All moms know there aren’t enough hours in a day. Even in the best of (non-pandemic) times. But here’s a radical thought: what if your kids could join you for some of your precious screen time? What if some of your reality TV faves turned out to actually be surprisingly family-friendly? No, we’re not suggesting you swap out Daniel Tiger for Bachelor in Paradise. But here are a few gems kids have been known to love.
1. Queer Eye (Netflix)
If you need a tool to teach your kids self-acceptance and self-confidence (and who doesn’t), then turn on Queer Eye. It’s sweet and campy and full of positive messages at every turn. And is there a more likable ensemble on TV than this group? Their bond and teamwork is delightful, and, sure, on the surface they’re talking about hair and clothes, but the real emphasis is on self-love and building bridges with all communities. What else matters in this world?
2. Chopped (Food Network)
It’s been on the air forever, but has it ever been more timely? During the past couple years in which we’ve all learned to be more resourceful, watching contestants scramble to create meals with what they have is a valuable lesson for grownups and kids alike. And boy is it soothing to watch. Plus, this show is good for kids because there’s no behind-the-scenes drama. And, who knows, maybe they absorb some skills and learn to cook for you?
3. Supermarket Sweep (Amazon Prime)
Not to toot my own horn, but I’d cut a b*tch if I was competing on this show. You might remember the iconic ‘90s hit, where contestants would answer food trivia questions then race around a supermarket, filling their carts to the brim? Well, the original version is on Netflix and offers a nostalgic glimpse at what we were eating when we were kids; the new, rebooted version features Leslie Jones as a host. And that’s all you really need to know, ‘cause she’s hilarious. Other updates include socially distant blocking for the Corona era and even more heightened brand awareness for the social media era.
4. Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
OK, not gonna lie, some of the outfits are ultra skimpy, so every parent will have their own comfort level with that. But look beyond (um… around?) that, and here’s what your kids have to gain from this show, one of the longest-running competition shows out there:
- Math! Each performance is rated by multiple judges and the numbers pop up on the screen in the perfect format for… drum roll…. practice with addition and multiplication!
- Exposure to all different types of music
- Costume design (some of it is stunning)
Plus, boys learn that it’s cool to dance.
5. Floor is Lava (Netflix)
Every day I wake up to thumping. A steady thump… thump, and, thankfully, never a crash. This is the sound of our 5-year-old trying to jump from his bed to the dresser. He has yet to make the landing but we’ve only seen Season One of Floor Is Lava, so give it some time. The show goes like this: teams of adults (often groups from a family) compete by jumping through booby-trapped obstacle courses filled with “lava.” One slip, and into the hot goo they fall. The best part is that the contestants get so into it, literally flinging every bit of their bodies around the room in order to stay in the game. Why this is so compelling for people of all ages to watch, I have no idea, but there it is.
6. Nailed It! (Netflix)
I challenge you to find anyone funnier on TV than Nicole Byer. She pretty much makes the Nailed It! experience worth watching, though the general concept is pretty dang fun: Amateur bakers are pitted against each other in an attempt to recreate Pinterest-worthy desserts, and the results are hilarious. Just like in real life! It’s an excellent way to show kids how to laugh in the face of failure.
7. Great British Bakeoff (Netflix)
You love Prue Leith’s statement glasses. The kids will love watching grownups scrambling to make brownies while talking in funny accents. It’s a win-win. The Great British Bake Off truly has something for everyone. Thankfully, we have 11 seasons of this charming show about nice British people baking in a tent. If nothing else, the Brits will model some proper manners for your kiddos.
8. Haute Dog (HBO Max)
If you and your kids like looking at adorable pups—I mean, who doesn’t?—then this is your happy place. Haute Dog is the ultimate dog makeover show where top pet stylists compete “to turn canines into K-10s.” The host is only kind of funny and the judges are only kind of nice, but none of that matters because we’re here for the dogs. I never knew a dog could be transformed into Lucille Ball! Not that my kids knew who she was…
9. Jeopardy! (Netflix)
What is a classic trivia show with a catchy tune? OK, so this one doesn’t exactly qualify as reality TV, but couldn’t resist including it here because if you haven’t already introduced your kids to the greatest game show of all time, well, what on Earth are you waiting for? Sure, most of the trivia will be over their little heads. But even the littlest audience member will find it fascinating to watch braniacs in action… and people behaving extremely well. RIP Alex Trebek.
10. Encore! (Disney+)
One thing’s for sure: we could all use a break from the heavy state of the world. And Encore delivers like a warm, loving blanket. Kristen Bell reunites former high school classmates to re-stage the musicals of their youth. Cue the sweet, sweet nostalgia. And what better way to replace the Baby Shark earworm with musical theater showtunes [said with jazz hands].