Most parents attempt to limit their kids' screen time. Between television, phones, and tablets, it can feel like a constant back and forth on the matter. So when the kiddos are actually allowed to watch a little TV, that time shouldn't be squandered on unsuitable shows, right?
Of course not. It needs to be squandered on shows that won't have an adverse effect on their brains. It needs to instead be squandered on shows that educate and broaden their horizons. It needs to be squandered - ahem - on shows that thoroughly entertain them.
That might not sound like a popular idea, but how can the kiddos be expected to watch something that isn't entertaining? Adults aren't couching it up at night and flipping on boring-but-educational television, are they? Nope. And if they say they are, they're totally not telling the whole truth. Unless, of course, Game of Thrones is considered historical television. (Spoiler: It isn't.)
With the right amount of fun mixed-in, kids are open to watching just about anything. Bill Nye taught science to millions because his format was fun and entertaining. Kids and adults alike listened in their free time while he taught (and still teaches) the fundamentals of biology, physics, and chemistry.
If fun shows are presented, they will watch. And there are a plethora of fun shows streaming on Netflix right now.
Let's start with the 10 shows to avoid...
20 Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse
Kids should avoid this one. Barbie is - to no one's surprise - a one-dimensional character who literally has everything a girl could want: an acreage of a closet, the Dream House, a water slide, etc.
Now, is she kind? Yes. Organized and hyper-motivated? Most definitely. She doesn't teach bad behaviors, per se, but she also has no original thoughts or funny behaviors.
Adults, however, might want to check this one out. It's pretty funny, from a grown-up standpoint, with a bumbling Ken and characters who pop into the booth that has become a standard on reality television.
I lowkey enjoy this show. After the munchkins are in bed, give it a glance.
19 Masha And The Bear
This show seems to lose something in the translation from its original language. Perhaps there is a cultural element that doesn't quite cross over because when all is said and done, the show is a nonsensical mess.
Masha is a tornado of a little kid, who gets into everything all the time. Every episode consists of her showing up at the bear's house in the forest, getting into trouble and messing up his life, house, and romantic relationships.
And where are her parents? Why is she running wild in the woods?
A lot of kid shows defy logic, but this one is missing the teaching element at the end. Masha is a mess who never actually redeems herself.
18 Richie Rich
Richie Rich - on screen, at least - has always been a miss, in my opinion. This latest installment, however, is a miss of gargantuan proportions.
Richie has money, of course, and the premise of the show is basically "wow-look-how-I-can-do-anything-I-want-because-money."
That could be entertaining, but there is no effort here to do anything more than that. Richie behaves like a sarcastic adult, and we never see him experience kindness, consequences or anything more than base-level immature compulsion.
I don't even think kids would like this, and it's a show about a rich kid buying everything he could possibly want. That speaks volumes, don't you think?
17 Word Party
On paper, this show is a great idea. Four Henson baby animals are learning words; capital concept, right? Vocabulary lessons are always a good thing, and this is the Muppet creator. Perfect. Only...
The voices. The voices make this show utterly intolerable. It sounds like adults talking baby-talk and in the most bizarre way possible.
Additionally, the characters on the show throw occasional tantrums, unfortunate little episodes that kids are prone to mimic
The last thing I need is my children learning to spit and scream from a television show. If they're going to learn that nonsense, I'd prefer they learn it at home, just like their siblings before them.
16 Dawn Of The Croods
The movie was great, but the Croods on the small screen; not the same. The animation is 2D – different from the movie – so from the get-go, it feels off.
And then there’s the name-calling. Don't even get me started.
Yes, we’re dealing with prehistoric characters, but that doesn’t mean we have to employ name-calling on this kids show.
I prefer shows that don’t teach my kiddos how to put down their little buddies, but maybe that's just me.
15 Super Wings
The concept here is good. These aeronautical machine-buddies deliver things all over the world. They zip around and introduce kids to other cultures and lands, which is a really good thing, right?
Err, yes. But if we're teaching kids about global diversity, it's important to actually show the diversity. The characters in this program, no matter where on the globe they live, have remarkably similar features and skin tones. They may throw in a tiny accent and a bit of additional shading, but they're doing a disservice to children by not representing all of them.
Good intentions, but this show just doesn't deliver.
This show is like if someone wanted to duplicate the low-levelness of SpongeBob Squarepants, but the goal was to be way less funny and utterly devoid of a point.
These two fellas - who are larvae, of course - are just hanging out, going around town while they wait to undergo metamorphosis. They pass gas and do a plethora of other unpalatable activities.
Not only is there nothing to be learned from watching this, but if you're eating while watching this show, you might get downright queasy.
13 Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures
I'm pretty uncool for putting this one on this side of the list because this show is all about nice. Strawberry Shortcake and her friends are all kind to each other, and thoughtful and overall swell human beings. There's nothing bad to learn from this one.
But it's too sweet. The little voices, the cutesy outfits, and did I already mention the little voices? The high fructose corn syrup of this program makes me never want to buy another box of donuts again.
The kids will love it. You will not unless your goal is to never come near another box of sweets again. On second thought...
12 We're Lalaloopsy
This is another show that isn't bad, in and of itself. Ragdolls that suddenly come to life and are living their best lives isn't a bad plotline. They're nice and the general themes of the show circle around social mores, like being kind, being a good friend, etc. It will not teach your children anything bad, except...
The entire show was kind of conceived around product placement. You see, these protagonists were actual dolls first, available for purchase; the show came second. So if you present this program to your children, be prepared for the consumeristic wants that will soon follow.
11 Kate And Mim-Mim
My daughter would probably love this bright, silly show, but she will never get the chance because I will not be turning it on.
