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Keep reading to see parents share their favorite shows for toddlers (kids love them, too)!
Let’s be honest. To get through this past vacationless year, you’ve had to watch a lot of TV with your kids.
If you are a parent to anyone under the age of 10, you are familiar with shows like Paw Patrol, The Wiggles, and Cocomelon. These shows and others like them are fiercely beloved (and watched re-peat-ed-ly) by toddlers and young children, but how do you feel about them?
That’s what we thought!
If you’re looking for some new shows for your little ones, or wish they would get into a show that you could watch too, check out these recommendations from real parents. (They’d also make for a great distraction on a roadtrip to your spring break in Williamsburg, Virginia!)
What kids love: Dino Dana follows a dino-obsessed 9-year-old girl as she conducts her own “dino experiments,” answering questions from what dinos ate to which one ran the fastest to how dino parents protected their young. Dana’s awesomely active imagination allows the audience to actually see each dinosaur as it may have looked, tromping through her house, her backyard, and her community. Kids learn all kinds of awesome dinosaur facts that will likely feed their curiosity and love of these amazing creatures. The CGI effects are awesome, but because the show is made with young children in mind, not at all scary.
What parents love: Besides all of the wonderful, up-to-date scientific information, Dana’s character has infectious enthusiasm for all things science, which we love to see. She is also part of a blended family that is affectionate and tight-knit and doesn’t pigeonhole the parents into old-fashioned ideals (Dad loves to craft). The friends and neighbors in Dana’s life are often people of color, which is also refreshing. Another huge plus is that it passes the Bechdel Test, a model created by Alison Bechdel that looks for female representation in different types of visual media. The test asks three simple questions: 1. Does it have at least two women or girls in it? 2. Do they talk to each other? 3. About something other than a man or a boy? Though this may seem like a remarkably low bar, the majority of films fail to pass it. Dino Dana portrays complex female characters with important relationships and rich inner lives, and for that, we give it our enthusiastic recommendation!
One mom’s review of Dino Dana:
“So much children’s programming is puerile drivel. It is so rare to find children’s programming that is engaging and filled with useful information. My daughter loves dinosaurs, space, and math games. This show is an excellent stimulus for her love of palaeontology. What I love about this show is the family members find time to pay attention to each other. They do not talk down to the main character or question her interactions with long extinct dinosaurs in ‘real life’. Dino Dana is now our evening tradition before bedtime. Dad, Mom, and munchkin all snuggle up for a dinosaur adventure together as we all learn about dinosaurs.” – Shelley J.
What kids love: Have a truck-obsessed toddler? They must see Trash Truck. This series is about a 6-year-old boy named Hank whose friend group includes a spunky racoon, a loveable black bear (played by Kevin from The Office!), a maternal mouse, and, best of all, a doting trash truck and Hank’s best buddy. Each episode is 11-15 minutes, and so far, there’s only one season (fingers crossed for more to come). The stories are nearly all outdoor adventures told from the perspective of a young boy, and each one captures childhood in such a specific and special way. It’s no wonder children connect so strongly with these loveable characters and sweet story lines.
What parents love: Trash Truck was created by Max Keane for his son, Henry. The Keanes have a long history of creating stories for children, like father Glen Keane, a former Disney animator; grandfather Bil Keane, who created ‘The Family Circus’ comic; and sister Claire Keane, who writes children’s books. The idea for Trash Truck came from a sweet interaction with Max’s son when he was just a year old, and the rest is history. Parents love this gently paced show with its thoughtful life lessons and creative problem-solving. Hank’s friends also have a chemistry that is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and this humor combined with its genuine innocence makes it a show kids and parents alike want to watch over and over again.
One dad’s review of Trash Truck: “This show is kind and genuine. The love that went into it really shines through. I also have found myself laughing at the jokes. It’s a really sweet show that I can’t recommend enough.” -Jeremy M.
What kids love: The animation in Tumble Leaf is unlike anything else out there. Perfectly geared toward toddlers, this 4-season series is vibrant, playful and wholesome. Fig the Fox and his cast of colorful friends make exciting discoveries about how the world works through simple science lessons (think light and shadows, magnets, etc.). The music is captivating, the visuals are stunning, and the storyline has a gentle pace full of wonder.
What parents love: Like the other shows on this list, the positive messaging of this whimsical show is a huge hit with parents. The storylines are purposeful, teaching lessons about friendship and family and encouraging resilience and curiosity. It’s won half a dozen Emmy awards for its creativity and animation, which make it fun to watch for parents as well as kids.
One parent’s review of Tumble Leaf: “This is hands-down my favourite series for kids. No scary stuff. No innuendo or inappropriate messages for kids. No bad language. No bullying or upsetting things. My sensitive four year old absolutely loved the show. It is funny, has some exciting moments but always lots of slower and gentle scenes too. What a lovely show – I wish there were more like this because I have yet to find anything as delightful. It’s educational, kind and a lovely story that keeps kids engaged and laughing along the way.” – ProfessorG
Here’s a little bonus! If your kids are 3+, these animal documentaries are a wonderful way to introduce them to the fascinating world of animals and nature. They’re rated for all ages, and though they may not have been made with children solely in mind, they are definitely appropriate for curious toddlers (and parents who still love to learn new things about animals!).
Dancing with the Birds
This 2019 documentary follows a series of colorful and highly entertaining male jungle birds as they dance, tap, hop, twirl, play hide-and-seek, and tidy up as part of their wildly entertaining mating rituals. No sexual language is used in the show, and young viewers probably won’t make much of the few times male birds briefly mate with their female partners. But the gorgeous plumage, incredible videography, and wry commentary should keep kids interested.
My Octopus Teacher
Do you love the common octopus as much as you love your own dog? No? Well, you will. Just watch this 2020 Oscar-winning documentary that follows a man as he forges an unexpected friendship with a single octopus in the kelp forests of South Africa. The videography is shockingly beautiful, the discoveries are enchanting, and the storyline will have you thinking about this man and his eight-legged friend for days. Kids will likely want to learn more about this incredible creature, so a trip to the library might be in your future if you watch this together!
It would be a sin not to mention dinosaurs in this list. All kids love dinosaurs, but not all dinosaur shows are created equal. This one hits the spot for the serious dinosaur lover—a two-part documentary hosted by British journalist Ellie Harrison that examines how dinosaurs lived, ate, and died. Harrison travels all over the United Kingdom, meeting with paleontologists to discuss incredible dinosaur discoveries, including the fearsome Megalosaurus, the fish-loving Baryonyx, and a complete skeleton of a Scelidosaurus that tells an incredible story. The best part? The dinosaurs come to life, walking the streets of London and darting in and out of the ancient triliths of Stonehenge. Though the CGI is extremely realistic, the representations of these creatures steer away from any violence and should fascinate your young paleontologist.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading, parents share their favorite shows for toddlers.
Cozy up and watch any of these at your home away from home, King’s Creek.