The 5 Best TV Shows For Little Kids

One of the worst things about being the parent of a small child—I’m talking 2 to 5ish here—is the television. Green shit, sleepless nights, food spitting, all of those things are manageable, but the hours of inane TV they start to watch as they develop tiny, useless little brains? It’s the worst.

From shows that are 100 per cent education/0 per cent entertainment to preachy singfests to colour-palette showcases that are probably too simple for chimps in a zoo, there is an ocean of garbage out there that if you’re not careful will swallow your kid (and your patience) right up.

It’s not a total loss, though. There are lighthouses twinkling in the darkness. A few rare shows that aren’t just great for preschoolers, but more importantly, also at least tolerable for you adults as well. Because let’s face it, you’re probably running the remote control (and the kid), and if your kid needs some downtime in front of the TV and you’re around, you may as well put something on you can both watch.

Here, then, are the five best TV shows for small children. Or, to be more accurate, the five least terrible shows for you to have on while your small children are peaceful for 21 minutes or less.


5. OCTONAUTS

I love the Octonauts. They’re the closest thing kids TV has these days to the badass “hero team” cartoons of the 1980s, which I blindly believe to be the best kind of shows since they’re the ones I grew up on. Only, instead of being a bunch of gruff, kinda-sexist dudes (or robots) beating the snot out of each other, the Octonauts are a multinational team team of... cute animals, who... have to adventure all the time to save animals. Who are usually cute as well.

Tl;dr: It’s like Sealab x GI Joe. Only cuddlier.


4. PUFFIN ROCK

It’s made by the same team behind Book of Kells and Song of the Sea. It stars Chris O’Dowd, aka Roy from IT Crowd. It is the cutest fucking thing you have ever seen on a TV screen. If you can’t sit down and watch this with your kids, and love every second of it, you are a cold and heartless monster.


3. HEY, DUGGEE

While other programs on this list appeal to adults with winking jokes to more mature subject matter, Hey Duggee shows that you can also win grown-ups over with style. This show is gorgeous to behold, has amazing voice work and some of the catchiest music on television. I dare you to watch the clip above and not fall instantly in love.


2. BEN & HOLLY’S LITTLE KINGDOM

Made by the same team (and even mostly the same voice actors) as Peppa, Ben & Holly’s is the same basic principle — make a show for both tiny kids and adults — only better. Freed from the constraints of a town full of animals, B&H is instead set in a magical kingdom, giving the writers an excuse to try their hand at everything from alien invasion homages to superhero tales to cowboy stories to maybe the single best joke I’ve ever heard on a show made for kids.

B&H is smart, funny and fresh. It doesn’t preach to kids, doesn’t talk down to them, and is pitched at an almost perfect point not just for grownups and children, but different ages of children as well.


1. BLUEY

And now we come to Bluey. A relatively recent Australian series, it’s about a family of dogs, and their extended family of dogs, living in a world full of dogs. All of them very cute. It takes many of the things that stand out about individual shows above—beautiful animation, joyous voice work from actual children and just the right mix of jokes of both kids and adults—and pretty much perfects them.

Bluey is one of the happiest TV shows I have ever seen, and I’m as eager to watch it with my kids as they are to watch it with me. Which is more than enough to earn it the top spot on this list.


This post has been updated since its original publication.


Comments

    Out: Yo Gabba Gabba
    In: Paw Patrol

    Great list Luke, my young bloke watches all of these religiously. He recently got into He Man (the original series) after the local video shop was *throwing them out!!!*, running around the house yelling "I have the power!!" and pretending our Blue Heeler is Battlecat is hilarious.

      Gabba gone, Hoopla Doopla in. That show is comedy genius.

      All the old He-Man eps are on YouTube, legitimately
      https://www.youtube.com/user/HeMan

    I love Nanny Plum!

    Yo Gabba Gabba is garbage. Agree with @claymore35 about Paw Patrol. I'd also replace Puffin rock with Peg + Cat.

      id replace peppa pig with peg plus cat, the way that peppa and george manipulate their parents discomforts me. but thats the only change id make.

        Yeah, Peppa rubs me the wrong way. There are some oddly old school views on Mummies vs. Daddies in there too.

    Even my kids won't watch Yo Gabba Gabba. Octonauts however is awesome. Tree Fu Tom is also very popular with my boys.

      Yeah my kids like Tree Fu Tom, it's the only show where they'll actually stop what they're doing and go and do all the movements when he casts a spell.

        Same, the boys love tree fu tom, octonauts. And the three year old is in love with Tinkerbell off Netflix.

    My kids enjoy all of the above.

    But then when they've got access to Netflix, they enjoy a whole lot of other shows.

    As in the above is what they enjoy a lot when watching ABC 4 kids, but yeah if they turn on Netflix they watch completely different shows.

