As a parent, I really appreciate well-written shows for kids.
Because it expands my kids’ minds and provides them quality entertainment?
Well… sure. But if I can be brutally honest for a moment, I also care about having to also watch whatever my kids are watching.
Which is why my kids have never, ever seen an episode of the Teletubbies. It may be great for development, but I find its glassy-eyed, brightly-colored characters so grating that the mere idea of regularly seeing them makes my teeth hurt.
Or Caillou. I can’t tell you how many parents have warned me about the perils of Caillou…
“I HATE CAILLOU!” they say. “But my kids are addicted to it.”
And I chuckle, right before they grip my arm…
“NO, you DON’T UNDERSTAND,” they say with a thousand-yard stare. “Caillou is a complete a**hole, a whiny little brat who always gets what he wants. Don’t do it, Erin! Don’t ever let them see that little jerk!”
And being spared the apparent hell of the endless Caillou loop, I figured I should pay their kindness forward. Here are five kids’ TV shows I think are entertaining enough to keep parents happy too.
Or even non-parents. They’re just that good.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010)
Many of us grew up watching the original series (at least in re-runs) and already feel nostalgic about the characters. This is the updated version, faithful to the original (Fred Welker still does Freddy’s voice) while adding more sophisticated humor. The kind that adults will get, but will go right over your kids’ heads.
There’s also a great cast, including Lewis Black and Patrick Warburton. Natalie from The Facts of Life does Velma’s voice, which adds to the childhood nostalgia.
2. Gravity Falls (2012)
This is a trippy, cerebral show about a brother and sister who spend a summer with their
great uncle in Oregon and find themselves battling paranormal forces. Dipper Pines, the brother, finds a supernatural journal to help sort out the town’s dark mysteries and he’s voiced by Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter AKA Jack Tripper).
His sister, Mabel Pines, is obsessed with parties, sweaters and Waddles, her pet pig. She’s voiced by Kristin Schaal, who is always an instant crack-up.
This is a weird, weird show. It even includes secret codes and messages. I was thrilled that my kids loved it too, because I was hooked after one episode.
3. Ruby Gloom (2006)
My four-year-old daughter is still afraid of the dark, yet bizarrely fascinated by vampires
and ghosts. She even wants a pet bat, named “Lola,” to sleep upside-down in her closet.
I always figured it had something to do with conquering her fears, but maybe it’s more about kids getting tired of happy, chipper, perfect-land too. Maybe because its forbidden, some kids like peering into the dark side once in a while.
If you also have a kid like that, this is the perfect show to satisfy those urges. It’s creepy (involving vampires and conjoined twins) while never crossing the line into truly frightening or inappropriate themes.
There’s Scaredy Bat, for example, a wimpy bat character who is afraid of everything.
4. Regular Show (2010)
Another odd show that centers on the lives of two friends, a blue jay named Mordecai
and a raccoon named Rigby. They’re employed as groundskeepers at a local park, but are also slackers whose misadventures sometimes veer into the surreal or supernatural.
Though it sometimes seems random, the show has been nominated for several awards. Each episode is packed with hidden jokes and risqué innuendo that is, again, skillful enough for only adults to catch. Sometimes the jokes are in song lyrics, to give you a better idea.
It’s off-the-wall comedy that sometimes jumps into outer space. Still, my kids love it. My daughter will drop her Legos whenever it comes on TV.
5. Over the Garden Wall (2014)
I wrote an entire post praising this multi-layered miniseries and having now seen it a
dozen more times, I still think it’s great.
It follows the journey of two lost brothers in a strange land of singing animals, with echoes of Dante’s Inferno. It feels like the colorful LSD trip of a bunch of brilliant Early American Literature professors.
Old-timey music, 1920’s style cartoons, beasts in the forest that feel straight out of a Nathaniel Hawthorne nightmare… it all comes across like an American history classic, packed with the peculiarly American demons that haunted our Puritan forefathers centuries ago. There’s enough creepiness to captivate your kids, but enough heart to not make you feel like an irresponsible parent while they’re watching it.
I hope you enjoy these suggestions, but I’m not finished yet. Stay tuned for five kid’s movies that I’m sure even adults will love.