The Very Best Shows on Netflix . . . according to my kids

So, this whole Netflix sponsored post thing is really supposed to be a LOT more kid-focused than mine are. Mostly, I prefer to hide from my children and watch Netflix streaming on my own. So I've been writing about what I watch when the kids aren't looking, or what we watch on our family movie nights. With school and sports and activities and projects, the kids get pretty busy, and don't watch a ton of TV anyway. But, they sure do LIKE it. And, sometimes, we're sick, or it's raining, or they're in their church clothes early, or -every so often- the planets align and all schoolwork is finished and the house is clean . . . and the kids get to watch TV.

They only ever watch Netflix, because I just don't want to have to deal with commercials. I'd really rather my kids not know what toys and breakfast cereals are missing from their lives, and I don't want to have to explain why those old people are holding hands in bathtubs on a cliff.

My rules are that they have to choose shows that are non-objectionable in the ways you're thinking, but also that aren't just totally lame. So, my kids aren't allowed to watch pre-teen sitcoms about kids who lie to their parents and sneak out, but they're also not allow to watch Barney, because it's important to me that my kids understand that, while it's for different reasons, both are unacceptable for viewing by intelligent, discerning human beings. And they should NOT LIKE THEM.

So, for this installment of Hey, Watch This, I decided to go straight to the source of discerning-kid Netflix watching around here, and ask my kids what the very best shows are. And why. And what they think people could learn from watching those shows. Enjoy . . .

Lulu, age 15 months

Lulu and Daddy watching the 'Hawks.

Lulu doesn't really talk. And she's not a very good TV watcher. She'll hang out for a minute or two, then roll herself off the couch and crawl off to find me, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose of owning a TV, if you ask me.

But the other kids insist that she will watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for somewhat longer than other shows.

MY TAKE: Shows aimed at girls mostly get a big thumbs down from me. It seems to me that female characters get stereotyped way more than males do in cartoons. There's always "the fashion one" and "the tomboy" and "the flirt" and "the shy one" etc. And girls are mostly horrible to each other on TV shows. So many shows are twenty minutes of being awful to each other, and two minutes at the end of deciding to make up and be friends again.

I don't like my girls seeing that, especially when they and their own friends are so nuanced and so sweet to each other. This show does have all those things I don't like. The characters are one dimensional, but it's because they each have a "thing" that's stamped on their haunches. So, somehow the one-dimensionality isn't as bothersome as it is with human girl characters. And there is some fighting, but mostly the ponies are kind and supportive of each other. As the title would suggest, the show has a high opinion of friendship.

So . . . thumbs mostly up for me on this one. It's a cute, sweet show.

Frankie, age three

Sick Frankie: Netflix saves the day
Frankie had to think about this one for approximately 0.26 seconds.

I like Matoe's Tawl Tales (a.k.a. Mater's Tall Tales) because it's willy, willy fun. Der's bulldozers, der's when Matoe's a fiotruck, and der's a fiotruck thing that sprays plants. (According to Anita, that's Red the firetruck.) And der's a fire. And jumping. And der's fighting. And der's space. And you can loen to try new things.

MY TAKE: This Pixar short, with all the original voices from Cars, is pure genius. It's all Frankie ever wants to watch if he gets to pick, and I always let him because I never, ever get tired of it.

Anita, age five

I think the best show is Clutch Powers. It's a show about a Lego guy that saves the world from an evil wizard guy. He has three friends. They get a prince to help them. At the end they defeat the wizard. I don't know what you learn from watching it. Maybe that you should buy Legos.

MY TAKE: I really, really like The Lego Movie. I think it's written in a really clever way that's actually funny, not wink-at-the-audience-random-pop-culture-reference funny. The many Lego TV shows, lean towards the second, in my opinion. There's a Marvel Superheroes one, and a Ninjago one, and a whatever the weird animal-people are one. My kids like them all. I don't find the content objectionable, I just don't think the writing is great. The Clutch Powers movie is not in the same league as The Lego Movie. It's not even close. I've seen it once and don't need to see it again. But it's okay with me if my kids watch it. Although I think Anita's right about the lesson part.

Gus, age seven

Doing his impression of Kevin from Home Alone, tragically NOT available on Netflix.
My favorite show is the cartoon Clone Wars. There's fights AND battles. There's Jedi in it and it's the story of what happened between the movies (Jack says between Episodes two and three.) The bad guys are the Sith and the Jedi are fighting them. There's lots of action, but it's not scary. There's a different lesson is every episode, like to be brave.