    My daughter quite likes Lah-Lah's Adventures as well
    Octonauts is great

      If she likes the show, take her to a Lah-Lah concert. The concerts are incredible!

        I did not know that they had concerts. To the Google machine

          I think the live show is much better than the tv version, they often give out stripey socks to the kids, and the best part at the end is when they come down to the floor and let the kids look and touch the instruments. They're lovely people and genuinely enthusiastic about getting kids into music.

    My little one is fanatical about Peter Rabbit on ABC2/Kids. He stops everything and just sits there in awe. Which is kind of concerning when in essence it's about a petty thief and his gang who antagonises a poor farmer and his cat, plus various forest animals.

    Forgot In the Night Garden. My 18 month old loves it.

      Yes, but can you stand having it on?

        Funnily enough, yes. She has 15 hours of it on a usb I downloaded for her. And after watching the original Wiggles hours a day, for many months straight I can stand just about anything now.

    The most powerful message I've ever felt in television was when I was seven and I saw the "brute men" episode of Thundercats. Seriously cried like every night for days after it.

    Close second was the episode of Rugrats where Tommy's dad loses his memory but I was much, much older.

    My one year old daughter watches Pokemon, One piece and Dragon ball z so i don't have to watch any of the kids shows. I guess I'm lucky.

    I don't like Yo Gabba Gabba, it's just too repetitive and hypnotic for my tastes.

    HEY DUGGEE! is the best and also belong on this list next to Peppa and Ben & Holly's. I love that animation style.

      And Alexander Armstrong is the narrator, so it gets bonus points for that. And the little crocodile is hilarious.

    im 30, i enjoy octonauts with my daughter.
    i also enjoyed In the Night Garden.
    i also enjoy Puffin Rock
    im not ashamed.

      I blame Igglepiggle for the fact my daughter doesn't want to go to bed of an night

        my daughter loved upsy daisy and iggle piggle.
        i was always a makka pakka fan, that dude was dope.
        but yeah, that show used to calm my little girl down before bed.

    No Adventure Time love?!!?

      It's an amusing show but I don't think 3-5yr olds would be able to fully appreciate it. It's targetted more at the tween demograph, with the occasional cheeky reference thrown in for fun. Same goes for my little pony and a few others.

        my 3 and 5 yr old really enjoy adventure time, they might not get all the jokes, but yeah.

    Don't forget DuggeeHUG!

    The video of the best Ben & Holly clip has been removed! Which one was it?

    My kids were killing OG Power Rangers non-stop for a few weeks, now they watch it and all its various incarnations sporadically.

    Uncle Grandpa is terrible but actually gives me some laughs, and they cleaned that up pretty quick.

    Shaun The Sheep is quite possibly one of the greatest works of animation I have the pleasure of enjoying every night. Covers every possible age group in every scene.

      Timmy Time is also a lot of fun, and perfect for tiny tots.

    I'm going to add Giggle and Hoot, because Jimmy Giggle.

      Yes, I understand there's a few mums who'd like to say Nighty-night to Jimmy Giggle.

    There's quite a few computer rendered (as in polygons/3d models, and therefore quasi-game related) children shows currently on Australian TV:

    Paw Patrol
    Little Charmers
    Robocop Poli
    Sonic Boom
    Rabbids world invasion

    The last two even have direct gaming relations. As for the shows - I love paw patrol, and lil charmers is adorable. Poli has nice rendering but the story is often boringly simplistic for anyone over 5yrs. Sonic Boom has the best writing out of the bunch but it's aimed at older kids than what luke has in mind. The art in rabbids is great (made by ubisoft after all) but I cannot stand the stupidity of the rabbids in general. They take annoying to a new level, and quite frankly I want to see those derpy rabbids meet a horrible demise in some kind of twisted rabbids / Saw crossover. But maybe that's just me.

    For me nothing beats "Shaun the Sheep" and "Sarah and Duck", I force my kids to watch them, just so I have an excuse to!

      Shaun the sheep special on this Sunday afternoon!

      Abadas coz that theme song is forever stuck in my head.....lol

      Sarah and Duck is just beautiful. I love the art style and it's just so sweet and whimsical.

    I hope everybody has download the ABC iView for Kids App. Awesome for toddlers with all these shows plus loads more.

    Sadly no "Sheriff Callie".

    Ready Steady Wiggle is a bit hit in our home, plus my 3 year old girl loves Octonauts. The real favourite is Doc McStuffins on NetFlix though.

    No love for Dinosaur Train? Our 19 month old loves it, and has for a while now. Everything stops for Dinosaur Train!

    Bluey is the bloody best.

    If I miss an episode I usually catch up after my son goes to bed.

      Bluey absolutely rules! I think it's great that they often include lessons for the parents as well.
      I'm not a huge fan of Ben and Holly. Not sure what it is about it, but it rubs me the wrong way. Agree with the rest of the most recent list though.

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