Caillou. Thomas. Elmo. Dora. The television is full of characters kids love but who drive parents up the wall. These shows have their positive qualities, from teaching real educational concepts to making kids laugh like crazy. But with so much great stuff out there, you don’t need to endure mindless repetition, outdated stereotypes, or less-than-inspirational role models to serve kids with some quality entertainment. After all, kids’ television programming is more thoughtful and compelling than ever! These 20 titles handpicked by the experts at Common Sense Media are so good you’ll actually WANT to watch with your kids.

Sesame Street

Recommended for ages 2 and older

Yeah, Elmo's still on it. But Sesame Street remains a superstar of early childhood programming.  This classic show continues to churn out hilarious parodies that both kids and parents will get a kick out of. With engaging learning lessons, diverse characters, catchy music, and lots of celebrity guests, you really can't go wrong with this enduring winner.

Network: PBS

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Ask the Storybots

Recommended for ages 3 and older

This animated show is both educational and entertaining in every scene yet is visually appealing as well as humorous enough to make both children and parents laugh out loud. While the premise of Ask the Storybots is to answer a child's question, the antics that the characters get themselves into are very funny, and each episode always has an educational twist without being obvious.

Network: Netflix

Beat Bugs

Recommended for ages 3 and older

Even parents will enjoy this sweet show inspired by the enduring magic of Beatles' songs. With messages of friendship and teamwork, there are a lot of great takeaways (and, of course, it's never too early to turn your kids onto good music). Guest musicians like Pink, Eddie Vedder, and Sia interpret classics like "Blackbird" and "Magical Mystery Tour," and kids will find the magnified natural world thrilling. 

Network: Netflix

Lily's Driftwood Bay

Recommended for ages 3 and older

Lily explores her cute paper-cut world and adventures with friends, and she has a particularly sweet relationship with her single-parent father. This darling series is, paradoxically, a great way to impress upon young kids the joy of simple, screen-free playtime and can inspire your kids to explore their own worlds with curiosity.

Network: Universal Kids

Puffin Rock

Recommended for ages 3 and older 

Irish actor Chris O'Dowd warmly narrates this delightful show about kindhearted, curious puffin Oona and her family. Kids will learn all about their island environment while following Oona's adventures (gorgeously animated by the folks behind Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells). Bonus: It has a theme song you won't mind having in your head for days!

Network: Netflix

Motown Magic

Recommended for ages 4 and older

This gem of a series marries iconic Motown music with a quality story that emphasizes family, friendship and self-esteem. Each episode of Motown Magic introduces a different song integrated into the story in creative ways that will leave viewers young and old tapping to the tunes. The show is set in the fictitious place called Motown (clearly intended to suggest Detroit) with homages to its historic musical and automotive past all around. Urban scenery and the characters' ethnic diversity reflect the city setting as well. With Smokey Robinson on board as a music producer (and among the talented contemporary voice cast) and prominent themes about family ties, creativity and embracing individuality, this exceptional series is a great pick for parents and kids to enjoy together.

Network: Netflix

Tumble Leaf

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Vibrant animation and colorful characters will draw families to this gently paced series, where sweet animal characters make exciting discoveries that teach simple science concepts. Positive examples of problem solving and other prereading skills such as rhyming and basic shape recognition are woven into the stories as well. Parents will enjoy the colorful whimsy and standout messages about friendship that play out among the diverse animal cast. 

Network: Amazon Prime

Odd Squad

Recommended for ages 5 and older

In this smartly written educational series, crack team Olive and Otto solve math-related mysteries as part of a government bureau manned entirely by hilarious kids. Parents will appreciate that math skills are embedded in stories that are meant to reflect real-life scenarios ... give or take a few romping dinosaurs or songs with magical powers, that is. With a diverse cast, an equal number of male and female characters and awesome grown-up guest stars, it's a must-watch for all ages.

Network: PBS

 

Little Lunch

Recommended for ages 6 and older 

Little Lunch is a The Office-style mockumentary for kids that takes place during the most important period of a child’s day: free time at school. This delightful live-action show is vibrant and funny enough that parents will want to watch it with their kids (and maybe even sneak in an episode when they aren't even there!). Modeled after classic mockumentary formats, with interviews, asides and a plot running through it all, Little Lunch gives young kids clear (and often hilarious) voices.

Network: Netflix

Milo Murphy's Law

Recommended for ages age 6 and older 

From the creators of the beloved Phineas and Ferb comes Milo Murphy, the unluckiest kid in the world (gleefully voiced by "Weird Al" Yankovic). Taking the new kid in school under his wing, Milo faces constant calamity with a positive attitude, and tweens will be tickled by his misadventures, otherwise known as getting through a normal day. There's no deep learning from this lighthearted series, but Milo Murphy's Law has an excellent voice cast (Sarah Chalke, Christian Slater and Vanessa Williams among them), hearty friendships, and some unforgettable scenarios that make this a surefire family fave.

Network: Disney XD

Planet Earth

Recommended for ages 6 and older

Never before have the world's many wonders been quite as accessible as they are in this stunning nature series. In the filming process, many shots and events were captured on camera for the first time; viewers will marvel at a glimpse of the rare snow leopard (one of only 40 surviving in the wild) hunting in the Himalayas, the bluebird of paradise strutting his stuff to woo a mate, and grizzly bears bringing their newborns out into the light. Narrated by actress/conservationist Sigourney Weaver, Planet Earth will educate and inspire the whole family. 

