Now, let me start by saying that a few years ago I, as many other new moms, swore to NEVER use screens when raising my children. In fact, at some point in my first pregnancy, I remember trying to get my husband, aka MrB, to agree to removing all TVs from the house. What can I say? I’m hard-core like that…
Then, Matthew was born and slowly, yet consistently, some of the blood oaths I made started to either get voluntarily cancelled because of their impossibility; i.e.: exclusively breastfeeding when I biologically wasn’t producing enough milk; or were cancelled when they began to have a negative effect on me; i.e.: co-sleeping until the child was ready to leave our bed.
Screen time limitations, however, have been one of those decisions that have continued to make sense for our family and, therefore, are still applied in our home throughout the years. But, in real #TopTenMom spirit, I’m going to give you mommas the honest truth: I still use screens to keep the boys entertained, quiet and “tamed” if and when I need it.
What does that look like practically for my family? We have our Weekly Movie Night every Friday (in Qatar, Fridays are like Sundays in the rest of the world!) and the boys get an iPad or iPhone sometimes in the situations like: Flights, haircuts, being with mommy on a business meeting, long and tiring lunches (I avoid them, but sometimes the iPhone allows me to actually EAT!), long road trips.
Occasionally, after events where either of them is having a strong emotional reaction (like an injection or nasal treatment), I’ll switch on the TV and we’ll watch something to calm them down.
For my two boys, Matthew (4 years) and Michael (almost 2 years), screens are treats and delights. We don’t overindulge but I’m working on not penalizing them too much either, and it this is working for our family so far.
Regardless of whether you’re on team No-Screens-Ever or on team Screens-For-All (or somewhere in between, like we are!), this is my Top Ten Mom Approved Netflix shows for children 1 to 5 years*:
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood: This American-Canadian series is based on Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood and debuted on PBS in the US in 2012. We started watching it when another Montessori Mom told me about how they discussed feelings and reactions in a simple and child-friendly way and I can honestly say it helped us loads with this. Daniel Tiger’s verbal recognition of his emotions and needs helped us with giving Matthew the words for what he felt. It also has catchy songs for things like Potty Training, Sleep Hygiene and facing situations like visiting the doctor.
- Luna Petunia: I absolutely LOVE this show. It’s another American-Canadian series produced by Cirque Du Soleil and its whimsical and playful energy is key to its awesomeness. The series is all about Luna and her adventures in the magical land of her imagination, but it also tackles in a gentle and innocent way subjects like jealousy, our personal limitations, self-acceptance and finding joy in life. It has no violence or aggressive language and is very inclusive.
- Justin Time: Officially, this Canadian produced show was created for pre-school aged children (3-5 years) and I can honestly say that nowadays I see Matthew enjoying it much more than before (whilst Michael is still not too into it). What I love about this series is that there’s always a conflict that is easily relatable to childhood and Justin, Olive (Justin’s imaginary friend who presents the problem to be solved and who changes outfits to meet the era they are at) and Squidgy solve it as a team. Also, even though Justin is “an adventurer” and never shies from the problems presented, he’s thoughtful and empathic, always putting their safety first.
- The Magic School Bus: Now, this one is an oldie but goodie. In fact, they are doing a remake of it, which should air soon. But nonetheless, this American-Canadian production is all about edutainment in a simple yet funny way. I would say this series is more for older kids (3 and more), but it’s one of those you can leave the kids watching in peace. Each episode, this class of children (with a lot of cultural and racial diversity) travels somewhere different with their teacher in their School Bus. From traveling through space to going into a classmate’s tummy… it’s ALL-possible for the Magical School Bus.
- Julie’s Greenroom: Ok, so a LONG time ago, I used to be a theatre actress, forward to today and I still have a massive place in my heart for theatre and all its magic. So, when I discovered this amazing American Show, which stars Julie Andrews (aka Mary Poppins!) I was beyond excited! In the show, Julie and her assistant Gus take their group of aspiring theatre children, called greenies and performed by beautiful Jim Henson’s puppets, through different roles and stories, interviewing some big celebrities of Broadway and beyond, and interacting with the different roles on the Theatre world.
- Dinosaur Train: Until doing the research for this article, I hadn’t realized that this American/Canadian/Singaporean show is another of Jim Henson’s creations for Netflix. In the series, Buddy, who is a Tyrannosaur adopted by a Pteranodon family and raised as one of them, and his family go aboard of the Dinosaur Train where they learn about different species of dinosaurs as well as see normal conflicts and ways to resolve them, teaching children about science, biology, biodiversity as well as emotions and other childhood areas.
- Ask the StoryBots: If you ask me why I like this series, I’ll have to be very honest and say that the music is my favourite! In fact, MrB and I constantly sing its main song changing the lyrics to fit the occasion. Anyway, this American production, based on the characters of the popular educational apps and books of the same name. This award-winning show features a lovely group of robot who, on each episode, ventures to the human world to answer questions like: Why do we need to brush our teeth and Why is the sky blue.
- The Furchester Hotel: Who doesn’t love Sesame Street? I mean, regardless of your background, we have all had contact with this show at some point and The Furchester Hotel, a British spin-off of the show, has the same whimsical elements with even more quirkiness. The show has no violence or offensive language and, in true Sesame Street fashion, offers great lessons for issues varying from diversity, how to deal with big emotions and even nutrition, even with some biology lessons in between.
- Pocoyo: This is another oldie but goodie which, thankfully got re-released recently thanks to Netflix. The British-Spanish production, created for kids 2-6 years, features Pocoyo, a little boy, and his friends who, each episode handle different conflicts like sharing, having turns in fun tasks, celebrating friendship and more. What I love the most, and why its back in our screens occasionally, is that the new season features a little alien girl who, with her useful sidekick robot, are constantly challenging normalcy and helping the old characters discover new sides of their lives.
- Kate & MimMim: The British-Canadian production, created by husband-wife due Scott & Julie Stewart, is probably one of the few shows for children out there that features inter-racial/multicultural families where both parents are always present, which is one of the reasons why I like it. On each episode, Kate, a lovely and brave no-your-typical-princess-loving girl faces a real life program and that encourages her to get MimMim, her favourite plush toy, to come to life and, in the life of her imagination, find a solution for it.
Well, these are some of our favourite shows to learn, grow and keep the boys busy on Netflix. There are many other good ones that we have left out, but in the end it’s all about each family finding those that fit their styles, always with parental supervision.
There you have it! If you have other shows to recommend, please feel free to email us to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If we have enough entries, we can create a PDF download for you guys to have as reference.
*Please keep in mind that Netflix programs may change depending on your region, therefore some of these choices might not work in your country. You might still be able to find them on YouTube though.