If your kids are like mine, they’ll watch anything on TV. And I mean anything. I once put on Cat and the Hat, left the room and came back 45 minutes later only to realize the show was playing in Spanish… My kids don’t understand Spanish. Of course, kids shouldn’t watch just anything. And experts say it’s good for parents to sit down watch TV together with their kids at least some of the time. So! Here are five kids’ shows that won’t make you claw out your eyes. In fact, you might even enjoy them so much you’ll end up watching without the kids. (We won’t tell.)
Confession: I’d leave ‘em all behind for John Mulaney. Not only is he the smartest standup comic in the game, I also happen to find him very attractive. And charming. Anyhow, he created a children’s comedy special called John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. Think of it as a weirder Sesame Street, with a mix of musical numbers and sketches. But what really makes it so endearing is that the kid actors are not regular child stars — meaning they don’t actually know they’re cute, which makes them even sweeter. Mulaney stars, of course, and, as my 6-year-old says, “That grownup is really funny.” And what other children’s sketch show casually name drops Joan Didion? Honestly, I feel like he created this show just for me. Thank you, John.
You know, it might not be the worst idea to teach our kids some post apocalyptic survival skills for the not-so-distant future. Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a wholesome cartoon featuring a band of unlikely friends working together to stay alive in a world overrun by mutant animals. Kipo, the lead character, is on a Wizard of Oz-like quest to return to her home. She contends with giant bunnies and mobster frogs along the way, and, as she comments in the first episode, “In just one day, I’ve seen enough wonders to last a lifetime.” The animation is lush and vibrant, with a hip-hop soundtrack to boot. This show is escapism at its finest. Our kids loved getting lost in this dreamy world with Kippo. And I have to admit I did, too.
Archibald’s Next Big Thing is the animated version of the 2014 children’s book of the same name. Lovable chicken Archibald, voiced by Tony Hale, lives in a wacky world of animals where anything goes and cross-species friendships flourish. It’s kinda like if Bojack Horseman were for kids… so I guess that just makes it a regular cartoon? Each episode features positive themes around confidence-building as Archibald shows those around him how to see the best in every situation. The irony of a chicken not being afraid of anything is heartfelt, and your kids will enjoy seeing Archibald break dance. Parents will have fun identifying the other celebrity guest voices and none of us should turn down a heaping dose of optimism.
We discovered Storybots when the kids reached that tricky age where they’d outgrown Daniel Tiger but were not too cool to leave behind educational programming altogether (thank goodness). Story Bots are little robots that live inside your computer and seek out information. Answer Team 341B–Beep, Boop, Bing and Bang–go on various fact-finding missions, piecing together their answers with the help of animated characters and live action celebrities. The animation styles are constantly changing, catchy songs run throughout, and watching the show with your kids saves you from having to Google whatever questions their magical brains come up with next.
Let’s not kid ourselves: when you turn on LEGO Masters, the game show where teams of adults race to build the best project, you’re agreeing to watch an hour-long LEGO commercial. However! It’s way more stimulating than watching Ninjago, which somehow bores me to death while simultaneously increasing my blood pressure. Host Will Arnett supplies a steady stream of puns and brings on a fun roster of guest judges, including Blossom. The show includes some stop-motion segments, to bring the LEGO minutiae alive. It can get kinda heated, though, and it’s unsettling to see adult hobbyists stressing out over Legos, scuttling around like children. But the show encourages teamwork and creativity so who can argue with that?
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