I love pinning those “Screen Free Summer Fun” lists as much as the next person. I know all about audio books, library baskets, sensory play, 48 things to do with masking tape, letting your kids be bored, playdates, water play, kid chores, and busy bags, and all the things. But
some most days it seems like we can do all of the above, and it’s only 2:30 and the hottest part of the day is still looming before us. I’m raising the white flag of surrender: summer screens are just going to happen in our house. But that doesn’t make me like the idea of my kids sitting in front of the TV watching Ninjago until their brains are literally oozing out of their ears. (Because, of course, there is no middle ground.)
But wait! I’ve found a new system, though, that has helped to redeem TV time in my eyes. If you’re a conflicted, guilty TV mom like me, maybe this will be helpful to you, too:
Here’s the simple rule: weekday TV is Mom’s choice. There are so many things available online that are educational, or that can broaden my kids’ horizons in some way. (It can be expensive to travel or buy tickets to cultural events, but kids can taste these other worlds through videos and television!)
On their own, my kids wouldn’t usually make these wholesome choices, but when it’s Mom’s pick or nothing, they will usually cooperate. Sometimes they are not interested in what I’ve picked and they’ll drift into the other room (which is fine), but 98% of the time, they stay to watch… AND they like it!
(On the weekends, they get to pick what they watch. It keeps us all happy!)
Obviously, your quality picks will vary based on the ages of your kids and the interests of your family. But to get you started, here are some of the titles that are in my regular rotation. I’ve labeled where we find them: (Y) YouTube, (N) Netflix, (P) Amazon Prime. I have only included things that my kids really enjoyed.
- Live performances: Stomp, Riverdance, ballet, folk dances etc. (Y)
- Backstage with Bleekie (Sesame Street character): The Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Britten’s the Young Person’s Guide + Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Y)
- Draw me a Story (P)- watch an artist illustrate a traditional children’s story as the narrator reads out loud
- Art with Mati and Dada (Y)- animated educational videos about famous artists
- Art for Kids Hub (Y)- step by step drawing tutorials
- America’s Test Kitchen (N)- straightforward recipe preparation, equipment reviews, and explanations of the science behind cooking
- Weelicious cooking channel (Y)
- The Great British Baking Show (N) (P)- a family-friendly competition show with no yelling and low emotional intensity
- Zooboomafoo (N)- for some reason, my kids prefer this one to Wild Kratts.
- Tons of animal/nature-themed documentaries available on Netflix and Prime, depending on your kids’ particular interests and sensitivity level. (Many have ratings, which is helpful.)
- Magic School Bus (N)
- Zoo Clues (N)
- Rock the Park (N)- exploring National Parks
(NOTE: I haven’t actually watched this yet! But it’s rated G and on my watch list.)
Classic/Educational Kids’ TV:
- Silly Symphonies (Y) – classic Disney animation with classical music scores
- Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood (N) (P- more seasons available here)- the Neighborhood of Make-Believe is creepier than you remember, but your kids won’t mind, and everything else is super educational! This might also give you new ideas for topics to pursue further– my kids loved the Stomp episode and we watched tons more footage of their performances on Youtube another day.
- Reading Rainbow (N) (P)
- Magic School Bus (N)
- The Boxcar Children (N)- a sweet animated version that is very faithful to the book
- The Okee Dokee Brothers (N)- a folk duo travels the US, writing songs and having adventures. Funny and entertaining for the whole family!
- Exercise: when your kids need to move but it’s hot outside, try YouTube- search “how to dance”, “yoga instruction”, “ballet class”, or “exercise” and see what comes up! Adding “for kids” will also help refine your search and (hopefully!) keep it appropriate. (My kids also enjoy dancing along to all the dance videos I mentioned above, so try that, too.)
(Obvious note, just in case it needs to be said: I recommend closely supervised use of YouTube! Many videos require you to watch ads before the video will begin. Our Apple TV automatically plays the “next video” after the video we’ve chosen is completed; a computer will usually display recommendations for “related” content. These can expose your kids to content that is not appropriate, or that is Just Plain Weird.)
I’d love to hear YOUR suggestions! (We have lots of summer days left!)