I’m baaack! I’ve got an updated Netflix list for you parents who need to turn on the TV occasionally for your kids without getting a huge guilt trip about what they’re watching. News flash: that’s all of us at some point or another. You’re not alone! These shows have good wholesome entertainment for any aged child, and I bet your kids (and maybe you too!) will learn something at the same time. Look no further for the best educational shows for kids: fall 2017 edition!
My original fall 2016 post, which you can see here, is really popular. It’s been fun to see how my own kids have grown since that original list, and how their tastes and interests have changed. But my rules for making this list are still the same: the show must be educational, and not exhibit anything inappropriate like bullying or excessive whining (as I eye roll at “Bob the Builder”). Netflix is usually pretty good about this, and most of their original shows are fantastic, but look to my comments for more details about each.
All of these shows are rated TV-Y, by the way. For more information about the rating system, look here.
In addition to “series” cartoons you’ll see below, there are two single-episode shows that I wanted to list here.
Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales: runtime 35 min
Based on the characters from the original Cars movie, Pixar has this set of mini-stories that tell about all of Mater’s adventures! From his days as a monster truck to conferring with a UFO, these tales are just as hilarious as they are far-fetched… or are they?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories: runtime 32 min
Watch Eric Carle’s stories come to life! Set to lovely simple music, Carle’s books are narrated and animated in a way which does justice to his illustration style. We love the caterpillar, but also like the one about the cricket!
Honorable Mention: Clifford the Big Red Dog
This is an oldie but a goodie, amirite? Clifford and Emily Elizabeth can entertain another generation in a feel-good series about being kind, patient, and just overall a decent human being. You can tell that the show feels a bit dated but I love that the emphasis is on being an emotionally intelligent, mature person no matter how you’re treated or what happens in life.
Note that there is another Clifford show on Netflix right now called Puppy Days; I’m sure it’s fine too but we haven’t watched it.
2 seasons on Netflix, with over 60 episodes;, Episode runtime: 26 min (2 themes/episode)
The Top Ten Countdown!
10. StoryBots Super Songs
Netflix is trying to shut up the parents crying for “More StoryBots episodes!” I think. And it’s working, sort of! This is a fast-paced but really fun way to get some knowledge crammed into those little brains! With the same quirky, clever writing and animation styles as the complete StoryBots show (also on this list at number five), this show is more like music videos on everything from nutrients to dinosaurs.
Watching this show will make you laugh and will get some interesting facts implanted in your mind, but it gets exhausting after an episode or two because it’s fast-tempo tunes the whole time. Use it sparingly like a strong spice and it’s a great addtion to reinforce concepts to your kids.
5 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 21 min (2 themes/episode)
9. Super Why
Super Why is my toddler’s latest favorite. She loves this show! Wyatt, aka Super Why, and his band of buddies go through adventures both in their lives as well as in fairy tales and stories. They drill the alphabet, letter sounds, and all sorts of other reading and writing concepts.
My four year old doesn’t like some of the stories that the Super Readers reference, and this is my least favorite show on the list. It does have a lot of merit and it’s great reinforcement for letters and pre-reading, but it just annoys the hell out me for some reason!
3 seasons with over 50 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 27 min.
8. Sarah and Duck
Sarah and Duck is one of those precious simplistic shows that are good for quieting your kids or snuggling under a blanket. It feaetures few characters and a straightforward narration style that make it easy for littles to understand. There’s little music and little fuss, while Sarah and her duck go through their days learning about their world.
I don’t feel super strongly that this is the best educational show out there (and it’s probably the weakest on this list), but it’s really cute and not overstimulating at all. I appreciate that!
2 seasons on Netflix (13 episodes each); Episode runtime: 22 min (2 minis/episode)
This show was one of my son’s first favorites. The Octonauts are various animals, of various ethnicities, who live in a traveling ocean station and help wildlife. Each episode focuses on a specific animal or plant from the ocean, and how they attempt to help it. The episode recaps with facts about the marine life featured in that episode.