MY TAKE: I think this is a really well done show. I've only watched a handful of episodes, but they seem to be well written, and to thoughtfully address some weighty topics, like just war, and cloning, and genocide, in an age-appropriate way. My kids are crazy about it. It would have been the first choice of Anita and Bobby and Betty, too. But Gus went before them.

Updated to add that, as K points out in the comments, it's a comic book-style show, and so the female characters mostly wear somewhat revealing clothing. They show a lot of leg, there are bare midriffs . . . but not cleavage (to my recollection). And, while the clothing is silly, and a complete double standard, as male Jedi wear full-length robes, the female characters don't flirt or behave in a sexy way, and there's no using of feminine wiles or anything. Also, the females are aliens and have blue skin, or head tentacles, or are bald, which makes it less problematic, I think. It's something I've discussed with my older boys, especially since they are interested in comic books and graphic novels, but mostly don't get to read them because of the over-sexualization of female characters. But in the case of Clone Wars, I have found the show acceptable for viewing at our house, with a discussion.
Bobby, age nine

Not watching Netflix. Looking up spelling words.
I like Word Girl. It's about a girl from a different planet who is a Superhero. Her parents and brother don't know that she has superpowers, like that she can fly and knows a lot of words and definitions. Her sidekick is her pet monkey, Captain Huggyface. The bad guys are really funny: The Butcher, Dr. Two Brains, The Birthday Girl, Lady Redundant Woman, Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy. You learn a few new words and their definitions in each show.

MY TAKE: Word Girl is one of my favorite shows on television. If I'm trying to get something done, so I let the kids watch TV and they pick Word Girl, I usually just give up on doing stuff and watch it with them. Chris Parnell, from Saturday Night Live, is the narrator, and he's hilarious. The writing is brilliant. I just really, really like it. Unlike most female characters on cartoons, Becky has a wide variety of interests. She likes vocabulary, and fighting crime, AND The Pretty Princess and Magical Pony Power Hour. In MY experience, that's what real girls are like. (Well, not so much the crime fighting part, but you know what I mean.)

She also has a loving family. They manage to handle the fact that her parents don't know she's a superhero without making them look like total idiots, which is nice.

BUT, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should admit that I usually quiz my kids about that episode's words afterwards, and they mostly don't have any idea what I'm talking about. So, great for entertainment, but I'm not sure how good it is for vocabulary building.

Betty, aged eleven

Made by Betty. I think she's ready to go on the show.
I really like watching Cupcake Wars. I like to see the people make all the different kinds of cupcakes. There are judges and people who own different bakeries come on the show. They have a time limit and there's a theme of the show, and sometimes, they have to use crazy ingredients. I think it teaches people to be resourceful and manage their time well and to not give up, even when you get crazy ingredients.

MY TAKE: I watch almost no food-type shows, and the same amount of reality TV. I don't usually watch food shows because I hate that THEY get to taste the food and I just have to take their word for it. And reality TV, well, I just can't handle the off-topic drama. But I do really enjoy Cupcake Wars. I think it's fun to see the contestants come up with solutions to the crazy ingredients and decide whether to be bold or play it safe, and I like that even though taste is an important component of cupcakes, a lot of the judging is visual as well. So I get to feel like I'm participating in that part. More importantly, there is pretty much zero non-cupcake related drama. There is no interaction between contestants, so they're not bad mouthing each other. And they all have a business already, so there's very little of the sobbing about how this means everything to them. And it's cupcakes. C'mon, who doesn't like cupcakes?

Jack, aged twelve

I'm pretty sure they're playing Wii here. But they ARE looking at the TV.

My favorite show is a really interesting science show called Nova. It's a long running PBS show, several series of which are available on Netflix. My favorite episode was "Making Things Colder," which involved how you can find about seventeen more states of matter when you get things cold enough. They also cover making things safer, faster, wilder, smaller, and bigger. I would have thought that it's best suited for older kids, maybe ten and up, because the subject matter is complicated. But my younger siblings like it too. You learn that science is awesome and the world is awesome.

MY TAKE: It's a pretty straightforward science show. The few episodes I've seen have not addressed any controversial topics. Non-fiction TV really isn't my thing, but Jack has learned a lot from watching these, and he really enjoys them.

Honorable mentions go to Leap Frog shows, classic Disney movies and shorts, VeggieTales movies and TV shows, the movie Chicken Run, The Magic School Bus, and Classic Dr. Who episodes, all of which we have enjoyed as a family.

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.

What are we missing out on? What are YOUR kids' favorite shows that you don't hate?