Monday, February 23, 2015

The Very Best Shows on Netflix . . . according to my kids

So, this whole Netflix sponsored post thing is really supposed to be a LOT more kid-focused than mine are. Mostly, I prefer to hide from my children and watch Netflix streaming on my own. So I've been writing about what I watch when the kids aren't looking, or what we watch on our family movie nights. With school and sports and activities and projects, the kids get pretty busy, and don't watch a ton of TV anyway. But, they sure do LIKE it. And, sometimes, we're sick, or it's raining, or they're in their church clothes early, or -every so often- the planets align and all schoolwork is finished and the house is clean . . . and the kids get to watch TV.

They only ever watch Netflix, because I just don't want to have to deal with commercials. I'd really rather my kids not know what toys and breakfast cereals are missing from their lives, and I don't want to have to explain why those old people are holding hands in bathtubs on a cliff.

My rules are that they have to choose shows that are non-objectionable in the ways you're thinking, but also that aren't just totally lame. So, my kids aren't allowed to watch pre-teen sitcoms about kids who lie to their parents and sneak out, but they're also not allow to watch Barney, because it's important to me that my kids understand that, while it's for different reasons, both are unacceptable for viewing by intelligent, discerning human beings. And they should NOT LIKE THEM.

So, for this installment of Hey, Watch This, I decided to go straight to the source of discerning-kid Netflix watching around here, and ask my kids what the very best shows are. And why. And what they think people could learn from watching those shows. Enjoy . . .


Lulu, age 15 months

Lulu and Daddy watching the 'Hawks.


Lulu doesn't really talk. And she's not a very good TV watcher. She'll hang out for a minute or two, then roll herself off the couch and crawl off to find me, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose of owning a TV, if you ask me.

But the other kids insist that she will watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for somewhat longer than other shows.


MY TAKE: Shows aimed at girls mostly get a big thumbs down from me. It seems to me that female characters get stereotyped way more than males do in cartoons. There's always "the fashion one" and "the tomboy" and "the flirt" and "the shy one" etc. And girls are mostly horrible to each other on TV shows. So many shows are twenty minutes of being awful to each other, and two minutes at the end of deciding to make up and be friends again.

I don't like my girls seeing that, especially when they and their own friends are so nuanced and so sweet to each other. This show does have all those things I don't like. The characters are one dimensional, but it's because they each have a "thing" that's stamped on their haunches. So, somehow the one-dimensionality isn't as bothersome as it is with human girl characters. And there is some fighting, but mostly the ponies are kind and supportive of each other. As the title would suggest, the show has a high opinion of friendship.

So . . . thumbs mostly up for me on this one. It's a cute, sweet show.

Frankie, age three

Sick Frankie: Netflix saves the day
Frankie had to think about this one for approximately 0.26 seconds.

I like Matoe's Tawl Tales (a.k.a. Mater's Tall Tales) because it's willy, willy fun. Der's bulldozers, der's when Matoe's a fiotruck, and der's a fiotruck thing that sprays plants. (According to Anita, that's Red the firetruck.) And der's a fire. And jumping. And der's fighting. And der's space. And you can loen to try new things.


MY TAKE: This Pixar short, with all the original voices from Cars, is pure genius. It's all Frankie ever wants to watch if he gets to pick, and I always let him because I never, ever get tired of it.

Anita, age five 


I think the best show is Clutch Powers. It's a show about a Lego guy that saves the world from an evil wizard guy. He has three friends. They get a prince to help them. At the end they defeat the wizard. I don't know what you learn from watching it. Maybe that you should buy Legos.


MY TAKE: I really, really like The Lego Movie. I think it's written in a really clever way that's actually funny, not wink-at-the-audience-random-pop-culture-reference funny. The many Lego TV shows, lean towards the second, in my opinion. There's a Marvel Superheroes one, and a Ninjago one, and a whatever the weird animal-people are one. My kids like them all. I don't find the content objectionable, I just don't think the writing is great. The Clutch Powers movie is not in the same league as The Lego Movie. It's not even close. I've seen it once and don't need to see it again. But it's okay with me if my kids watch it. Although I think Anita's right about the lesson part.

