Here it is! – my list of the best shows on Netflix for your toddler or small child, updated for Fall 2016.
Honestly, I hesitated to make this list because I think a lot of parents don’t like to admit that their kid watches TV. But if we are real with ourselves, we know that there are plenty of times where it is necessary to turn on the TV for a little while. And with great educational shows like those on my list, you don’t have to feel guilty! (You might learn something too!).
In order to make my list, the show currently has to be on Netflix; it also has to be educational and age-appropriate. There are lots of popular shows out there, like Paw Patrol (PBS) for example, which do not really teach anything. I don’t really want my kids to watch “mindless” TV, so I try to opt for these other choices when possible. And of course they cannot drive Mommy crazy – sorry Caillou, no one likes you.
Honorable Mention: Dino Trux
This is a Netflix original show, and for the most part it is really great. The voice acting is some of the best I have heard in a while, and the concept is perfect for kids: who doesn’t like trucks, who are dinosaurs?! You can really tell that they were thinking about their target audience.
The reason the show does not make it to the list is twofold: firstly, it does not really have any type of lesson in it about dinosaurs, science, etc. Secondly (and more importantly), the villain is verbally and physically abusive to his little cronie. You don’t see it often, but it does happen more than once. When possible, I don’t want my kid to see bullying on tv… even if it is the bad guy.
7. DreamWorks Turbo Fast
This is one of those shows I really enjoy along with my kid. It’s super creative and hilarious, which makes it entertaining for both of us!
The show follows the same characters from the Turbo movie… Yes, it really is about racing snails. The episodes aren’t particularly linear so there’s no need to watch them in order and follow a continuous plot. It does give some random facts about various types of animals (especially bugs), but it’s done so in a baseball card way which integrates well into the show.
Honestly, it will not give you the warm fuzzies but it does touch on life lessons like honesty and apologizing. It does also feel like it’s geared towards kids who are a bit older than my three year old, but there’s nothing inappropriate.
Three seasons on Netflix; Episode runtime: 23 min.
6. Taratabong: The Song of the Meloditties
This show gets points for creativity and aesthetics. It’s really gorgeous in a simple, classic way. All the characters are instruments who speak with their respective “voices”, aka the traditional timbre of that instrument. A narrator helps the plot move along and the show explores acoustical concepts like loud versus soft. As a musician, I haven’t found anything inaccurate or offensive, but the synthesizer-like quality of the sounds does get to me sometimes. The instruments play together and learn new things about their art in the process.
One season on Netflix; Episode runtime: 26 min.
This show is very unique, and for the most part that is a good thing. It is like a mini “20 questions” to help children guess different animals. Each episode goes through many different animals, taking one minute for each one. You start with a blank slate, and the narrator asks questions of the mystery animal. Gradually, your child and the narrator figure out what the animal is. “See if you can guess!” is the animal’s challenge, and when he’s discovered he exclaims, “How on earth did you guess?”
The narrator has a voice which honestly is really annoying just because of their timbre. I also don’t like how it portrays some animals as “bad guys”, like sharks and wolves. We do try to teach our kids that animals just do what they do, one is not meaner or nicer than another. But overall it is a really neat concept, my kid loves learning about animals and he does retain a lot of what he sees!
This show is also great to switch on sporadically because there is no plot, nor are there characters. So you do not have to worry about “what happened last time?”
One season on Netflix; Episode runtime: 23 min.
4. Beat Bugz
Oh Netflix, how I love thee. This is another one of their original shows, and originally I was ecstatic to see a kids’ show about – you guessed it – Beatles songs! I couldn’t wait to have my three year old singing “Hey Jude” under his breath, or learn all the words to “Here Comes the Sun.” The writing is not as engaging as I would have hoped, as the storylines do seem to stop short more than once, but the arrangements overall are pretty darn nice. I love that my young child is visually experiencing some of the most precious music to my heart. Each episode has two mini-stories and revolves around a small set of characters who live in a garden (of an octopus, in the shade…).
1 season on Netflix; Episode run time: 24 min.
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, but it’s great to look at 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.
This show is my toddler’s latest obsession. He is constantly singing the theme song. 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 son loves learning about different animals, and the show is very engaging for him. 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.
1. 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. 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.
What shows do you enjoy watching with your kids?