Kids know what they like, and they’re unequivocal with their feelings — especially when it comes to kids TV programs.
If you’ve ever had a toddler dance around singing Peppa Pig all the livelong day, you’ll know how easy it is for kids to watch something and instantly fall in love with it.
With so many shows now available for viewing instantly and targeted to every age bracket, today’s parents have the frustrating task of vetting programs and selecting the right shows for their kids. They can’t only be entertaining because, as we all know, when young minds watch, they’re absorbing messages about the world around them. Parents must look for the educational messaging alongside the entertainment.
In the age of digital screens, the best way to be educational is to do educational. Or in other words, the most educational shows these days help kids experience their shows and build a connection with the content.
Here are our top 10 educational shows for kids that do just that:
- Word Party
- Nina’s World
- Wild Kratts
- Sid The Science Kid
- Dora The Explorer
- Baby Einstein
- Odd Squad
- Peg + Cat
- The Octonauts
Best educational shows for kids recaps:
1) Word Party (Netflix)
Word Party, a classic Jim Henson production, is an interactive show featuring four baby animals who are learning new words. When they’re successful, there’s a party and everyone celebrates.
To spark their young audiences’ imaginations, Word Party uses catchy songs to pose questions to their “big kid” viewers for help. The show helps build vocabulary at a young developmental stage, while also promoting emotional awareness and cohesive peer relationships.
Just a word of caution: The theme song will get stuck in your toddler’s head for all time.
2) Nina’s World (Hulu)
Nina’s World will feel quite familiar because of its characters. The show’s lively main character has a sense of adventure and imagination, just like her predecessor Dora. But the plot diverges from the original and includes her family, Mami, Papi, and Abuelita.
When she’s alone, Nina’s stuffed animal friend Star comes to life and takes her on adventures where she gets to explore the world around her. It’s a subtle but powerful message to young viewers, who are themselves playing pretend and exercising the powers of their imagination at a young age.
Not only is the show a fantastical journey through growing up, but it also takes a proud stance of Nina’s Latino community heritage. Like Dora the Explorer, Nina’s World includes dialogue in English, Spanish, and even some American Sign Language.
3) Wild Kratts (Various)
Interaction and engagement have always been the Kratt brothers’ way of connecting with their young viewers — the whimsical lemur creatures were just cherries on the cake. Even though their initial Zoboomafoo has officially shut down, the new animated series Wild Kratts takes things a step further.
The series focuses on bringing together diverse disciplines like biology, zoology, and ecology. There’s usually a “bad guy,” and the Kratt brothers fight to save the world from them. The Kratt brothers also try and show viewers that negative stereotypes about creatures like sharks and bees are misplaced.
4) Fetch! (PBS Kids)
Fetch! is better known as Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. Even though it ended a few years ago, it was a parent-and-kid-favorite. And it probably had to do with the fact that Fetch! is a wildly creative reality-tv show for children.
As contestants on a game show, kids interact with the animated, anthropomorphic cartoon dog named Ruff Ruffman. For a game-show format, the progress was full of twists and turns — like prizes that are rigged to be a joke.
Fetch! challenged kids to learn something about diverse subjects like astronomy, engineering, food science, math, and physics to successfully complete their assigned tasks.
5) Sid The Science Kid (Netflix)
The scientific process is a reliable way to ask and answer real-world questions that children ask about our world. So what if they were exposed to it at an early age, rather than waiting for grade-school lessons?
Sid The Science Kid is a comedian who consistently uses the scientific method to lay out a problem and then slowly and steadily answer the initial question he has. The show comes with an online component that interactively extends challenges in an interactive way to teach children through digital games and videos.
6) Dora The Explorer (CBS & Nick Jr.)
Dora The Explorer is an oldie-but-goodie. It features Dora, a proud Spanish-speaking little adventurer, who explores the world around her with her good friend Boots (a monkey) and a few other colorful characters.
Dora The Explorer set the stage for truly interactive and engaging children’s programming. While Sesame Street consistently addressed, engaged, and educated its young viewers, Dora The Explorer set up puzzles, challenges, and riddles, bringing audiences into it like an interactive video game.
7) Baby Einstein (YouTube)
The Baby Einstein YouTube channel is geared towards parents and children who go online for their programming content. While some videos are quick 10- and 12-minute compilations, others are full on 30-minute shows.
Parents that allow their children to have a tablet, or who are themselves digital natives, will love Baby Einstein. The channel is continually updating its videos with new content and features multiple formats. But variety is only part of the reason why parents and children alike adore the channel.
From animated cartoons to music festivals featuring the work of Mozart, the Baby Einstein channel provides a whole litany of original content. Children can learn about language, animals, shapes and numbers, music, and art through the holistic videos curated on the channel’s playlists.
Children at the earliest stages of development, as well as those coming into toddlerhood, will benefit from the playlists designed to stimulate the senses.
8) Odd Squad (PBS & TVOKids)
The Odd Squad is a show intended for older children — ages six to nine — and features a “kid” squad version of government agents. This “squad” of agents takes on cases assigned from their bosses, relying on real-world math, language, and logic skills to solve.
What’s even better is that young audiences can extend the TV content by heading online and using the squad’s problem-solving process to tackle extra cases and access hidden content.
9) Peg + Cat (Various)
Peg and her friend “Cat” are detectives dedicated to using math to solve the riddles they come up against. Using whimsical songs, guiding questions, and creative storytelling, Peg and her sidekick Cat solve their “REALLY BIG PROBLEM” with some good, old-fashioned problem-solving.
Like Dora, Peg + Cat directly addresses the young viewer and pulls them into the crisis they’re facing. Along the way, they employ specific strategies and skills that bring in foundational math concepts, showing just how much numbers and their operations rule the world we live in.
10) The Octonauts
Award-winning and amazingly inventive, The Octonauts focuses on ocean creatures. Operating on a ship, the “Octonauts” (which somehow resemble the Star Trek crew) regularly encounter weird new worlds, imaginative creatures, and problems as they navigate the watery depths.
While aquatic creatures and their mysterious environments are the focus of the show, children get very attached to the animal crew while learning about sharing, friendships, problem-solving, and even leadership.
You can’t end a “Top 10 Educational Shows for Kids” list without at least touching on the dead-ringer, Sesame Street. In many ways, this neighborhood show with its host of memorable, long-lasting muppet characters, celebrity guests, and reliable spots (Ernie and Bert, anyone?) not only changed children’s programming, but it also set the stage for what kids programming can evolve into.
As the years have progressed, Sesame Street has always managed to pull both children and parents in because of its real-world setting.
When adults and kids interact with muppets, responding to them, and even playing along, children feel as though they, too, are pulled into a world where these characters are just a few streets down.
But whatever you let your kids watch, we hope it’s fun, educational, and inspiring. Happy watching from LeeLee Labels!