Gus, age seven

Doing his impression of Kevin from Home Alone, tragically NOT available on Netflix.
 My favorite show is the cartoon Clone Wars. There's fights AND battles. There's Jedi in it and it's the story of what happened between the movies (Jack says between Episodes two and three.) The bad guys are the Sith and the Jedi are fighting them. There's lots of action, but it's not scary. There's a different lesson is every episode, like to be brave.



MY TAKE: I think this is a really well done show. I've only watched a handful of episodes, but they seem to be well written, and to thoughtfully address some weighty topics, like just war, and cloning, and genocide, in an age-appropriate way. My kids are crazy about it. It would have been the first choice of Anita and Bobby and Betty, too. But Gus went before them.

Updated to add that, as K points out in the comments, it's a comic book-style show, and so the female characters mostly wear somewhat revealing clothing. They show a lot of leg, there are bare midriffs . . . but not cleavage (to my recollection). And, while the clothing is silly, and a complete double standard, as male Jedi wear full-length robes, the female characters don't flirt or behave in a sexy way, and there's no using of feminine wiles or anything. Also, the females are aliens and have blue skin, or head tentacles, or are bald, which makes it less problematic, I think. It's something I've discussed with my older boys, especially since they are interested in comic books and graphic novels, but mostly don't get to read them because of the over-sexualization of female characters. But in the case of Clone Wars, I have found the show acceptable for viewing at our house, with a discussion.
Bobby, age nine

Not watching Netflix. Looking up spelling words.
I like Word Girl. It's about a girl from a different planet who is a Superhero. Her parents and brother don't know that she has superpowers, like that she can fly and knows a lot of words and definitions. Her sidekick is her pet monkey, Captain Huggyface. The bad guys are really funny: The Butcher, Dr. Two Brains, The Birthday Girl, Lady Redundant Woman, Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy. You learn a few new words and their definitions in each show.

MY TAKE: Word Girl is one of my favorite shows on television. If I'm trying to get something done, so I let the kids watch TV and they pick Word Girl, I usually just give up on doing stuff and watch it with them. Chris Parnell, from Saturday Night Live, is the narrator, and he's hilarious. The writing is brilliant. I just really, really like it. Unlike most female characters on cartoons, Becky has a wide variety of interests. She likes vocabulary, and fighting crime, AND The Pretty Princess and Magical Pony Power Hour. In MY experience, that's what real girls are like. (Well, not so much the crime fighting part, but you know what I mean.) 

She also has a loving family. They manage to handle the fact that her parents don't know she's a superhero without making them look like total idiots, which is nice.

BUT, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should admit that I usually quiz my kids about that episode's words afterwards, and they mostly don't have any idea what I'm talking about. So, great for entertainment, but I'm not sure how good it is for vocabulary building.

Betty, aged eleven

Made by Betty. I think she's ready to go on the show.
I really like watching Cupcake Wars. I like to see the people make all the different kinds of cupcakes. There are judges and people who own different bakeries come on the show. They have a time limit and there's a theme of the show, and sometimes, they have to use crazy ingredients. I think it teaches people to be resourceful and manage their time well and to not give up, even when you get crazy ingredients.


MY TAKE: I watch almost no food-type shows, and the same amount of reality TV. I don't usually watch food shows because I hate that THEY get to taste the food and I just have to take their word for it. And reality TV, well, I just can't handle the off-topic drama. But I do really enjoy Cupcake Wars. I think it's fun to see the contestants come up with solutions to the crazy ingredients and decide whether to be bold or play it safe, and I like that even though taste is an important component of cupcakes, a lot of the judging is visual as well. So I get to feel like I'm participating in that part. More importantly, there is pretty much zero non-cupcake related drama. There is no interaction between contestants, so they're not bad mouthing each other. And they all have a business already, so there's very little of the sobbing about how this means everything to them. And it's cupcakes. C'mon, who doesn't like cupcakes? 

Jack, aged twelve

I'm pretty sure they're playing Wii here. But they ARE looking at the TV.

