What are the best Christmas episodes of mega-popular toddler shows? What about kids’ shows that are just okay but also have Christmas specials your kid can’t get enough of? What’s that you say? Your kid only watches one show repeatedly to the point where you can recite the episodes you used to enjoy in your sleep?
Good news: there’s a holiday episode of your kid’s favorite show. Call it a Holiday Treat because in 2020 TV specials count as an activity! You are being a fun parent! Use it as an incentive for good behavior, or throw it on to diffuse a meltdown, but it’s time to add a little bourbon to your coffee and curl up for some guilt-free TV seasonal merriment. Pace your children accordingly so that you don’t blow through them all in one day. You’ll want to make the magic last.
Paw Patrol Pups Save Christmas and Meet Santa
The most despised kids’ show in the world is also the most popular with kids. This is why we’re listing this first. You know it. You (probably) don’t like it. But you have to live with it. In this episode, the canines of Adventure Bay “save” Christmas. We doubt it. But, you’re kids will (probably) love it.
Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
George, being a monkey, does not understand his human world, one which he was cruelly thrust against his will. It only makes sense that he should spend the rest of his life making the Man in the Yellow Hat miserable. The fun doesn’t stop at Christmas when George struggles to understand the concept of the season by waking his captor each morning at 5 AM to ask AGAIN if today is Christmas. Antics ensue. A very monkey Christmas indeed.
Mickey Mouse Club House: “Mickey Saves Santa”
Mickey and friends have to help Santa when his sleigh breaks down. At the very bottom of the cartoon barrel, the MMC’s “Grum-like” animation is off-putting and feels like the cartoon equivalent of a cheap buffet. It’s enough of what your kids recognize to not reject and some of what they like to keep them engaged. But let’s be honest, it’s the worst. Mickey’s shrieks punctuate an early Sunday morning like the worst hangover, one where you realize your youth has officially waned and your back hurts just from sleeping.
Little Einsteins: “The Christmas Wish”
Little Einsteins only ran for four years in the mid-to-late aughts but remains a cult parent favorite. Leo, Quincy, Annie, and June, are a group of explorer friends who travel around in Rocket learning. The show’s heavy emphasis on art education makes it one of the rare kid shows that makes you feel like your kids might get smarter by watching it; classical music and art are woven into each episode. The Christmas Wish has the friends traveling to Mt. Everest to rescue a special gift that has fallen off Santa’s sleigh directly on the tallest mountain in the world.
“The Christmas Wish” is streaming on Disney+
The Cat and the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas
The Cat in the Hat knows a lot about everything, including helping one of Santa’s lost reindeer find his way home. If your kids like the Cat you know what you’re getting yourself into, and luckily PBS Kids’ Cat is way less sinister and troublesome than the original.
“The Cat and the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas” is streaming on Amazon Prime
If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie
It’s never enough for the Mouse, and Christmas means way more cookies around than usual. There’s a disaster, of course, and the Mouse is going to find a way to drag out the solution, leaving his audience rapt until the very end. Will Mouse cease his incessant demands for cookies and save the damn day already?
If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie is streaming on Amazon Prime
Tumble Leaf: Snowflake Dance/The Tinsel Topper
Tumble Leaf, an original Prime series, is aimed perfectly at toddlers and preschoolers. Fig is a Fox who discovers the world around him through play. This holiday episode presents gentle, kid-appropriate problems like a small injury, or breaking a special decoration, and then how to work through the crisis. A good one to pop on while you silently stress about each ornament your child is precariously dangling while tossing it on the clump of decorations at the bottom right corner of the tree. You can fix it after they go to bed.
Snowflake Dance/The Tinsel Topper is streaming on Amazon Prime
Elena of Avalor: “Navidad”
What’s Christmas without a goat-related mishap? Elena is not here for this shit as celebration prep takes a turn for the worse and disaster erupts around the town. Doña Paloma is there to cash in on the chaos until Elena sets the townspeople straight, doling out guitars as they all gather at the castle to celebrate the meaning of the season. Problem solved!
Elena of Avalor “Navidad” is streaming on Disney+ and the platform has Disney Junior holiday specials bundled for ease.
Trash Truck: “A Trash Truck Christmas”
If you know anyone with small boys they are likely way ahead of you when it comes to the vehicle-based TV situation. Do they like trucks? Oh, they like trucks. The best new show is Netflix’s “Trash Truck” which is, to quote a dad friend, “Not as a good as Bluey, but just a nice show that isn’t stupid.” The voices are calming, and it’s a sweet story about a boy and his best friend—a giant trash truck—and a group of talking animal pals. Hank believes in his BFF so strongly that when Santa crash-lands on Christmas Eve Hank volunteers Trash Truck to save the day.
Bluey: “Verandah Santa”
Bluey is genuinely one of the funniest kid shows around. A family of Australian cattle dogs (“Mom, Dad, Bingo, Bluey!”) live their lives in a series of quirky, six-minute vignettes. Bluey and Bingo spend most of their time with Dad who indulges Every. Single. Game the girls invent for him. Your kid may want to play “Statue” or “Daddy Robot” once they realize the fictional dog parent plays with them, like, all the time. In “Verandah Santa” the family and visiting cousins, Muffin and Socks, muse about how Santa will come to visit without a chimney. They take turns sneaking in from the veranda pretending to be Santa delivering gifts– until Bluey takes it too far. “Strap yourselves in, kids” mutters Dad ominously as Bluey snatches the Santa hat for her turn.
