Once upon a time, there were only a few television networks with limited viewing choices for kids and families.
Kiss those days goodbye.
Today, multiple platforms, including streaming services such as Disney+, offer families a wide variety of programming, with new options constantly popping up.
From innovative groundbreakers to tried-and-true favorites, these are the best television shows for kids and families to watch right now, whether you’re cozied up on the couch at home or embarking on a family road trip.
Best Shows on Disney+ for Families
Set in the Star Wars universe, fans of the movie franchise will be overjoyed with The Mandalorian, a small-screen extension. The live-action series follows a bounty hunter/warrior who faces numerous conflicts and battles in the outer reaches of the galaxy. The Baby Yoda character has gone viral and should appeal to all ages. This action adventure series has some menacing moments as the lone wolf warrior traverses a world full of dangers, but there’s nothing overtly scary.
Diary of a Female President
This live-action comedy from Disney+ follows Elena, a Cuban-American middle school student, in her quest to become future President of the United States. Narrated through her diary, this inclusive and aspirational story focuses on the ups and downs she and her peers face. Elena approaches the world with purpose and confidence, making her a fine role model for tweens.
Forky Asks a Question
This educational Pixar series stars Forky, the wide-eyed innocent spork from Toy Story. Forky ponders big questions, including friendship and love, as well as more practical issues pertaining to how things work, including computers and money. The general message of Forky Asks a Question is that curiosity and questions are the best way to learn. Each episode is self-contained and lasts only three minutes, so it should appeal to young children’s short attention spans.
High School Musical: The Series
A new class of talented drama students is putting on musical production of High School Musical in this Disney+ series. There’s plenty of adolescent drama on stage and off, as the students get ready for the curtain to rise on opening night.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
This animated series follows the republic’s clone army in their struggle against Count Dooku’s Separatist forces. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker make appearances, as do newer characters, making Star Wars: The Clone Wars a must-see for families who are fans of the franchise.
Best Family Shows on Netflix
Lost in Space
This reimagining of the popular 1960s television show has plenty of nostalgic appeal; yet it feels contemporary. It’s the story of the Robinson family after their spacecraft crashes on a hostile, but habitable alien planet. Currently heading into season three, this action-packed science fiction series has easy-to-digest morality lessons. Kids should be drawn to the storylines of tween son Will and teenager Judy as they struggle with relatable problems.
Anne With an E
Loosely based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic book, Anne of Green Gables, this live-action, somewhat dark series follows plucky orphan Anne’s adventures in Avonlea on beautiful Prince Edward Island in Canada. Set in in the late 19thcentury, this beloved series was recently cancelled after three successful seasons, though fans are still actively clamoring for another season.
This baking competition show features teams of professional bakers whipping up sugar-spun delights each week. Cupcakes, layer cakes and confections should make your mouth water. Contestants compete for prize money and are judged by a team of food industry experts. It’s delectable family fun.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Based on the Lemony Snicket book series, this Netflix show’s characters include the three orphaned Baudelaire children and dastardly Count Olaf, who’s trying to gain control of their vast fortune. This live-action drama/comedy features Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.
Yeh Meri Family
Set in the 1990s, this cross-cultural heart-warmer takes place in Jaipur, India. The protagonist is Harshu Gupta, a 12-year-old boy and the middle child of a middle-class family. The plotline revolves around the daily life of Harshu as he balances friends, school and family. The language spoken is Hindi, though the trials and tribulations faced are universal.
Best Netflix Shows for Kids
Go! Go! Cory Carson
The producers of beloved family favorites such as Finding Dory and Ratatouille created this adorable series about a kid car named Cory. Young kids learn valuable lessons as they watch Cory navigate life with family, friends, and at school in the town of Bumperton Hills. Bonus: If your kids are fans, take note—Go! Go! Cory Carson characters and playsets will soon be available at Target.
Dragons: Rescue Riders
Part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, this Dreamworks animated series features a set of 10-year-old twins and five friendly dragons. Themes include the value of cooperation, community and problem solving, making it appropriate for kids of all ages.
Green Eggs and Ham
Loosely based on the beloved Dr. Seuss literary classic of the same name, this hand-drawn 2D animated series is rich with creative visuals and rhymes. The series follows Sam I Am and a new character, Guy Am I, as they journey the globe. The star-studded cast includes the voices of Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Tracy Morgan and John Turturro.
Season two will be titled Green Eggs and Ham: The Second Serving.
Trolls: The Beat Goes On!
This television version of the animated 2016 hit movie features a colorful pack of trolls. Watch as they engage in adventures and learn to cohabitate with the grumpy Bergens. Music, dancing and positivity makes this DreamWorks animated show a wholesome winner.
Based on the children’s books of the same name, all 74 episodes of this popular 1990s series stream on Netflix. Each episode finds the young protagonists in creepy situations involving supernatural elements, including ghosts and zombies. It’s not scary, though there are a few nail-biting moments.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again
This sequel to the original 1990s series is a perennial favorite. The original Ms. Valerie Frizzle has retired from teaching, but has passed the baton to her younger sister, Fiona Frizzle. The new Miss Frizzle and her students embark on adventures on their high-tech bus, learning about the wonders of science along the way.
Best Family Shows on Amazon Prime
Clifford the Big Red Dog
This reboot of the much-loved book and television series stars the voice of Adam Sandler as Clifford. The Amazon Prime series revolves around a little girl, Emily Elizabeth, and her docile red dog, Clifford, who talks to her when no one else is around.
This prequel to The Big Bang Theory is a live action comedy about a 10-year-old Texas boy named Sheldon. He’s a highly sensitive genius living with average parents and siblings. His advanced intellectual capacity is not always helpful in this traditional small town, where church and sports rule. It’s a comic look at a misunderstood square peg in a round hole.