My favorite show is a really interesting science show called Nova. It's a long running PBS show, several series of which are available on Netflix. My favorite episode was "Making Things Colder," which involved how you can find about seventeen more states of matter when you get things cold enough. They also cover making things safer, faster, wilder, smaller, and bigger. I would have thought that it's best suited for older kids, maybe ten and up, because the subject matter is complicated. But my younger siblings like it too. You learn that science is awesome and the world is awesome.



MY TAKE: It's a pretty straightforward science show. The few episodes I've seen have not addressed any controversial topics. Non-fiction TV really isn't my thing, but Jack has learned a lot from watching these, and he really enjoys them.

Honorable mentions go to Leap Frog shows, classic Disney movies and shorts, VeggieTales movies and TV shows, the movie Chicken Run, The Magic School Bus, and Classic Dr. Who episodes, all of which we have enjoyed as a family.

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.



What are we missing out on? What are YOUR kids' favorite shows that you don't hate?






















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40 comments:

  1. Wild Kratts. Hands down. I like it and they learn a boatload every episode :) yay!
    I remember you writing a defense of Word Girl a while back and I've always been surprised that you like it since the parents are portrayed as totally clueless and... (distracted, maybe?) I've only seen it a handful of times. It didn't stick around here,
    We dearly miss Shaun the Sheep and How It's Made :(

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    1. Theresa, we like Wild Kratts, too. And we love Shaun the Sheep!

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    2. I've always seen Becky's parents as just busy and distracted, but they're mostly not the butt of jokes, and they are a loving intact family. I could see how it could be bothersome to people though. It just cracks me up, so maybe I'm too forgiving. :) We've never tried Wild Kratts. We'll have to check it out.

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    3. What?! Haven't tried Wild Kratts?! That's the one show my kids watch on pbs on a regular basis. They love them all, and spout off all sorts of interesting animal facts they've learned from the Kratts brothers. Definitely check it out.

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  2. We wish there were more than 25 episodes of Cupcake Wars on Netflix. The boys like it, and I don't mind listening to it while I knit.

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  3. My oldest 3-all boys-love Clone Wars!!!! What bothers me is the way the women characters (some are human and some are I don't know what???) dress...the clothing is revealing and skin tight across their very large chests....it just drives me crazy!!!...and yet the boys don't seem to notice, but I just worry it might sink in that this is an appropriate way for women to dress....

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    1. Yes, K, this is a good point. The show is certainly in the comic book genre, and there's some sort of law that females must have bare midriffs in comic books. Still, they are aliens, which tones it down for me, and I don't recall them acting in a sexy way, and there are no relationships between characters.

      For us, I think it's okay. And it's something I want to talk about with my boys, anyway, and that I want them to be aware of. So, I've discussed it with my older boys.

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  4. My youngest age 2 1/2 girl will only watch baby genius songs on Netflix but she loves them!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Lastly our kids enjoy some of the how the states got their shape shows on Netflix and a documentary on living on a dollar a day by four kind and admirable college boys

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  6. We love Phineas and Ferb. A lot. It's funny and clever and the songs are great. Also, the intersecting storylines are very well-plotted. I think we've seen every episode of the first three seasons roughly a hundred times each, and they're still mostly funny.

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    1. We like Phineas and Ferb, too. It's one of the few shows I'll sit down and watch with my kids willingly.

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  7. The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child- two short movies taken from books- my kids from age 21 mos to 9 years all enjoyed them, as did I.
    Wild Kratts - always enjoyed around here- combo real life/cartoon - pair of grown brothers investigate animals all over the world as they with their special gadgets can morph into the animals and get up close.

    For the older kids- I'd say 11 and up (just because of the amount of info) - THe Ultimate Guide to the Presidents. 8 episodes- though there are two short mentions (personal behavior) about two of the presidents regarding illegitimate child/infidelity---- but very brief and not dwelt upon.

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  8. I'm not allowed to watch Cupcake Wars or any food shows because I always end up starving and then making too much food for three people to eat in a week.

    The Starving Inspired

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  9. We like Shaun the Sheep. There is really no villain, the human farmer isn't an antagonist for the farm animals, there is no dialog (just animal noises, the farmer mumbling, and lots of music), the Claymation is very well done, Shaun is such a cute little sheep, and all their adventures happen because of real life circumstances such as a water main breaking or the sheep really want pizza. It's a cute show that is interesting enough to hold our nineteen-month-old's attention without being so jazzy that it spins him up. We actually use it in the bedtime routine.