My biggest issue with this show, other than the baby talk, is the female stereotype. The only female character on the show is Lily. Lily has a high-pitched voice, with long eyelashes, a love for sparkly things and faints when she gets scared.
These are not the mannerisms I want my daughter to emulate.
And here are the 10 shows kids should be watching...
10 Julie's Greenroom
What's not to love about this show? You've got the incomparable Julie Andrews, sharing entertainment and the arts with kids -- not too shabby, actually!
Add in the cute little Henson peeps - the Muppety looking little characters that are everything that a puppet should be. Can we get an awwwww?
Then, as if all of that isn't enough, there are the celebrity guest appearances. Alec Baldwin, Idina Menzel, Ellie Kemper and many more are among a plethora of famous guests who pop into the show and engage with the children.
This is one of those gems that entertains adults as well as children, and I, for one, am a fan.
9 Boss Baby: Back In Business
If you liked the movie, you should like this show, as well. Granted, it's missing the Alec Baldwin factor and the well-known voice-overs, but it still works.
It makes my kid laugh, and it makes me laugh, so in my book, that is a big ol' win. We parents are always grateful for the tiny morsels of grown-up humor that sometimes get thrown into kid shows, and The Boss Baby does not disappoint.
I just wish binge-watching with children wasn't always so animated, don't you? I sometimes miss real faces and actor mannerisms. Remember Ryan Reynolds? Or Ryan Gosling? Yeah...they weren't animated. Sigh. #parentlife
8 Ask The Storybots
Yeah, um, we saw Snoop on an episode of Ask The Storybots, so you know it's legit. This show takes questions about "stuff," i.e. planets, how computers work, where do French fries come from, etc., and makes discovering the answers fun!
And the music - don't even get us started on that. The Storybots have informative songs that are so well-produced and catchy that you'll be singing them all day long, with or without kids. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you - it is not. Get ready to download the songs on your phone, because you won't want to let them go.
7 The Adventures of Puss In Boots
This show is laugh-out-loud funny, for both kids and adults. Puss, our milk-loving hero, takes us on exotic adventures while being kind of a bumbling mess. He often saves the day, but more often than not it's in spite of his actions.
Thankfully, just like in the movie, this cat has flash, flair and a rampant cuteness that renders most characters - and viewers - unable to resist his charm.
If you're looking for an educational program, this probably isn't your show. But if you're looking for the entire family to be entertained, you won't be disappointed with this one.
Okay, it isn't technically a Netflix "show," but it is currently on Netflix and it is amazing. If you've yet to see this gem, make sure you hit Costco for the industrial-sized box of tissues before you settle into the sofa. Maybe some ice cream and chocolates, too, just to keep the treat-questing part of your brain happy while you delve into two hours of an emotional rollercoaster.
It is sweet, wistful, and skillfully reveals charming depths. There's also the way it all weaves into the unwavering fact that family is the ultimate, the absolute most important thing in the world.
Watch it -- you won't regret it. Just don't forget the Kleenex.
5 The Magic School Bus Rides Again
I love Kate McKinnon, so this reboot could be a snore-fest and I'd probably still be all in. But good news - no snoring here!
It may look a little different, and it has a huge upgrade of a theme song by none other than the amazing Lin Manuel Miranda, but the school bus formula has stayed true to the original.
Kids hopping into the magic bus for scientifically-fab adventures; that's it, just like always. Learning, but wrapped tightly enough in entertainment to make it fun. I loved the original, but I love this one may be a little more. (Shh...don't tell Ms. Frizzle.)
I strongly recommend taking a ride on the new bus.
4 The Beat Bugs
Bugs, Beatles songs, Battlestar Galactica.
Okay - not the last one. But it is a show about entertaining little bugs, and they do employ Beatles songs to add earworms to our visual delight. The Beat Bugs is a syrupy sweet show that teaches kids about friendship, relationships, and general social niceties.
It can get a bit cavity-inducing for us parents, but it's a home run with the preschool set.
When you're desperate for five minutes, this is a good selection to pop on the tube for your munchkin's viewing pleasure. Also, it annoys me less than Calliou and Daniel Tiger, but more than Word Girl, for the record.
3 Stranger Things
This one is for your older kids. I repeat, this is not for the littles.
Now that the disclosure has been dropped, I must confess that I personally love this show. Perhaps it's because I'm a fan of the '80s and get to see Paul Reiser and Winona Ryder, but I think this is one not to miss.
It's got supernatural events, kids with psychokinetic abilities, dark government agencies and throwback references all over the place; can you say TV gold mine?
The kids can act, too; really well, in fact. I would definitely recommend checking this one out.
This animated show for preschoolers is, dare I say it, cute. I know that word is trite, but this program is just super cute.
The animation is crisp and colorful, the characters happy and adorable. We follow Pocoyo as he experiences new and exciting adventures with all of his friends, and we smile as they all traverse the big, big world together.
The added bonus of this show is that the narrator's voice is so rich and soothing that it works as a parental relaxation technique. If you turn on Pocoyo for your kids, it's like someone is reading you a bedtime story.
1 Spy Kids: Mission Critical
Kids love shows that depict regular kids - kids just like them - doing big time grown-up stuff. It's a tried and true formula, which is why this Spy Kids revival works in spite of its predictability.
What kid doesn't want to imagine attending a spy academy? Using cool gadgets to take down bad guys is Basic Pretending 101. So it doesn't come as a surprise that kids can totally get behind watching this one.
True, it's missing Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, but the original idea still entertains. If you haven't yet, you should consider giving this show a look.
Sources: Netflix.com, iMDB.com, Common Sense Media, Universalkids.com, Pbskids.org.