Seven kids’ shows that are not horrible, in order from “shows I can’t help sitting down and watching with the kids” to “shows I don’t mind in the background” to “shows I’m not crazy about, but are remarkably unobnoxious.” These are all available on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
I was skeptical, but this is pretty hilarious. Fun soundtrack, ducks who can dance like Michael Jackson, and narration by Stephen Fry. Here’s a pretty creative episode featuring Ride of the Valkyries:
2. Peep and the Big Wide World
Okay, I might have a weakness for cartoons with little segments of cute kids doing science experiments–or ducks with hats?–but I really enjoy watching the egotistic, ridiculous Quack (who reminds me a bit of the Humbug in The Phantom Tollbooth, or maybe Toad in The Wind in the Willows, the sarcastic Chirp, and the enthusiastic Beaver Boy, whose teeth get bored if he doesn’t have something to chew on. Tongue-in-cheek narration by Joan Cusack and education that’s not too heavy-handed make this easier for grown-ups to watch.
3. Tinga Tinga Tales
This is like a lovely children’s book–classic stories, moral endings that aren’t too heavy-handed, and beautiful design. I love the animals’ different accents, too.
4. Mighty Machines
I learned a lot from this show. Every machine you can think of, from construction vehicles and race cars to factory robots and salt mine jeeps, explains their job in random hokey accents. They sound just like you do when you’re playing with your kids and speaking in persona garbage truck: “hey, look how much garbage I can push! Boy, does that stink! Have you ever SEEN this much garbage, kids?” I can’t find a link of the steamroller with the Louis Armstrong voice singing “I roll up, / I roll down, / I push the dirt / into the ground, / oh yeahhh,” so here’s the glorious intro:
This is just a sweet, gentle show. It’s great for kids who really need to calm down but refuse to nap. Narrated, believe it or not, by Martin Clunes of Doc Martin!
Okay, I find the animation in this very freaky, and it’s pretty heavy-handed. But it’s also kind of sweet, and pretty funny. And we sing the song all the time at the deli. What’s gonna work? Teeeeamwork!
7. Handy Manny
Okay, hear me out! This looks like the usual Disney obnoxiousness, but it’s really not too bad. My favorite parts are that Manny speaks with a pleasant, adult voice, instead of a whiny, hyper kid’s voice, and that the Spanish words it teaches are integrated into the dialogue naturally (instead of shrieking, Dora-style, “CAN YOU SAY ‘HOLA??!'” Manny will say “today we’re going to la playa–the beach.”) Much less annoying, and much more educational.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that Reading Rainbow is much better than I remembered, Sesame Street is hilarious and not at all the PC, Cookie-Monster-now-eats-kale travesty people freak out about, and Curious George is just as delightful and imaginative as the books, if not more. What are your favorite kids’ shows?
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