My parents had really strict screen time rules when I was little. I remember so clearly that I got 30 minutes of tv a day in elementary school. I normally spent that watching Wheel of Fortune with my dad every evening. And I definitely didn’t watch a preschool show.
Were they amazing parents!? Yes, they were. I think it was a great policy that probably served me well back in the late 80s and early 90s.
We do more than 30 minutes a day of t.v. School days are fairly close to 30 minutes for the six year old, but the weekends usually involve a decent sized dose of screen time unless we’re going on a “grand adventure.”
HOWEVER. I do try to give myself some grace and not compare. When I was little, there were only two of us siblings and we were six years apart in age. I was also the world’s most stationary child, much like my own oldest kid, and would happily just play by myself for long periods of time or read books.
Not all families are the same, because kids aren’t the same. Moms’ lives aren’t all the same. Our mental health needs aren’t all the same.
And also, (this part is important) there’s a heckuva lot of excellent children’s programming out there. Some of the preschool shows are actually educational. I’ve decided that this is the stage of life that I’m at. I’m not gonna get my undies in a twist over screen time. Instead, I’m just gonna do my very best to be a great mom, and keep an eye out for quality t.v.
Looking for a list of educational t.v. shows for kids of all ages that is broken down by age group? Check out this great post from Rockstar Dad!
Looking for a Preschool Show that Teaches Social Emotional Learning and Character Development?
We all want our kids to grow up to be kind human beings. Social emotional learning is just as important at this age as mastering the ABCs and 123s.
Max and Ruby
Got siblings who fight constantly? These adorable bunnies are a brother and sister who are learning to resolve their conflicts with each other respectfully. You can watch Max and Ruby on Sling or with a free trial of Noggin.
PS, if your kids fight with each other constantly, I’ve got a post about that 😉 You need some solutions?
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
You’ll immediately notice that this show is a modern day spin on Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, except it feels nothing like the original. It’s an animated show, first of all. But Daniel Tiger opens the show with the “beautiful day in the neighborhood” song, and he even zips up his cardigan.
If you love the values taught in Mr. Rogers but worry your kids won’t respond well to the original version, you can try Daniel Tiger.
Doc McStuffins is a preschool show about a little cartoon doctor girl who doctors her stuffed animals. The show has a special focus on empathy and critical thinking to solve problems. You can watch it on Hulu.
Sofia the First
I resisted Sofia at first (hah), because I wasn’t exactly excited about introducing a pretty princess thing into the rotation, and I knew my daughter would be hooked. I should have been excited for her to watch it. Sure, Sofia is a pretty little princess, but every single episode is about being beautifully kind, inclusive, and a good friend. Sofia’s on Netflix.
Veggie Tales teaches Christian values, good morals, and Bible stories (if you’re into that sort of thing like me), through a bunch of vegetable characters. It’s surprisingly hilarious, so I don’t mind watching with the kids. Veggie Tales came out in 1989, and it’s still just as awesome as it was back then. Some of them are on Netflix.
If you’re interested in expanding your kids’ Bible knowledge, take it beyond Veggie Tales and check out my favorite kids’ story Bibles!
After watching Sesame Street as a kid, I still can’t get enough of this show. It’s a classic for a reason! If you’re wanting to raise little kids who love learning and exposed to many different cultures, Sesame Street is amazing. It’s aged incredibly well. We watch it on HBO.
Bonus! Sesame Street is big into counting and the alphabet, too.
Sigh, I love Mr. Rogers, and my kids do, too. It’s hard to find streaming nowadays, but we purchase sets of it on DVD, and use them in the van. It’s so worth it; they actually look forward to long car rides because they enjoy Mr. Rogers so much.
PS, we are OBSESSED with our Yoto audio player for our preschooler! It’s our #1 favorite educational tool, sleep aid, and his favorite screen-free entertainment.
Need a Preschool Show that Supports Imaginary Play?
Ahhh! I adore Bluey. Bluey and her family are blue heelers. It’s an Australian show, with delightful Aussie accents. My only complaint is that Bluey’s parents play with her so much, I’m worried my kids will have unrealistic expectations for how silly and playful parents are supposed to be! Truly, this show is a joy. I laughed out loud numerous times. Watch on Disney+.
Trash Truck is adorable. Imagine the concept: a little boy named Hank who loves his neighborhood trash truck so much, he just becomes best friends with him. Trash Truck and the boy go on many adventures together with their silly animal friends. The show is full of imaginary play and sweet friendship. Trash Truck is on Netflix.
Are you looking for a preschool science show?
Okay, I’m including this one on the list because I think you should check it out. People are PASSIONATE about Octonauts being value-added for their little budding scientists. It’s not my favorite, but it’s definitely popular with parents. Each episode features a team of underwater explorers searching the ocean for some ocean dwelling critter to rescue.
If you’ve got a typical three year old little kid who loves both trains and dinosaurs, this one will be a winner. Dinosaur Train teaches basic scientific inquiry and critical thinking. Of course, your sweet kiddo won’t realize that. You can watch on PBS Kids or Youtube TV.
Tumble Leaf has won lots of awards and is available on Amazon Prime. It has soothing music, a cute little fox named Fig, and it’s quite possibly the least annoying cartoon I’ve ever watched. Nothing is loud or overstimulating. Yet, it’s very visually appealing and will spark kids’ imaginations. They weave little bits of science into every episode, but it doesn’t feel heavy handed. It has a very whimsical vibe.
Storybots always starts with a kid’s question (How does night happen?) and the bots spend the episode answering the question. It’s really great. You can watch on Netflix.
Bonus! Best Educational TV Shows for Toddlers
Toddler shows are annoying, and it’s important to remember that toddlers really need MINIMAL tv time. I try not to let my littlest one spend too much time in the living room while the big kids are watching, because it’s just not great for their brains.
That said, it happens sometimes! And when it does, it’s to at least make it educational and age appropriate for her.
Is your two year old a little stinker who melts down every time you transition to ANY new activity? Check out this terrible twos hack that worked for us!
Word Party is a Jim Henson show, and it features little baby animals. They communicate with their audience, who they call “the big kids.” They try to encourage the audience to share the words they know. So there’s a bit of interaction.
It’s very annoying! But my son is a young three year old, and he really engages well with it, too.
Find it on Netflix.
Cocomelon. Sigh. You can take any baby in the USA who is screaming her head off, plop her down in front of Cocomelon, and she’ll immediately dry her eyes and start mouth breathing. This show is like hypnosis for babies. Proceed with caution.
It works because it’s got extremely bright colors with repetitive music and words. Both of those things are known to be helpful for babies to learn. Very few shows out there are MADE for this age group, but Cocomelon is a legit baby/toddler show. It’s available on Netflix.