The Best Kids' Shows Are on Apple TV+

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There’s no denying that PBS Kids, the home of Daniel Tiger, was once the gold standard for children’s programming. Unfortunately, many of their shows now feel recycled or like they’re spoon-feeding their audience. For example, they’ve turned Elmo and Cookie Monster into transforming robots. A parent can’t help but wonder if they’re more interested in selling toys than entertaining kids. 

Apple TV+ has quickly (and quietly) been overtaking PBS’ throne in quality programming for kids, bringing considerable value to this parent’s dwindling streaming budget. Several creatives behind Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have their own programs on the streaming service, and the shows are targeted toward specific age groups, not just preschoolers.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show

After playing ۳۰ Rock‘s Kenneth Parcell with “aw-shucks” aplomb, Jack McBrayer practically seemed destined to host a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood-type show. Here, he plays a version of himself, who also happens to be the kindest resident of Clover Grove, and spreads his fondness for others around his colorful hometown. Behind the scenes, McBrayer co-created this musical show (with songs by pop group OK Go) with Angela C. Santomero, the mind behind Blue’s Clues and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. According to my oldest son, this program is strictly for preschoolers, as he doesn’t enjoy the show as much as his younger brother does. 

Frog and Toad

Every streaming service has a children’s series based on a book. Netflix has Captain Underpants, and Prime Video has If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and each show translates its source material to the screen with varying degrees of success. Apple TV+ has Frog and Toad, which captures what made Arnold Lobel’s award-winning series so delightful to read, from the color palette of its illustrations to its contagious positivity. The show moves at the same pace as your preschooler, so their senses aren’t overloaded, and its core themes about communication and embracing differences are slipped in subtly. Both my sons love it. Don’t be surprised if this becomes the next kids’ show you watch without your kids.

Older kids

Stillwater

From each hair on the titular panda’s face to the blades of grass that move with the breeze, Stillwater is far too beautiful for children’s television animation. Even its sound design is soothing, which is on purpose, given the show’s premise. Each episode deals with a problem that one of Stillwater’s child neighbors brings to them. Rather than letting their emotions take over, he supports them in finding a solution by taking a deep breath and looking at the problem from a different perspective, offering a way to navigate complicated feelings so viewers can work on becoming more self-aware humans. Surprisingly, my kids love this show, particularly the beautiful fables Stillwater tells his young neighbors to get his point across.

Camp Snoopy

When Apple TV+ announced it was becoming the new streaming home for all things Peanuts, I wondered why, considering that most of the television specials had their heyday in the ’70s and ’80s. I obviously underestimated Snoopy’s power, especially considering parents were up in arms when word got out that A Charlie Brown Christmas wouldn’t be on broadcast television because of the arrangement.

The agreement also allows Apple to create new content featuring Charles Schultz’s characters. Their most recent offering is Camp Snoopy, which follows Charlie Brown and siblings Lucy and Linus Van Pelt to the great outdoors. There are the usual shenanigans from Snoopy and Woodstock (which drew my kids in), but the other characters have issues of their own, such as getting homesick or fear of trying new things, that are dealt with gracefully.

Tiny World

Who needs to watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when the documentary program Tiny World breaks down the microscopic ecosystems of the jungle, savannah, and outback for viewers? Soothingly narrated by Paul Rudd, the series offers fantastic images they wouldn’t likely see anywhere else to captivate your child’s imagination. I recommend waiting to watch this on your new big-screen TV instead of your iPad, as the detail in these images is enough to make your family’s jaw drop.

Tweens

Ghostwriter

My oldest son, a bookworm by his own admission, dove right into this reboot of the ’90s live-action series about a group of kids who solve mysteries with literary characters mysteriously brought to life. He was caught up in solving the identity of the titular character, who communicates with the four young detectives through spilled drinks and a mysterious typewriter, as well as the other themes dominating the character’s personal lives (like grief, for example). The greatest trick this show pulls off is making classic stories like The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland relevant when so many other characters (and toys) vie for your child’s attention.

Circuit Breakers

Goosebumps. Are You Afraid of the Dark? In the ’90s, there was no shortage of creepy anthology shows aimed at tweens. Now, there is Circuit Breakers, which focuses on the effects of using technology to solve kid-related problems, such as overbearing parents or waiting for your growth spurt. It’s unusual content from a technology company, especially one known for policing its adult content for disparaging remarks that its creators say on-air. It’s still refreshing that this exists, and, unlike its ’90s predecessors, there are no jump scares or monsters to impede your child’s enjoyment.

Wolfboy and the Everything Factory

Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices one of the characters in this animated show about a creative kid sent to boarding school to make friends. However, he wears a wolf mask (hence the nickname Wolfboy), so he doesn’t quite fit in. He finds his tribe inside a magical portal in the woods near his school and finds the Everything Factory, where everything on the Earth’s surface, from clouds to trees, is manufactured. The show has an Adventure Time vibe, but it feels like something one of my boys would make in a comic book. 

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