Our guide to the best kids' TV shows on now
Sometimes holding a Skype call with one foot on a bedroom door that is being hammered on by a five year old can begin to get you down.
Right now, with many parents working from home and juggling childcare at the same time it’s probably the moment to relax those screen time rules.
Even a superhero can’t provide an enriching homeschool experience and keep the business from crumbling around their ears at the same time.
Give yourself a break and the kids a treat with our picks of the best streaming TV shows for youngsters that are guaranteed to keep them square-eyed for hours. And there are even some educational shows so you don’t have to feel guilty.
Just Add Magic
This binge worthy box set is catnip for girls aged eight to 11. There are three whole seasons plus a spin-off series, Just Add Magic: Mystery City, which came out in January. The show revolves around three girls Kelly, Darbie, and Hannah who arebest friends and love cooking. While making a cake for Kelly's grandma, whose mysterious illness means she cannot talk, they use a recipe from an ancient cookbook they found in the attic. The recipes they find inside have strange names like "Shut 'em Up Shortcake" and "Hazelnut Healing Tart" and require unusual ingredients that local shopkeeper Mama P. claims are magical. As they try out the recipes, more and more strange events occur.
The Dangerous Book for Boys
The dangerous book for Boys centres around the boys of the McKenna family who are coping with the loss of their father, Patrick. In it the dead dad teaches his youngest, via fantasy sequences garnered from the book he leaves his boys about how to navigate the real world. So, it’s educational. Less sad, more sitcom than it sounds.
Teen Titans Go
A very amusing cartoon about superhero sidekicks who live together in an apartment in Jump City and spend their days bickering. Led by Robin (of Batman fame) the show has enough side-eye to make it fun for adults too. But you’ve got a spreadsheet to finish and watching it defeats the object of keeping the kids quiet. Season four is just out on Prime and includes epic staring contests, fights about who does the laundry and a quest to construct the perfect sandwich. There are 52 episodes in total.
Four to sevens
This is a very old favourite but everyone loves bossy Peppa’s adventures and the misfortunes of bumbling Daddy pig. There are eight series here so don’t worry about running out.
Julia Donaldson series
Julia’s famous books have been turned into beautiful animations including favourites such as Room on the Broom, The gruffalo and the Highway rat. I’d argue these are educational as they could encourage the children to go back and read the books.
If this doesn’t soften the heart in the darkest of times, nothing will. Homeless immigrant Paddington abandons darkest Peru after an earthquake, and arrives in London where he proceeds to wreak healing havoc in the home of the Browns. “Please look after this bear”, says the tag around Paddington’s neck. And by the end they do. Lots of laugh out loud moments and Paddington 2, which is probably even funnier, is on Prime too.
Trust the good old beeb to come up with some solid educational content. Key stage one children, which means the under sevens, can pick up some handy hints on recognising numbers and learning the sounds that go with letters on the eminently sensible Numberblocks and Alphablocks shows. You can rest assured the children will have learned something by the end of these shows. And they are entertaining enough to keep little ones engaged.
For some simple craft ideas that the kids can try at home with a bit of coloured card and a Pritt Stick, Mister Maker comes up trumps. To be fair, any attempts to do the craft will require supervision but that can be saved for a weekend.
There is not a single preschooler in the land who doesn’t love Mr Tumble. Justin Fletcher presents the show which combines Makaton sign language with slapstick comedy and lessons in kindness and acceptance.
Plenty here to challenge the brain power of older children, aged eight upwards.
A secret favourite of many an adult, this award winning sketch show has an uncanny ability of lodging historical facts into young minds. The original cast have since moved onto other comedies including Yonderland and Ghosts, but all the seasons are available here. Probably the most educational episode has the Kings and Queens song, whose lyrics name every single monarch from Willam the Conqueror onwards. Don’t miss Dick Turpin singing in the style of Adam Any or a Victorian factory owner impersonating Morrissey.
Spy in the Wild
A new twist on the nature documentary. This innovative show uses decoy animatronic animals and birds fitted with hidden cameras that can get closer to the action and better footage than human camera operators. One not to miss is the penguin chick episode where the other babies come and investigate their new friend.
Bingeworthy box set
The Demon Headmaster
Based on the beloved book, this is an updated version of the story that chilled so many young hearts. The demon headmaster of the title can use hypnotism to control everyone around him just by getting them to stare into his eyes. And in these days of Ofsted inspection he uses his abilities to turn his school into somewhere ‘truly inspirational’, but a plucky gang of kids decide to fight back.
New this week: Malory Towers
This is based on Enid Blyton’s book series about a Cornish boarding school set by the coast where pupils enjoyed midnight feasts, sports like lacrosse (which your average comprehensive school readers found as mystifying as quidditch), ponies, swimming pools and pranks and deadly feuds. The original and the best boarding school story, it has just been adapted for CBBC and is set in the 1930s, just like the books. Looks like a sumptuous series that will capture the imagination of yet another generation. Probably no longer contains the class hatred and casual racism of the books.
Worzel Gummidge, The Worst Witch, Danger Mouse, Merlin, Trolls the movie.
My Neighbour Totoro – and all the Ghibli films
By far the best content for kids on Netflix right now is the entire back catalogue of Studio Ghibli films.
My Neighbour Totoro is perfect family viewing but is also absolutely tame enough for kids to watch alone. A beautiful story of two young girls and their father who move into a ramshackle new home while their mother is ill in hospital. Left to their own devices while Dad is busy visiting his wife, they discover the friendly spirits who inhabit the house and the surrounding woods. It has the best depiction of a toddler in any cartoon and the artwork is amazing.
Also a cracker is Spirited Away, which is probably more well known. Other famous titles include Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Only Yesterday. Check the age ratings as some are for older children.
Other to try:
Dreamworks Dragons: Race to the Edge
If your little ones are obsessed with the How to Train Your Dragon films, let them live in the world of dragons and vikings with this six-season series. The action takes place in between the first and second movies, though, so if they haven't watched the series yet, it'll be like a prequel.
Ask the StoryBots
Five robots of different sizes and colours come together to answer questions like 'Why is the sky blue?' — which they then answer through songs, skits, and special guests that parents would appreciate - big names such as Snoop Dogg, Edward Norton and Alyssa Milano. The educational bent on this award-winning programme makes this appropriate for even the youngest viewers. Three series are on Netflix.
The Octonauts are a team of animals who take part in deep-sea explorations. Each episode, they run into a real-life undersea creature, and they give a musical report at the end of each mission with a rundown of real facts about what they've learned. It's good for any budding marine biologist. Two seasons are on Netflix.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
It's better than you remember from your childhood. Six ponies, all with different interests and abilities, learn a lesson about friendship in every episode. Based on Hasbro's My Little Pony line of toys and animated works, this series - five seasons of which are on Netflix - is often referred to by collectors as the fourth generation of the franchise.
More by this authorAlex Spencer