8 Shows You Won’t Feel Bad Letting Your Toddler Watch
When your kids reach two or three years old, it’s okay to start introducing an hour or so of screen time every day if you choose to. Of course, this is just a guideline—every parent, kid, and situation is different. With “screen time” meaning apps, TV time, and movies, keeping digital entertainment within guidelines means balancing it with plenty of books, toys, outside adventures, and playdates.
Introducing TV and movies to your toddlers can be a slippery slope, but sometimes real life requires a little bit of time to unwind in front of the TV. There are a lot of shows created with two and three-year-olds in mind. Which shows are smart (and maybe even funny), encourage good habits, and won’t drive you to a sing-along induced craze? Don’t worry; there are plenty of great choices featuring social skills and educational topics, including well-loved favorites, lesser-known shows, and streaming options.
8 Television Shows Parents and Toddlers Will Love
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, PBS Kids, VUDU
Daniel Tiger is today’s Mr. Rogers, teaching kids social skills and emotional intelligence via a diverse cast of human and animal comrades. The friendly, furry host is polite and the show takes inspiration from real-life situations that your toddlers will relate to, like allergies, haircuts and backyard bugs. The 11-minute format of the show (there are two of these segments plus a live-action skit included in a full episode) make it great for limiting your toddler’s screen time without sacrificing entertainment.
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix
The Hive was originally created for Disney Junior UK, but it’s now available in the US on most streaming platforms. This family of busy bees and their neighbors are full of love, curiosity, helpful advice and good lessons. Telling the truth, respecting classmates and neighbors, and dealing with the consequences when you don’t are big pluses for The Hive. And while you toddler might not notice the stellar scenery, you’ll appreciate how much attention was paid to the illustration of the Bee family’s world.
Peg + Cat
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, PBS Kids
While most shows created with 2 and 3 year olds in mind focus on social skills and learning language, Peg + Cat integrates math into a darling story about a girl and her pet cat. There are lessons about sorting by shape and creating equal portions. Diversity is also effortlessly woven into stories, with characters and cultures from around the world. Parents’ Choice calls the show “outstanding”; it’s definitely worth your family’s screen time.
Sheriff Callie’s Wild West
Available on: Amazon Prime, Disney Jr., Google Play, Hulu, iTunes
You already love Mandy Moore (I can’t be the only one crying in front of This Is Us every week…), and pretty soon your toddler will too. Moore voices the strong, smart and kind Sheriff Callie. Callie is the feline in charge in an Old West town filled with plant and animal residents that can always count on their Sheriff to save the day. Choosing right over wrong is emphasized in the cute stories on this Disney Jr. show, but it might require a little explanation on your part to address all the choices each character makes.
The Stinky and Dirty Show
Available on: Amazon Prime
It’s slightly more difficult to get your hands on The Stinky & Dirty Show than other titles on this list, but if your toddler loves heavy machinery or the I Stink! and I’m Dirty! books by Kate and Jim McMullan, it’s worth a few months of an Amazon Prime membership. Stinky is a garbage truck and his friend Dirty is a backhoe. Together, they tackle problems and get the job done, accompanied by funny missteps and a catchy soundtrack.
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Nick Jr.
Team Umizoomi is a dynamic trio composed of superheroes Milli and Geo as well as their robot Bot. They’re constantly solving problems (with the help of lots of basic math skills!) to save their city and its citizens. Your toddlers will be exposed to numbers, patterns, shapes and more, accompanied by energetic music and bright animations to keep their attention on the problems Team Umizoomi faces.
Harry the Bunny
Available on: Amazon Prime, BabyFirstTV, Google Play, iTunes
This show is designed for your youngest TV watchers, with an easy-going pace, bedroom and backyard adventures, and clear-cut lessons that don’t get lost in the details. Harry covers vocabulary, shapes, sounds and even healthy eating habits while exploring the world around him. Each story is a short, 3 minute segment that helps keep lessons digestible and screen time limited.
Available on: Sprout
The Clangers are quirky little mice-like creatures that live harmoniously with the other unusual characters of their outer space planet. The show is a stop-motion masterpiece, with William Shatner narrating as the Clangers speak in their own squeaky language, which will require your kids to really focus to understand the story. The biggest theme here is treating family and neighbors kindly, while also inspiring kids to learn about space.
Balancing TV Time in Big Families
Kids of different ages have very different TV preferences. Your 8 year old definitely prefers Project Mc2 over Dinosaur Train, and your teen wouldn’t be caught dead watching either of these shows. How do you keep everyone happy and healthy when no one can agree on what to watch?
- Stagger bedtimes. Tweens and teens will be up later than their younger siblings, so have them do homework while toddlers are enjoying a little bit of screen time. Then, your older kids can take over the remote as you put everyone else to bed.
- Choose shows everyone can agree on. This may seem impossible, but there are TV shows that the whole family can enjoy together. Try Annedroids, Hello World! or I Love Lucy. Is there a TV show your whole family watches? Let me know in the comments!