Mamas, it’s 2020. In 2020, television does not have to be the enemy when it comes to your kids. There are so many absolutely fantastic, educational and enriching shows streaming for kids of any age, there’s no reason to feel guilty about screen time. Girl, you know we all need a break sometimes! Of course, we’re not saying it’s a good thing to let your kids veg out in front of the TV all day every day, but as long as you are monitoring the content your kids are watching and helping them choose quality programs there’s no shame at all in an hour or two a day. In fact, some shows have so much educational value that watching them might even double as learning time. These are some of our favorite educational and innovative TV shows and documentaries for kids in every age group:
Toddlers & Preschoolers: Ask the Storybots
On each episode of Storybots, a group of animated bots go on a quest to find the answer to an important question. Children not only discover the answer to the question, but get exposure to important preschool concepts like rhyming, music, cooperation and teamwork. Little ones absolutely adore the colorful and often hilariously funny bots and get excited about what each episode’s question will be, which have included topics like “Why does night happen?” and “Where does rain come from?”.
Toddlers & Preschoolers: Charlie’s Colorforms City
The youngest of your brood can tune into Charlie’s Colorforms City to start learning all about colors and shapes, which tend to be some of the more difficult concepts for toddlers to master. Learning colors and shapes takes a lot of exposure and repetition, so this program is a really useful supplement to whatever efforts you’re already making to help your kiddo learn them. It’s bright and fun and each episode has a storyline, so it’s not just a bunch of images flashing on the screen repeatedly.
Toddlers & Preschoolers: Octonauts
We love that these days even the youngest children can start to learn about scientific topics via television. Shows like Octonauts use adorable and relatable characters to help children learn about our earth, its inhabitants and how our own actions affect it. Octonauts teaches little ones about various marine life, adventure, teamwork and more. We also really appreciate that the topics are interesting enough that older siblings won’t complain about watching as well.
Toddlers & Preschoolers: Disneynature Documentaries
The Disneynature series of nature and wildlife documentaries is great for the whole family and a wonderful way to get young children into non-fiction, educational films. Most are about a specific animal, including many kid favorites like penguins, pandas and monkeys, and they often focus on younger animals which makes them easier for little ones to digest. Typically, they run just over an hour so they are more suitable for shorter attention spans as well. You can even download additional educational materials and activities from Disney’s Web site which makes them extra fun for preschoolers. Elementary Schoolers: Wild Kratts
Kids go absolutely nuts for Wild Kratts which is a nature program created by zoologists and brothers Chris and Martin Kratt. The show is mostly animated, but features some live action segments. Kids learn about tons of different animals and scientific concepts and facts as they follow the Kratts on their adventures in the wilderness. We especially love that Wild Kratts sparks curiosity and encourages kids to dig deeper and learn more about the animals and science that most interest them.
Elementary Schoolers: Brainchild
Brainchild is a fantastic science-themed show that reminds us a lot of a modern Bill Nye the Science Guy, except with a much more multi-ethnic, diverse cast and a bit of a YouTube docuseries feel. It helps kids explore more complex scientific topics like neurology and gravity, in ways that are relatable to today’s world and how our children actually interact with science on a daily basis. Kids absolutely love watching the science experiments and trying their own versions at home.
Elementary Schoolers: The Who Was? Show
Any time kids are teaching kids, it seems that kids are into it. On The Who Was? Show a teen cast puts on a show that teaches about historical figures from Gandhi to Joan of Arc in a hilarious format that involves exactly the kind of silly antics that draw kids in and keep them coming back for more — hence, more learning! The episodes are roughly 25 minutes each, making all of the information presented totally digestible and simpler for kids to grasp and actually remember.
Elementary Schoolers: MythBusters & MythBusters Jr.
The original MythBusters show was on the air for 15 years with a spinoff titled MythBusters Jr. airing about a year after the original series wrapped up. The spinoff recruits a group of kids to take the place of the original MythBusters — though one of the original hosts acts as a mentor on the show — as they do experiments to separate fact from fiction using STEAM concepts and skills. It’s just as addictive as the original, which kids are sure to want to binge watch as well, once they make it through the 10 episodes of MythBusters Jr.
Tweens & Teens: The Mars Generation
The Mars Generation is a unique documentary that chronicles the hopes and aspirations of a group of teens at Space Camp who dream of one day visiting Mars. Throughout the documentary, experts, scientists and even NASA astronauts lend their insights and knowledge regarding NASA’s history and the likelihood of further space exploration including potential Mars landings. If you have a diehard space geek on your hands, The Mars Generation will most definitely strike a chord.
Tweens & Teens: Tales by Light
If you have a child who is curious about the world and cultures beyond her own, Tales by Light is an excellent program to watch as a family. Photographers and filmmakers travel the world documenting places, cultures and people in unique ways and tackle difficult topics like poverty, global warming, the destruction of indigenous peoples and much more, in short, captivating episodes. The stunning imagery and relatability keeps kids of various ages interested, engaged and learning.