This sweet and simple animated series stars an adorable young rabbit, Mofy, who enjoys playing in the forest with her animal friends. She experiences a range of emotions, including sadness, jealousy and fear, and learns to work through them. These valuable lessons make Mofy a hit with young children and their parents.
Bug Diaries is an animated series inspired by the picture books Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Fly and Diary of a Worm. The Spider, Fly and Worm explore their world and reflect on their experiences in diary entries. Lessons include friendship and tolerance for diversity.
Little Big Awesome
This mixed-media series includes animation, puppetry and live action, adding creative visual appeal. It presents a fantasy world where bubbles can talk and cacti sing songs. The leads are two supportive best friends, Gluko and Lennon, who appreciate each other in spite of their quirks.
Best Family Shows on Hulu
The Bravest Knight
This is one of the first shows for young people to feature an openly gay main character. The Bravest Knight follows Sir Cedric, once a humble pumpkin farmer, on his quest to become the greatest knight of all times. The fairytale adventure includes Cedric’s husband, Prince Andrew, and their adopted 10-year-old daughter, Nia.
This live-action comedy sweetly portrays the middle school awkwardness of its two seventh grade protagonists, Anna and Maya. Though humorous, Pen 15 presents real life issues such as smoking cigarettes, drugs and dating.
Nina’s World is a prequel to Sprout TV’s The Good Night Show. It stars Nina, an imaginative six-year-old girl who loves to have fun in her neighborhood. Nina is Latina and helms a diverse cast. Topics include family and love, just right for preschoolers.
Dot. is an animated show that caters to the STEM generation. Dot is an inquisitive, tech-savvy young girl who sets out to solve everyday problems with her peers and her dog. Her name is a play on the .com domain name. The characters model how technology can be used to enhance real-world experiences in a safe way.
Rugrats had its premier way back in 1991, but it continues to enthrall a new generation of children. The show follows a group of babies on their hilarious adventures. Slightly distracted parents make appearances, allowing the babies to slide out of their strollers and venture out solo.
Best Freeform Shows For Families
Grown-ish is a spinoff of the hit sitcom, Black-ish. It stars Zoey, as she leaves the comfy nest of her family and heads to college. There’s some edgy content including characters dealing with drugs, gender, racism and sexism. It’s appropriate for teens and mature tweens.
Party of Five
The original Party Of Five dealt with the struggles of five orphaned siblings. The series reboot has a timely spin with the five Acosta children’s parents having been recently deported back to Mexico. The kids struggle with life without their parents as they contemplate complex issues surrounding immigration. It’s an excellent choice for teens and mature tweens. The first season of the new Party of Five is available on Amazon Prime.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay
Nicholas is a narcissistic 20-something who becomes the legal guardian of his two young half sisters, one who is on the autism spectrum, when their father dies. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay takes an unsparing look at sibling life, combining tragedy with humor.
Watch the antics when confirmed bachelor Dan’s ex-girlfriend leaves a baby girl on his doorstep. He decides to raise the infant with the help of his brother and best buddies. There are some marginally racy situations and jokes in Baby Daddy, making it best for families with older children.
This animated satire of working-class life has been a hit for years. Set in the fictional middle-America town of Springfield, viewers never tire of the dysfunctional family made up of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. The new season airs on FOX, but Freeform airs past seasons.
Popular TV Streaming Service Plans
Cost: Basic – $8.99/Month; Standard – $12.99/Month; Premium: $15.99/Month
Bundle Options: None
Cost: Hulu – $5.99; Hulu (No Ads) – $11.99/Month; Hulu + Live TV – $54.99/Month; Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV – $60.99/Month
Bundle Options: Disney+ allows you to bundle Hulu and ESPN+ in one price.
Amazon Prime Video
Bundle Options: None, but Amazon Prime Video includes free two-day (or in some cases, one-day) shipping on all Amazon orders.
5 Best TV Streaming Devices 2020
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
The most popular TV streaming device on the market, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K seamlessly connects users to streaming services including Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, HBO, YouTube and Sling. Navigate to your favorite TV shows and movies with a touch of the device, or use Alexa Voice Remote. The Amazon Fire Stick also provides more storage for apps and games than any other streaming device, and allows you to dim or turn your lights off and on.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Released in 2019, the Amazon Fire TV Cube controls all of your technology with the help of Alexa Voice Remote. Ask Alexa to turn on the TV, play your favorite tunes, and watch your favorite flicks and shows on multiple streaming services. The Fire Cube can also dim and turn off the lights.
Roku Streaming Stick Plus
The OG streaming device, Roku taps into all of your streaming services with a voice remote, and reviewers comment how easy it is to use. You’ll also have access to the Roku Channel, which features hundreds of free movies.
The Google Chromecast connects to all of your favorite streaming services (including Amazon Prime Video) via voice control, with some added bells and whistles, including the capability to stream your phone to your TV. The only downside? Chromecast isn’t ideal for travel, as it doesn’t connect to networks that require browser-based logins (which is the case at most hotels).
Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K provides impeccable photo quality for all your streaming services, bringing a movie theater-like experience to your living room. Use Siri Voice to search for what you want, and view photos and videos from your iPhone or tablet.
Allison Tibaldi is a travel writer based in New York City. With her husband and two kids, she has lived in Rome; Tuscany; Melbourne, Australia; Toronto; and Los Angeles. She studied early childhood development in graduate school and believes that travel is an important part of education. She writes for CNN, TravelChannel.com, HGTV, USA TODAY, Time Out New York, am New York, Family Traveller, Family Travel Forum, Travel Weekly, off Metro and numerous other publications. Follow her @gourmetrav.