squad (PBS)
Odd Squad is a great introduction for grade school-aged kids to the world of math and beyond. Olive and Otto are featured as young agents who seek to save the day using math. Your children’s number skills will improve along with their problem solving.
10. Popular Mechanics for Kids (Prime Video)
Based on the Popular Mechanics magazine, this series takes young viewers on a ride to some of the world’s most exciting places where they get a first-hand look and feel of what it takes to operate everything they see. It features two fun-loving teens (Elisha Cuthbert and, Jay Baruchel) who learn about the wonders of modern science.
11. Ready Jet Go! (PBS)
Ready Jet Go takes viewers on a journey into outer space. It builds on children’s curiosity about science, technology and astronomy presented in an entertaining and engaging way. Your kid’s mind will be expanded into the infinite universe.
12. The Magic School Bus Again (Netflix)
The follow up to the original Magic School Bus show takes your child on exciting new field-trips, discovering new locations, creatures, time periods and more to learn about the wonders of science, educating viewers along the way, on the eponymous Bus. They could end up lost in space, eaten by a whale, or being attacked by antihistamines. But there’s always a way out if you use their imagination.
13. Treehouse Detectives (Netflix)
Treehouse Detectives features a brother and sister team of Toby and Teri, bears who help their animal friends find clues and follow facts to solve mysteries in their own backyard. Your child will learn about science, nature and a lot of problem solving.
Educational Shows for Middle Schoolers (Age 8 to 13)
At this stage, kids are capable of learning at a faster pace on harder more real-life subjects. Even documentaries are good for them. You’ll want to keep the shows entertaining to maintain their interest though, but their options are now wide open.
1. Abstract – The Art of Design (Netflix)
Step inside the minds of the most innovative designers in a variety of disciplines and learn how design impacts every aspect of life. Abstract devotes each of its eight episodes to different highly successful designers and artists, exploring their crafts and the ideologies behind them.
2. Alien TV (Netflix)
Alien reporters travel to a lovely but odd planet called Earth, where they attempt to make sense of humans and their hobbies. Each episode consists of three 8-minute segments, where the trio, speaking in their alien language, investigate three different things and explore your child’s imagination. It’s entertaining and funny for kids and adults.
3. Anne with an E (Netflix)
Netflix’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables breaks new ground with new faces and storylines. This incredibly well-done series is the perfect way to reward your kids’ reading!
4. Bill Nye the Science Guy (PBS)
Bill Nye portrays a hyper-kinetic tall and slender scientist wearing a blue lab coat and a bow-tie. He combines the serious science of everyday things with fast-paced action and humor. You kids will pick up quickly on what Nye teaches.
5. Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting (Hulu)
You know Bob Ross. He is the soft-spoken guy painting happy clouds, mountains, and encouraging audiences with his gentle encouragement. This virtual art class is meditative and relaxing for your child to hone her art skills.
6. Explained (Netflix)
This Netflix and Vox collaboration dives into interesting topics that drive our lives or our world. It does an effective job of bringing meaning and understanding to the viewer. The topics might be a little advanced but that could help them learn quicker.
7. Our Planet (Netflix)
Experience our planet’s natural beauty and examine how climate change impacts all living creatures in this ambitious documentary of spectacular scope. The beautiful but uncomfortable documentary forces viewers to acknowledge their own complicity in the decline of nature. It’s a great exposure to our world for children.
8. The Big Family Cooking Show (Netflix)
In this unscripted series, families passionate about food serve up their most delicious dishes for the chance to be crowned Britain’s best home cooks. It’s great family entertainment and introduces children to a variety of food from different cultures.
9. The Dragon Prince (Netflix)
An extaordinary discovery inspires two human princes and an elven assassin to team up on an epic quest to bring peace to their warring lands. One of the best fantasy shows on TV, The Dragon Prince address issues such as revenge, honesty and integrity.
10. The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation (CBS)
Innovation Nation is a weekly celebration of the inventor’s spirit. From historic scientific pioneers throughout past centuries to the forward-looking visionaries of today. This showcases the unique stories from innovators across the globe, inspiring viewers to dream big.
11. The Mind (Netflix)
Ever wonder what’s happening inside your head? From dreaming to anxiety disorders, discover how your brain works with this illuminating series. This is an extension of the Explained series and will be something to work your kid’s brains.
12. The Who Was? Show (Netflix)
Scientists have figured out so much more than you might realize. This show dives deep to bring some of the most famous names in history to life and takes your child on an adventure through the mind.
13. Wild Kratts (PBS)
The Kratt Brothers leap into animated action in the adventure comedy Wild Kratts. In each episode, Chris and Martin Kratt travel to a different corner of the world to meet amazing new animals. Your child will laugh and learn about a variety of animal species and science.
A lot of shows have educational benefits now and with so many choices you’ll have to remember to limit their daily usage. But make it fun for them.
This list is just a guide. Your kids should be allowed to just watch whatever they want sometimes (within reason). That’s ok. There will be times that you will need a break and the only option is to park them in front of the television.
The alternative is to get them play outside.