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    1. By the way it's on Amazon Prime, I don't know if it's on Netflix or not.

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  10. My 3 year old agrees with Frankie. He love all the Cars movies and Planes as well. He likes dinosaur train on PBS too and honestly, I've learned a few things watching it with him!

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  11. Another show is Caillou. Our son, nineteen months old, looooooves it, and we can barely stand it. I think the worst part of it is the Dad is portrayed as a bumbling, incompetent idiot.

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    1. Caillou is banned in this house. Can't stand it one bit.

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  12. My 3.5 year old loves Wild Kratts. It's fun and informative and after watching it he's always quizzing me and asking what animals are carnivores and herbivores. Also, there is nothing better than Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood for the little ones.

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  13. Love it! Please make this a regular feature of your Netflix reviews! We recently got an Amazon Fire stick (LOVE. IT.) and it's opened up whole new possibilities in the Netflix (and Prime, and PBS kids app) viewing realm but there is some dumb, atrocious stuff out there and I'm trying to add stuff to a viewing list for them for easy bypass of said stuff. Thanks for giving me a few ideas! Question: my kids have never seen Cars (I KNOW!); would they still enjoy the Tall Tales? If Frankie's review is accurate in the elements it contains, I suspect yes, but they don't know the characters.

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    1. Yes. Maters Tall Tales are hilarious. My little boy watched it non-stop for about a year and a half and even I never stopped finding a chuckle or two in the dialogue of each episode.

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    2. You definitely don't need to have seen Cars to enjoy Mater's Tall Tales. It's stand alone funny. :0)

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  14. Great post as usual, now I have some more option to look into on Netflix. I'm still trying to convince my son to watch Phineas and Ferb, but seeing as he'll be three in a few weeks, it doesn't hold his interest quite yet. My husband and I watch it on our own and all my nieces and nephews love it. What does hold our boy's attention (besides Mater's Tall Tales) is Octonauts. Man alive, we've seen ALL THE EPISODES too many times to count. It's entertaining enough for us to watch it with him and he picks up so much information on all the marine animals and species they feature. I highly recommend it.

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  15. These are all new to us. Thank you for the suggestions. I admit that I'm not great about watching the programs with the kids and I don't like venturing into new territory unless I'm there to know what it's like. So we mostly stick with what I know- Veggie Tales, Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates (which is about to be kicked out of the rotation because, bleh).

    We also really like Pink Panther, which used to be on Netflix. The kids thought they were funny, and they were pretty much silent except for the famous pink panther score, which doesn't ever get tiresome. At 5 minutes an episode I used them as bribes pretty much all the time. Please bring it back Netflix.

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    1. How funny. Years ago my kids used to claim to really like Pink Panther. But they would just sit there watching it in complete silence. Never laughing or anything. I suppose silence should be a good thing. But it just weirded me out.

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    2. That weirds me out too. It reminds me of Dora, which has a bunch of stuff I don't like, but I would have seen past though things if my kids had actually interacted with the characters who ask questions and give directions as though they expect participation. My kids would just play dumb, so it had to go.

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  16. I remember when Jack and Betty were little really liking Between the Lions about the New York Public Library told by lions. I also liked Bear in the Big Blue House. Don't know if you can still get them or on streaming.

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  17. Great reviews! And yeah, my kids might get more tv if there wasn't always a baby who wants me instead. What's the point??

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  18. My nieces are pretty big fans of My Little Pony. I had all boys so that whole world was foreign to me. I've noticed that they are deeply invested in the characteristics of each pony so one day we played, "which pony are you" and applied it to other family members. It was a good way to discuss positive and negative personality traits (and dissect family dynamics). They are 12 and 10 and are pretty sheltered as their dad is a pastor/counselor and mom has a doctorate in education. They also enjoy Word Girl and we do focus on the words from each episode. Mostly I record movies for them and we fast forward through commercials just to save time as our time together is limited. I have them maybe twice a week after school. We found out today that the grandbaby due when you are is a boy! So excited!

