The Ultimate Guide to Educational Children's TV Shows
By Ashley Brooks on 05/18/2015
It’s a typical Thursday evening. You’re exhausted from a long day at work and are ready to settle in with a glass of wine and Netflix. Instead, you’re acting as the ringmaster at a circus—at least that’s what it feels like. Preparing a healthy dinner for your kids is no easy feat when the five-year-old has decided to give herself a haircut and your preschooler is creating an artistic masterpiece with permanent marker on his own pants.
You know it’s not good to let your kids stare at the TV for hours each day, but sometimes a half hour here or there is all you need to get dinner on the table and keep your sanity intact. The American Academy of Pediatrics approves of limited screen time for children over age two as long as they’re viewing “high-quality content.”
But what is “high-quality” content? How do you know which children’s TV shows are educational? Don’t let your kids watch just anything. We connected with industry expert Dr. Emily Levy, director of specialized tutoring program EBL Coaching, to find out which children’s TV shows make the grade.
6 entertaining & educational children’s TV shows
1. Sesame Street
What it is: Everyone’s favorite Muppets gather on Sesame Street to send positive messages to kids, introduce children to other cultures and encourage early learning skills in math, literacy and science.
Why it’s great: “There’s a reason this show has been around since 1969!” Levy says. “Research indicates that Sesame Street has a positive impact on children’s learning, including cognitive development, understanding the world and building social skills.”
2. Super WHY!
What it is: Four friends solve problems in their daily lives using each of their unique literacy superpowers: Alphabet power, word power, spelling power and reading power.
Why it’s great: “This program is great for building phonemic awareness and early reading skills. Through watching the characters’ adventures, children strengthen their vocabulary, decoding, spelling and comprehension skills,” Levy explains.
3. Sid the Science Kid
What it is: Sid and his friends investigate scientific problems, like “Why do bananas get mushy?” and “Why are my shoes shrinking?” Your little ones will love laughing along with Sid as he uses humor to pique their interest in science.
Why it’s great: “Sid engages children in the world of science, presenting content in story form that’s enjoyable and easy to understand for preschool-aged children,” Levy says. Parents can build on the show’s science themes through discussions and books.
Where to watch: Catch full episodes and short clips at PBS.com, or check your local listings for air times.
What it is: Seven WordFriends—animals whose bodies are made up of the letters that form their names—experience adventures in WordWorld, solving problems along the way.
Why it’s great: WordWorld “helps children visually connect letters with words and pictures” while also introducing kids to important social skills like honesty and respect, according to Levy.
5. Dora the Explorer
What it is: This show chronicles the adventures of the bilingual Dora and her monkey pal, Boots, as they solve problems and achieve goals.
Why it’s great: “The show integrates educational concepts including counting, riddles and puzzles, along with Spanish vocabulary words and customs,” Levy says. Dora isn’t just about classroom knowledge; it also teaches children how to care for and respect others.
6. Animal Planet L!ve
What it is: Animal Planet’s live animal cameras aren’t technically TV shows, but they’re educational and fun for kids nonetheless! Your little ones can watch live footage of everything from sharks, sea otters and fish in the Pacific reef, to sloths, calves and ants.
Why it’s great: These live feeds are a great way to introduce kids to the way their favorite animals live in the wild—especially the more exotic species they may not be familiar with otherwise. Animal Planet also hosts live chats for kids to submit their questions. Parents can supplement their kids’ learning with books or a trip to the zoo.
Where to watch: Head to Animal Planet L!ve to see their live schedules or watch highlight reels from past live camera feeds.
Now playing: Educational children’s TV shows
It’s time to ditch the circus and make your evenings run more smoothly for everyone in the family. These educational children’s TV shows will give your kids plenty of opportunities to learn while you take some much-needed time for yourself—guilt free. Check out these top educational apps for even more ways your kids can learn using technology!
The fact that you're so invested in your child's development may be a sign you should be leveraging that passion for other children. Check out the 9 signs you should be teaching preschool!