My kids love learning about different animals, and the show is very engaging. The music is not great, some of the accents might be difficult for a young child to understand, and the plot feels ridiculously repetitive. These are probably pretty common complaints for little kids’ shows though.
3 seasons on Netflix; Episode run time: 23 min. (2 themes/episode)
6. The Magic School Bus
Another classic makes its way to number six on my list. Ms. Frizzle and her magic school bus take a small class of students on unbelievable adventures revolving around the life sciences. You’ll shrink down microscopically to travel through a blood stream, be one with the ants, or explore a cave with the coolest eccentric teacher that ever was.
I personally really like this show, but I do find that it can be really difficult for younger kids to follow. Even my super-mature four year old loses interest quickly because it’s very verbose. That’s why it’s not higher on my list.
4 seasons with over 40 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 26 min.
5. Ask The Storybots
Netflix, you’ve done it again! If you’re not already watching this show, you need to be. It absolutely cracks me up and is that perfect blend of entertaining and educational for the whole family.
This show is about a crew of little robots who receive, and are charged with finding the answer to, real life little kids’ questions. There’s live action, claymation, CGI and animation, all while learning about “Where rain comes from” or “Why do we have to brush our teeth?” Oh, and there are celebrities in each episode, from Jay Leno to Whoopi Goldberg to Weird Al. The writing is brilliant, it’s overflowing with cool facts which your kids will remember, and it’s got great pacing.
My only complaint? There are only 6 episodes. Come on guys, give us more! We’re addicted!
1 season on Netflix; Episode runtime: 20-24 min.
4. Veggie Tales in the City
I have always been a fan of Veggie Tales, but my kids never really dug the show until now. With episodes that aren’t overly religious, Larry and Bob go through their little world learning about morals and values like patience and kindness. The writing is actually pretty clever so it doesn’t feel like one of “those shows” that make you want to gag.
You will hear them occasionally recap with a Bible verse, or by mentioning God or Jesus, but I don’t feel like it’s oversaturated. However, this is an extremely personal choice, so now you know in advance!
There is also a “Veggie Tales in the House” series which we haven’t tried yet.
One season with 13 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 23 min. (2 themes/episode)
3. Puffin Rock
This an original Netflix show and it’s just gorgeous. It follows a puffin family on their island, and their friends of various species. The narrator and all the characters have (mostly) Irish accents which may be a bit difficult for your little to understand at first, but it’s great nonetheless. Oona is the big sister and attempts to make the right decisions while babysitting her younger sibling, Baba. They learn about nature and science as they meet their friends, who include a ravenous shrew and a sly fox. And they have an additional season out now too, yippee!!!
2 seasons on Netflix; Episode run time: 19 min. (3 themes/episode)
2. Little Einsteins
This show is one of my favorite “for little kids” shows. Each episode features the Little Einstein crew, and showcases a classical melody and a piece of artwork. The kids solve problems like getting Jupiter its lost ring back, and discuss topics from biology to mathematics.
While I personally think the animation and some of the dialogue is a bit babied down, I absolutely love the concept. And I love that my kids can sing Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”, too.
2 seasons with over 55 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 24 min.
1. Julie’s Greenroom
Eek! I’m so excited to tell you about this new Netflix original. Julie’s Greenroom teaches kids about all aspects of the performing arts, with host Julie Andrews! (Can you see the hearts in my eyes?) She sings and dances while holding a class for “Greenies”, puppets and kids who want to learn about theatre, writing, costumes, props, music, etc. Guest stars like Josh Groban and Idina Menzel (voice of Elsa from that movie you know) pop in to discuss and demonstrate various topics.
As a music educator and a huge Julie Andrews fan, I was thrilled to see Netflix shedding some light on the awe and challenges of the performing arts. The show isn’t overwhelming and the puppet children (not as creepy as it sounds) bring in an original spin while being differentiated in gender, race, ability, and personality.
1 season of 13 episodes on Netflix; Episode runtime: 26 min.
What shows do you enjoy watching with your kids? Let me know in the comments and please share!