Network: Discovery Channel

American Ninja Warrior Junior

Recommended for ages 7 and older

American Ninja Warrior Junior is a great choice for families watching together, as it celebrates fair play, good sportsmanship and physical fitness. Positive examples of mentoring exist between adult Warriors and these young competitors, and there's a lot of shared excitement among the fans and the hosts as the competition evolves. Fair warning though—many of these junior competitors were inspired to start training by the original American Ninja Warrior. Seeing kids their age compete might just be the spark that ignites your own kids' interest.

Network: Universal Kids

Voltron: Legendary Defender

Recommended for ages 8 and older

This exceptional series gives a DreamWorks makeover to an '80s fan favorite, and the result deserves to draw big crowds. Tweens who aren't ready for the often violent and sexual world of anime will be totally satisfied with this family-friendly gem. The characters are endearingly imperfect, each arriving on the scene with his unique baggage and quirks but devoted to a common cause that unites them and makes you want to root for them. Voltron also has a deep sci-fi backstory, lots of action, and just enough comedy, plus a team of devoted friends working together for the greater good.  

Network: Netflix

We Bare Bears

Recommended for ages 8 and older

This delightful series about three media-savvy bear brothers trying to make their way in a pastel-colored techie San Francisco is a great choice for the whole family. The bears’ attempts to fit in sometimes poke gentle fun at hallmarks of modern society (reliance on technology, Internet memes and the like) and usually result in some sort of chaos brought on by the bears' utter unsuitability for the people world. Even so, what stands out is how the characters' uniqueness serves them well as a group and how they're reminded time and again that they're stronger as a group than they are individually. Tweens will love the bears' charming antics as they try to fit in with humans, while parents will appreciate the gentle vibe and jokes for folks of all ages.

Network: Cartoon Network

Myth Busters

Recommended for ages 9 and older

This fun, fact-filled show will answer some of those long-standing "what ifs" that may have been nagging at you, demonstrating how much fun science can be to boot. It’s hosted by Jamie Hyneman, a model maker and special-effects expert for the movie and TV industries, and Adam Savage, whose handy expertise includes carpentry, welding and animation. The team makes a good comedic duo; Jamie's dry humor is the perfect complement to Adam's quips and wisecracks. Science-minded families will find Mythbusters exceptionally entertaining.

Network: Discovery Channel

Summer Camp Island

Recommended for ages 9 and older

With the likes of Adventure Time on her resume, creator Julia Pott clearly has a knack for the kind of oddball storytelling that strikes a chord with viewers. Summer Camp Island is a truly heartwarming series disguised as the kind of offbeat cartoon that kids and parents will enjoy equally. Because of the story's magical setting, the unexpected is routine, and it's impossible to predict what will happen next. This gives the show a welcome freshness that, coupled with the endearing characters and gentle visual style, yields a worthy contender for families' attention.

Network: Cartoon Network

Adventure Time

Recommended for ages 10 and older

If you put an 8-year-old boy's imagination to paper, the result would be pretty close to Adventure Time. Few rules of the real world apply in Ooo, where there's really no telling what adventures each day will bring. Older kids capable of getting the show's tongue-in-cheek, ironic and referential humor will revel in the nonsensical fun and are likely to be hooked by the sumptuous and surprisingly deep Adventure Time universe. Younger kids might be a bit baffled, but the show is so inventive and gorgeously rendered that even young kids can find it dazzling (especially when watching alongside entertained siblings or parents!). 

Network: Cartoon Network

The Dragon Prince

Recommended for ages 10 and older

The Dragon Prince is a beautifully rendered epic animated fantasy about two humans and their elfin friend who join forces to stop a war that's building between their two kingdoms. Brimming with mysticism, action, and suspense, this engrossing series grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Families who watch will find this addictive story rich in themes like heeding the call of duty, following your instinct, seeing past differences and being courageous.  

Network: Netflix

Andi Mack

Recommended for ages 10 and older

This sharp sitcom is about a 13-year-old girl with a regular life and a pretty unique family (she just found out her sister is really her mom!). This refreshing series doesn't shy away from emotion or meaningful issues in how Andi (and her mom Bex, to a lesser degree) carries on after the world as she knows it takes a hit. In a surprisingly organic way, it affirms that while the process of growing up can be trying and uncomfortable, strong relationships and the bonds of family are our most reliable sources of strength. Andi Mack tackles big and small issues in this newly minted teen's life with humor and charm that's appealing to parents almost as much as it is to kids. It's fresh, funny, diverse and honest, and tweens will love Andi's friend group and their adventures navigating school, crushes, and complex family issues.

Network: Disney Channel 

Rilakkuma and Kaoru

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a charming, satisfying series with surprising insight into the psyche of its main human character, a youngish female professional who shares her apartment with three unusual roommates: two toy-like bears named Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma, and a yellow chick named Kiiroitori. It's a joyful and clever project that marries this style of animation with such relatable grown-up content, yielding a unique series that will endear itself to just about anyone who watches.

Network: Netflix 

These are all excellent shows for kids ages 10 and under. For more ideas or picks for older kids, check out this robust list of award-winning TV picks at Common Sense Media.