Peppa Pig’s Christmas Specials
The only humans in Peppa Pig are the Queen of England and Father Christmas. When you watch something more times than you’d prefer, you start to notice things that take place within the cartoon world. For instance, birds seem to be one of the few animals that are not sentient, and Peppa’s teacher Madame Gazelle is totally a vampire, one of the droll asides that you might miss if you aren’t paying attention. Peppa has a variety of holiday specials to choose from, including “Santa’s Grotto” and a Christmas baking special.
Dinosaur Train: “Winter Solstice Eve”
For a neutral holiday special, the Dinosaur Train riders time-travel to the Cretaceous period to check out the winter lights of the aurora borealis and celebrate the winter solstice. There are a few episodes to choose from, including “Winter Solstice Eve,” and “The North Pole.” Wondering how the reptiles regulate their body heat in the snow? Don’t worry, they make it out of the locked train station just before their ancient bodies freeze, leaving timeless holiday relics in the snow for us to discover. Death comes for us all.
Doc McStuffins: The Doc McStuffins Christmas Special
The Doc is in, and she’s got to save Christmas. If there’s anything we know about a Christmas special it’s that some kind of logistical nightmare is going to occur, forcing the characters to take action. The resident problem solver has to tackle a pretty big boo-boo this time: the power at the North Pole has gone out, disrupting all the toy work. By using time travel, Doc can make Christmas happen while paying special attention to those who need the most love.
“The Doc McStuffins Christmas Special” is streaming on Disney+
Vampirina: “The Fright Before Christmas”
This one just dropped, but there are a few holiday Vampirinas to peruse, including “Nanpire and Grandpop the Greats,” in which the ghouls visit Pennsylvania to learn about human holidays. In the current season’s special, Vampirina wants to make the castle spooky to lure “Spooky Claus” having learned absolutely nothing from her human-assimilation vacation.
Sofia the First “Holiday in Enchancia”
The rags-to-riches bastard child, Sofia, will celebrate her first “Wassalia” in the castle with her new dad and siblings. Sofia can’t wait to spend time with her family, but her terrible step-siblings, are, of course, only excited about presents. Also, her new dad has disappeared and this rightly makes her nervous. Like any good heroine, Sofia heads to the woods with her magical amulet where Princess Aurora appears and refuses to help her find her missing dad and just tells her to let the talking animals help. King Roland was trapped in the fucking Woodcutter’s cottage all along, which seems unhelpful of Aurora to not mention.
Daniel Tiger “Snowflake Day”
Daniel Tiger will not be wearing pants, even on Snowflake Day. Nor will his father. This musical episode brings the town together to celebrate Snowflake Day. Daniel’s mom has dressed appropriately and shows Daniel the difference in each snowflake, making the comparison to how every person is different. Some choose to wear pants and some do not. Just like a snowflake.
Elmo Saves Christmas
Elmo wants it to be Christmas every day, and whatever Elmo wants, Elmo gets. Santa had no idea when he got stuck in Elmo’s chimney that it would mean he’d have to work every day of his life. As a thank you for rescuing him, Santa foolishly gifts Elmo a magic snowglobe, granting him the wish that it can be Christmas EVERY day! Seems like a great idea unless you’re Santa, who’s now stuck in a Groundhog Day nightmare of his busiest workday. Sesame Street grows tired of the constant Christmas marathon, and after businesses are shut down and The Count teeters near insanity, Elmo’s friends talk some sense into him.
Yo Gabba Gabba “A Very Awesome Christmas Special”
Yo Gabba Gabba presents the perfect holiday extravaganza for parents who have just vaped a little THC in the garage. This rocking special features DJ Lance Rock, My Chemical Romance, Tony Hawk, and Mark Mothersbaugh. It’s delightful, colorful, and makes no sense. Your kids will love it.
“A Very Awesome Christmas Special” is streaming on Youtube
Pete the Cat: A Very Groovy Christmas
The cat city gang is out to find the “Christmas Cat,” who (spoiler alert) is played by Jason Mraz. But he’s in disguise! This Pete the Cat Christmas Cat thing is also pretty long, at least 30 minutes. You’ve been warned.
“A Very Groovy Christmas” is streaming for free (overpriced) on Amazon Prime
Octonauts: A Very Vegimal Christmas
The most bizarre aspect to the underwater exploits of Team Zissou-for children — The Octonauts — is easily their alliance with a group of “cute” mutant chimeras called “Vegimals.” Half-vegetable and half-sea-animal, the Vegimals make little sense, both narratively speaking, and in the way that they speak. In this episode, they have to save all the Octonauts from an underwater “Snot Blob,” on Christmas day. Luckily, you’ll learn a lot of real under-water snot!
Octonauts: “A Very Vegimal Christmas” is streaming on Netflix.