You promised yourself you wouldn’t be that parent who lets the iPad babysit your kid. But turns out, in the time it takes the waiter to return with the check, or for you to take an important phone call, or have a moment of peace, TV is almost always a respectable alternative to your toddler losing her damn mind in IHOP, dumping out the radioactive, strawberry goo from that delightful flight of syrup. Moral panic about screen time and Tantrum Prevention aside, of course, there are also perfectly respectable reasons to surrender to some harmless TV, such as requisite air travel “survival” strategy. So whatever the impetus for plopping your little one in front of a screen (no judgment! we’ve all been there), you might as well go for the good stuff. Here’s a list of some of the best TV shows for toddlers and pre-k kids on each of the major streaming platforms. We’ve watched all of these, and we love them all.
Revel in stop-motion animation at its best with a blue Fox named Fig, living in shipwrecked digs whose best amenity is a treasure chest. When a new object appears in this beloved “Finding Place,” Fig and friends discover what to do with it, and how things work in the world. A fun exploration of imagination, persistence, and the joyful satisfaction of figuring things out, each episode ends with the equally adult-applicable reminder to get your butt off the sofa and: “go play!”
No doubt, one-day delivery has rescued you from some kind of last-minute parenting snafu, and now your offspring can also experience the magic of packages too, with a cute motley crew of hedgehog, hippo, raccoon, and cat. This mammalian foursome embarks on adorable adventures, delivering love-stuffed surprises to the citizens of Pikwik, modeling problem solving, teamwork, and most importantly, kindness. Plus, who can resist a hippo named Tibor?
Obvious, but obligatory–of course, Sesame Street is the OG of Kiddo TV that must get its props. There’s a reason why this show has stood the test of time since 1969 (unsanctioned theory: that “sweet air” might be medicinal and legal in 18 states, if you know what I mean)! This classic not only grows with the times (addressing diversity, inclusivity, technology), it encourages smarter, stronger, and kinder children, as per the cheery song in the ending credits. Plus, there’s no denying the undeniable power of your kid’s first, Puppet Love–I’m looking at you, Elmo.
Grab your kid, a lab coat, and bunsen burner (okay, maybe nix the latter fire hazard), and tune into a show that slickly mixes STEM with the magic of everyday science, featuring an effusively-curious 8-year-old girl, her love of learning, friendship and family. Literacy bonus: this show is based on the popular picture book with the same comma-laden name, so it’s the perfect catalyst to coax your kid back and forth from screen to book spine. Collectively, those books — including Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect — are known as the “Questioneers,” which you can check out here.
Daddy-daughter love abounds in this Irish show that showcases the tender relationship between the feisty protagonist, Lily, and her single-parent father, living together on an outlying beach. Lily enthusiastically finds every day “sea treasures,” like spoons, a glass jar, or a piece of cloth, and wildly imagines their origins. A gentle ode to simplicity, resourcefulness, and seeking the joy that washes upon your proverbial shore.
Glee meets the Saved by the Bell of the sea in this super bubbly show that is heavy on boppy music and will get your kid amped for preschool. This piscine series follows a class of guppy students under the illustrious tutelage of teacher, Mr. Grouper. These little fishies are eager to learn (and then sing) about, well, everything. A kind of underwater sketch comedy, be on the lookout for surprising guest stars such as heavy metal god, Ozzy Osbourne, and Star Trek legend, George Takei.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like Down Under, you can travel to Brisbane in seven minutes (the length of each episode) and meet a hyper Blue Heeler and his incredibly supportive canine family. With a focus on imagination and play, Bluey is a standout for its depiction of active, relatable, and engaged parenting. Toss in those irresistible accents and sly Aussie sense of humor, and you’ve got a show that adults will enjoy just as much as their kids.
Get your red sweater and sweetest roar ready for this tiger-ified version of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Daniel is the ideal animal stand-in for your 4-year-old preschooler, navigating super-relatable issues like allergies, the first day of school jitters, visiting the doctor, and the sheer shock and horror when a teacher dares to waltz into the classroom sporting a new hairdo! “Strategy songs” that boost emotional intelligence are catchy and practical. In the eyes of your mini binge-watchers, Daniel will reign supreme as the one and only true Tiger King.