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  19. We're pretty much a PBS Kids family here for the same reason as you do Netflix (no commercials!). The kids and I like Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and Curious George best. Really, CG can drive me crazy some but I really love the animation and so I let that make up for how much I want to yell at the Man in the Yellow Hat.

    On Netflix we like MLP, but I think the longer the series runs the less I like it, and Kipper which is SO mellow and sweet. The Magic School Bus, Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs, and Veggie Tales are also well liked here.

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  20. Love Justin Time. Teaches geography, history, and life lessons all in one short show. Also, it's hilarious. One episode has breakdancing penguins. I have actually learned things from the show, not sure if that is good or embarrassing. Haha!

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  21. Peep and the Big Wide World! Poppy Cat!! Pingu! Wow wow Wubbzy! Kipper, of course. Clifford the Big Red Dog, Thomas the Train (early versions), Handy Manny, Chuck in spite of the opening song - Max and Rosie -- Bob the Builder -- but really the first four are the most artsy/original as to format/art.

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  22. This came in such perfect timing! I went through this yesterday and added a bunch to 'my list' and then this morning two kids woke up vomiting. Ugh. It was helpful to have the TV all ready to go, though!

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  23. I second (third? fourth?) Wild Kratts for sure. It's fun and educational and not annoying, so it's a win-win-win in my book. I mean, on my TV.

    My kids really like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Okay, I like it, too. It's clever and funny and compelling, and has given us hours upon hours of fuel for make-believe, art, etc. It does take place in an Eastern setting so there are some themes involving reincarnation, chakras, and other mystic things. But we've just pointed out that those things don't fit with what we believe and I think my kids get that just fine.

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  24. I love PBS and they have a lot of the shows on netflix. Baby Annie (18m) loves Elmo and so she'll give Sesame Street a few minutes of attention. Walter (2.5y) loves Thomas & Friends and Super Why. I'm a big fan of Super Why -- both kids having been learning their letters from the episodes. Dinosaur Train & Daniel Tiger are also strong contenders, although the kids find the Dr Scott segments on Dinosaur Train a bit dull. The adults in Daniel Tiger's world drive me nuts and my husband is firmly convinced that Daniel Tiger killed & ate Mr Rogers...

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  25. We recently tries the new Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie that was just added. My kids really liked it and I thought it was great. There are some clever jokes (as well as a couple of armpit humor bits but nothing too crass) and the kids wee really enthralled by the time machine. There's a moment at the end where everyone in the movie announces "I'm a dog too!" in order to stick up for Peabody...I rolled my eyes a bit at that but overall I thought it was a fun and cute movie for the family. Thanks for your other suggestions!

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  26. We like My Little Pony, Daniel Tiger, Calliou (for Anders- a little goes a long way), Clifford, Handy Manny, A little of Curious George. I'm curious of your opinion of Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse. My kids love it, and honestly it makes me laugh. But of course the jokes are extremely Dumb Blonde girl... or is it making fun of Dumb Blonde jokes (satire)? I honestly don't know how I feel 100%.

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    1. I haven't even heard of the Barbie one. It doesn't sound like something the older boys would tolerate! :)

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  27. It is my sincerest wish that Netflix would let you make customizable screens for your kids. They do let you make these little subaccounts, but other than setting a rating, you can't really control what shows are on there, and they can switch back and forth between subaccounts without a password. I have a special needs child that watches kind of an odd range of stuff, and I would love to be able to have more customization...great suggestions. But, IMO, some of the My Little Pony stuff has gotten reeaally weird...

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    1. Yes, that would be nice. I don't like how the whole library is there at their disposal on the iPad. My kids usually watch on the TV through our TiVo, so they can only access things I put on my watchlist. Of course that also means they COULD select Sherlock or The Walking Dead which are also in my queue. But they know to just scroll past that stuff. So far it works for us, but your situation is more complex.

      And I should be more careful to specify which season we're in on various shows. With having to choose together on a show to watch, and limited opportunities to watch anything at all, I'm pretty sure that they're still on Season 1 of My Little Pony. So I cannot vouch for later seasons.

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