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Our Top Choices from Disney+, Apple+ and Netflix Guaranteed To Inspire, Amuse, and Be 100% Painless For Adults Too!

Good news: there are so many great streaming services now! Bad news: there are so many great streaming services now. In the abundance of programming now available 24/7 on a wide variety of platforms, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed! We’ve sifted through three of the newest and most popular streaming services to curate a list of our family favorites for ages 2-12, guaranteed to inspire, amuse, and be 100% painless for all adult watchers. Looking for your littlest littles? Check out the “Small” picks. Moving on to school-aged children? Look for the “Medium” section. Older elementary and middle school families should head straight to “Large.” Please pass the popcorn!

(Note: all age recommendations are from the experts over at Common Sense Media.)


Small (0-4 years):

Doc McStuffins - Doc has been around for awhile, and her stories (and related spinoffs) just keep getting better! The story centers around a young girl whose toys come to life and help her in her medical practice -- healing other toys! Some lovely aspects that aren’t part of the main plot include positive representations of girls with STEM skills, an African-American family whose parents have reversed gender roles in some ways (Dad is a stay-at-home parent while Mom works outside the home), and they cover themes of adoption when Doc’s family adopts her little sister. (Age 4+)

Bluey - This Australian series about puppy Bluey, her sister, and her parents is sweet, short (each episode is about seven minutes long), and full of positive messages about family and friendship. Surprisingly funny for both children and adults, it’s worth mentioning that Bluey’s parents engage in a lot of creative, silly playtime with their kids -- so get ready for playing a lot of pretend! (Age 4+)
Bluey cartoon image
Medium (4-9 years):

Weird But True - This Emmy-winning science series is based on the popular series of National Geographic fact books. Unlike the books, which contain an array of fun facts on many topics, each episode of Weird But True dives deep into one subject like dinosaur fossils, aerodynamics, or trees. (Age 7+)

Becoming - Based on Michelle Obama’s book, this documentary follows her book tour, touching on many topics around social justice and equality for women and girls. Some mature topics related to racism and civil rights are covered. (Age 9+)

Large (10+ years)

Marvel Hero Project - Marvel has created a truly transformative show with this series. Each episode follows a tween or teen hero chosen by Marvel because of the positive impact they’re making in the world. Some of the themes of the episodes (child abuse, domestic violence, death of a parent) make them better suited to older kids, but some are accessible for younger ages. By the end of each episode, the hero has a comic book about them created by real Marvel artists and writers! (Age 10+)

Hero logo tv show 

Hamilton - Whether or not you got the chance to be in “the room where it happens,” this is a beautifully captured performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip hop epic following the story of Alexander Hamilton with a mostly BIPOC cast. There’s mature language for sure, and topics as well (adultery, the death of a child, the duel that killed Hamilton), but this Broadway masterpiece has quickly become an icon of both theater and history. (Age 11+)


Small (0-4 years):

Pixie Hollow Games - This sweet fairy story is about two very different coworkers who have to figure out how to set aside their differences and work together -- a perfect message for the preschool set! There are also great themes around handling competitiveness (the Pixie Hollow games are kind of like fairy Olympics), teamwork, and friendship. (Age 4+)

Santiago of the Seas - When Santiago discovers buried treasure and a magic compass in his home, Isla Encanto, he and his crew aboard a magical pirate ship venture out to protect their peaceful island from a villainous thief. There are elements of Latinx-Caribbean culture and Spanish language woven throughout each episode. (Age 4+)

Santiago of the Seas 
Medium (4-9 years):

Strike - British stop-motion movie Strike is about a young mole who dreams of being a footballer (soccer player), but is supposed to become a miner instead. There’s some toilet humor, and the death of a parent, but there are great themes of believing in yourself and following your dreams, no matter what others may expect. (Age 7+)

Fly Like A Girl - This is an inspiring documentary about female aviators throughout history. It includes interviews with record-setting astronauts and pilots, World War II heroes, and elite Marine and NASA fighters, with a focus on courage and perseverance in a field that was often driven by machismo. (Age 8+)

Large (10+ years)

Home Before Dark - A 9-year-old reporter uncovers a big mystery in the small town her dad grew up in this new drama created for Apple+. Using real-life reporter Hilde Lysiak’s story as a starting point for an otherwise fictional tale, this is a spooky, suspenseful delight. Occasional strong language and general scariness mean that this is probably better for tweens and teens, even though the protagonist is a fourth grader. (Age 11+)

Lockdown - Another mystery, but a very different one, Lockdown takes place during the quarantine and is filmed entirely on webcam and smartphone. It’s about a group of teenagers trying to solve a mystery in their neighborhood during the pandemic. There’s no violence shown, but plenty of suspense, and an ear-curdling scream here and there. (Age 10+)


Small (0-4 years):

Bookmarks - Hosted by teenager Marley Dias (founder of the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign), this series has five minute episodes featuring Black celebrities and authors doing read-alouds of their favorite books. Each book has a great message for young kids, and many can serve as a jumping off point for conversations about race with your family. Looking for a resource to do just that? Netflix has a Bookmarks companion site with lots of ideas. (Age 3+)

Julie’s Greenroom - What could be better than a mash-up of the always magical Julie Andrews and a bunch of Jim Henson puppets? This sweet show, appropriate for even the youngest, introduces the performing arts to children in a fun and engaging way. They’ll even learn theater terminology like “stage left/right,” “ghostlight,” and “greenroom”! (Age 4+)

Medium (4-9 years):

Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab - This is a quirky, smart animated series about a group of friends who discover Thomas Edison’s secret laboratory, complete with a hologram of Edison (doesn’t everyone have one?) that teaches them scientific concepts in an easily understandable way. (Age 6+)

Over the Moon - Part realistic fiction and part fantasy, this new film is about Fei Fei, who builds a rocket to leave her Chinese village and find the immortal moon goddess Chang’e. When she arrives at the moon, things don’t go exactly as planned, but Fei Fei ends up taking the journey she was meant to take all along. This one also includes references to the death of a parent, but it’s used as a way to show what Fei Fei is able to overcome. (Age 6+)

Over the Moon logo tv 
Large (10+ years)

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind - Based on a true story, this film in English and Chewa (with subtitles) follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba. After a flood devastates his village in Malawi, he uses his ingenuity, interest in wind turbines, and an American textbook to engineer a device to restore the land. Although there’s some strong language, there are important themes of persistence and curiosity in this heroic tale. (Age 12+)

The Baby-Sitters Club - For those of us who grew up with the first generation of this book series, it’s a total pleasure to see it redone in such a modern-yet-familiar way. The series focuses on five teenage girls who start a successful babysitting business, and follows each of their lives, dealing with realistic topics like friendship, parents, divorce, crushes, and gender identity in a caring way. (Age 10+)

The Babysitters logo 

What has your family been watching recently? Please comment and let us know!

Written by: Melissa Holman-Kursky  •  Photo by: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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