I have pretty much been letting Harley watch as much TV as she wants as part of her unschooling/homeschooling approach. I know, mom of the year right here. But really, it feels like it’s the apocalypse and if some screentime makes the world seem better for any of us, why not binge watch the hell out of your favorites?
Thankfully, with the option to watch TV all day if she wants, she mostly doesn’t – opting instead to paint, draw, build with LEGO, play with her trains, the list goes on and on.
That said, she does have phenomenal taste in TV shows and requires very little guidance from us about what she is or isn’t allowed to watch. Basically, we banned all YouTubers (they are invading Hulu and Amazon in particular) and no Veggie Tales. Also, no shows in a foreign language, just because we don’t want to hear her complaining about how she doesn’t know what’s going on. With Netflix offering excellent curation and recommendations, she often ends up with super educational content that’s in line with her interests.
Here’s a MASSIVE list of shows she’s enjoyed (in alphabetical order), just on Netflix (I’ll try to do something similar for Disney+, as well as Amazon Prime). I’ve tried to emphasize the ones I really like for her, too. If your kid is under 6, these might be a fit for them, too.
For ease of skimming, bold titles are the ones I think are the best (more interesting, better characters, good messages) and the ones with a * are more educational.
- Abby Hatcher – As far as I can tell, this is a weird, girl-centric Pokemon clone. A girl catches little monsters, but they don’t have to fight each other, so I guess it’s not really Pokemon. I think each “fuzzly” mirrors emotions and experiences, making it a unique way to show how to deal with feelings.
- *Alpha Blocks – Super educational, plus really well designed and crafted. Each letter of the alphabet is represented, but really interesting things happen when they combine and work together.
- Beat Bugs – If you want your kids to learn Beatles songs AND about the world, this is the show for your family.
- Ben 10 – It’s been rebooted. Again. This time for a younger audience, and Harley adores it. Entertaining, and probably nostalgic if you or your spouse watched the originals back in the day.
- Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – From the same team that made Peppa Pig, this has a similar bizarre yet highly entertaining approach.
- Bo on the Go! – This one is great for encouraging your kid to move. Bo asks for “help” doing movements or getting energy, so a great one if you’re worried about your kid just sitting on the couch and watching videos all day.
- Bread Barbershop – Harley likes this one because it has so much food in it. It also instilled a love of toast. Super cute and entertaining.
- Charlies Colorforms City – He goes on cool adventures using shapes. Probably a bit immature for Harley from an educational perspective at this point, but she still, thinks it’s super entertaining.
- *Chico Bon Bon – A monkey with a toolbelt does STEM stuff. My favorite thing about it is the approach to nutrition. There’s always a problem that requires specific attributes, like focus, vision, strength, etc, which is linked back to eating certain fruit and vegetables.
- Chip and Potato – Super cute series about Chip, a pug, starting kindergarten and all the adventures her secret/imaginary mouse friend, Potato, helps her with.
- Cleo and Cuquin – If you or your kid need career ideas, this might be the right show! Short episodes (usually about 10-15 minutes each), siblings work in different roles to solve problems.
- *DinoTrux – Lots of engineering and construction combined with dinosaurs. Educational, bizarrely entertaining, and Harley loves it!
- Dragons Rescue Riders – Taking place in the How to Train Your Dragon universe, but geared towards younger kids, this show is great for teaching the value of teamwork, listening, and other social values. Plus it’s super entertaining. Harley says to tell anyone reading that it’s really good and probably won’t scare other children.
- *Earth to Luna – One of my favorites for Harley, it makes outer space (one of her favorite topics) accessible and interesting. Not only did she learn about gravity from watching this show, she also danced around me in circles saying she’s the Earth and I’m the Sun – definitely plenty of education mixed into the entertainment.
- *Emily’s Wonder Lab – Another instant favorite, this relatively new show is fantastic at making science fun and exciting while still super informative. I also love that it’s hosted by a female scientist and showcases kids of all backgrounds.
- Go Go Cory Carson – Harley loves the ice cream truck in this series, but in general it’s just a fun series of kids who like cars… which is all of them, right?
- *Hello Ninja – Two siblings take on animal ninja powers while fixing everyday problems. I love the Japanese culture, as well as the excellent messages.
- Julius Jr – Julius and his friends help each other in this cute show with simple animation and stories. Might skew a bit young, but still entertaining.
- Kicko Super Speedo – Warning, this show is from an Indian collaboration with another studio and the opening song is super catchy and not entirely in English. I also can’t really deal with watching this show with Harley because the animation and stories are not great. But if it keeps her happy and entertained, at least I can sing along to the theme song.
- Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts – If your kids like She-Ra, Avatar the last Airbender, or anything else with a super-powered kid who has special powers and important friendships, this one is great. Plus incredible animation!
- *Magic School Bus Rides Again – What’s not to love? Ms Frizzle is back and the show is as weirdly amazing as you probably remember it. So much to learn, well animated, and highly entertaining.
- *Monster Math Squad – These adorable monsters use math to solve problems and go on adventures. Teaches everything from counting to basic math concepts like addition and subtraction, volume to patterns.
- *Motown Magic – One of my favorites on this list! Not only is there excellent music (as the name would imply) but also excellent values and diversity.
- Noddy Toyland Detective – Apparently this is a well-known show in the UK. I’d never seen it at all, but Dean was very excited for Harley to watch it. It might deserve a * – the investigations are cool asking who, what, where, when, why. But not as academic as educational shows you’re used to.
- *Number Blocks – Similar to the Alphablocks listed above, the numbers play together, combine, and make math fun.
- *Octonauts – Great for kids interested in what’s underwater. Teaches a ton of underwater creatures and habitats, plus the usual themes of saving the day or solving problems.
- Oddbods – Silly and adorable. No extra message, nothing particularly helpful about it. But the characters are fun and entertaining.
- Paprika – The story centers on twins, one of whom is in a wheelchair. Mostly it’s the usual thing where everyday things become amazing adventures. Dean says it’s got the music and shots that look like it’s straight out of a Wes Anderson film, so that’s also something.
- Power Players – The boy’s uncle is an inventor and toy shop owner, which means there are plenty of toys around when Axel gets the power to transform into a toy himself and bring all the toys to life. More action-oriented show – lots of adventure!
- Rainbow Ruby – Every episode, Ruby travels to Rainbow Village in a different role. There’s always a problem to solve that requires three skills or abilities. Of course, these then apply to a real-life problem in her home when she returns from Rainbow Village. Super cute and empowering, while still being very visually appealing for girls who are into rainbows and pretty outfits.
- Rescue Bots – The first show that was Harley’s favorite. The usual firetruck and police car are joined by a helicopter and bulldozer in this rescue-themed Transformers spinoff for younger kids. Lots of saving the day, positive themes, and familiar Transformers characters.
- Robocar Poli – Another rescue-themed show that Harley LOVES. Korean animation and community-oriented morality means this show reminds me of Tayo, in the best way!
- Robot Trains – Train world needs… train transformers! Sort of. Another cute show with lots of rescuing. Harley adores it, so if your kids have loved Tayo, Robocar Poli, and other rescue-themed shows with vehicles, add this to the list.
- Sammy and Co – Super cute underwater adventure show with two tiny sea turtles as the main characters. Harley binge watched all of it, twice, so it must be engaging.
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – Feminism, LGBTQ elements, and incredible stories and animation. This one is great for representation and entertainment. Harley thinks Adora/She-Ra is amazing and compares her to Wonder Woman, so yay for more female heroes.
- *Space Racers – These planes (spaceships?) explore the solar system and go on fun adventures together. Super educational – for example, their camping trip that’s ruined by methane rain and ridiculously cold temperatures on Titan!
- Starbeam – Written by the same writer of Doc McStuffins, this super inspiring show features a young girl who can transform into a superhero. She’s smart and capable, solving the problem of the day as Starbeam.
- *StoryBots – The main series, Ask the StoryBots, can answer all the questions that I can’t. I often suggest Harley watch an episode when she asks me how ears work, or why do people look different. There are also video series with just their (fantastic) songs, holiday specials, and more.
- Super Hero Girls – Following some of the best female heroines from the DC universe, the stories are fun and intriguing as they fight crime while figuring out how to be better friends.
- *Super Wings – These planes fly around the world, delivering packages to children worldwide. This means they learn about different countries and languages while having fun adventures.
- Tayo – I already told you why I think Tayo is awesome. Great values, adorable animation, plus Harley loves it.
- Tobot – I don’t like the animation or the stories, but Harley is OBSESSED with Tobots, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it on this list. Cars transform into super-powered robots, driven by young boys. Oh, and they can “integrate” and combine.
- Transformers: Robots in Disguise – After watching Rescue Bots a million times, she graduated to watching Transformers Robots in Disguise and loves it. If you feel nostalgic about watching Transformers back in the day, this is a great one to share with your kid.
- True: Magical Friends – so many different movies and versions of True, all of which are focused on the idea that friendship and kindness can solve any problem. Super cute, great animation, and Harley LOVES this show.