Even thinking about Cocomelon makes me cringe.
I can’t explicitly identify why; it’s just unsettling. Even though there are some good lessons and cute songs, and it’s relatively educational, I just can’t stomach it.
Don’t get me wrong, my preschooler is still allowed to watch some TV.
In fact, she has even provided me with an ordered list of her favorite shows she chooses to watch during screen time. Today is our lucky day, folks.
Thus, I present to you my 5-year-old’s list of favorites (that does not include Cocomelon). In order, because preschoolers are specific like that.
I adore the premise of the show: Bluey and her family use imaginative games and pretend play in their everyday lives to have endless adventures. It fosters creativity, teaches life lessons, and portrays healthy and realistic relationships. It’s funny to both kids and adults and has short 10-minute episodes that don’t get boring. From the parent side of things, it doesn’t have an annoying theme song, has seriously relatable parenting moments, and occasionally offers good parenting hacks. My only gripe is that it doesn’t do a great job of showing that parents aren’t ALWAYS available to play with their kids.
Bluey is available on Disney+.
Ada and her two best friends, Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, ask complex questions, solve science-based mysteries, and use teamwork to invent some pretty cool solutions to their problems. This series expands on the original book by Andrea Beaty and continues to focus primarily on math, science, technology, and engineering. As a parent, I love this series because it teaches about friendship along the way, doesn’t have annoying character voices or supervillains that my child will emulate, and explores the idea that everyone has different talents and something special to contribute.
Ada Twist, Scientist is available on Netflix.
Emily Calandrelli is an MIT grad, accomplished aerospace engineer, and fellow mom with a passion for explaining complex science to kids (and to adults — let’s just be honest here). She showcases relatively easy-to-replicate experiments on each episode and does a great job teaching the basics of the scientific method. I love how she emphasizes that being wrong is OK, it just means you have to think about it more and try again. As a mom, I think it’s awesome that she filmed this whole series while she was very pregnant, and she is a great, real-life role model. I know I’m not alone when I say Netflix needs to bring us a second season of this gem.
Emily’s Wonder Lab is available on Netflix.
This is an obvious fan favorite, deservingly so. Based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger is a preschooler who is learning to navigate life. Daniel Tiger’s mom is serious #momgoals and my personal parenting idol. The show features great songs, realistic life lessons, and diverse characters. There’s even an app for parents that has all the songs conveniently organized by topic. To say I’m thankful for this show is an understatement, and if this neighborhood actually exists somewhere in real life I will pack my bags in record time.
Octonauts is a classic series where explorers help sea creatures whenever there is trouble, and they’ve recently expanded their rescue missions to all kinds of different habitats outside the ocean. They explore, explain, and spotlight amazing animals. Captain Barnacles and crew always save the day and have really cool, albeit implausible, rescue vehicles. I have to admit I prefer the “old school” Octonauts episodes, as they’re not as over the top as the new ones.
Octonauts and Octonauts: Above and Beyond are available on Netflix.
In this documentary series, Izzy and her family rescue koalas on an island off the coast of Australia. Izzy’s mom is a veterinarian, and together they rehabilitate koalas in need. It’s an especially great choice for kids who love animals and have a passion for protecting them. Personally, I find it extra appealing because I like the calm and relatively soft-spoken protagonists. As a parent, this one is a no brainer — who doesn’t love fuzzy, baby koalas?
Izzy’s Koala World is available on Netflix.