I start every summer with the same declaration to my husband: "We're taking the kids on a million adventures this summer! No TV for those two!" Then comes a rainy day, or a 100-degree day, or a day when we are just too tired to plan anything. Inevitably, the TV turns on.
It happens to the best of us, and it's really nothing to fret about. But if you're worried about your kids' summertime TV consumption, we can at least put your mind at ease with some educational options.
Here are our favorite learning shows on Netflix to keep your kids entertained and learning this summer!
1. Earth to Luna
This show for 3- to 5-year-olds originally aired in Brazil. It combines funky music with bright colors and upbeat characters that explore the world around them through their imagination. Luna, her brother Jupiter and their pet ferret Clyde ask questions, test hypotheses and come to conclusions about everything from the formation of rainbows to the reason why cats have whiskers.
I've talked about this show before, and my boys and I just can't get enough. Like Earth to Luna, the StoryBots explores the world through simple questions. The shows combine music, comedy (including subtle jokes for adults), and fun animation to keep a wide range of kids' interest (ages 3 to 8) as they find out how french fries are made and why kids have to brush their teeth. Guest appearances by stars like Whoopie Goldberg, Jay Leno and Weird Al Yankovic don't hurt, either. We can't wait for season 2.
3. The Magic School Bus Rides Again
If you liked the original The Magic School Bus, you're going to love this revamp. Miss Frizzle is now Dr. Frizzle, and she's off to explore the world. She leaves her class, now one year older, in the capable and quirky hands of her younger (and more fashion-forward) sister as they take to the school bus to explore magnetism, allergies and talking trees (I didn't know trees talk to each other, either). This show is perfect for curious preschoolers and kids starting grade school.
4. Super Why
Join the Super Readers as they learn to spell and read through classic children's stories. This show, for toddlers and preschoolers just learning to read is interactive and very formulaic, so it's easy for kids to follow along. In every episode, they start with the letters of the alphabet, move on to phonics and then try to read whole words.
5. Beat Bugs
Keep those 21st-Century Skills sharp with these cute little guys. In every episode, toddlers and preschoolers learn about more abstract concepts, like problem-solving, empathy and what it means to be a community. The best part? Every episode includes a Beatles song. (Word to the wise: Skip over the episode that includes the song "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?". While the show does a great job of adapting it, your toddler singing it out of context might turn a few eyebrows....I speak from experience.)
6. The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That
Your kindergartners will love following the Cat in the Hat, Nick and Sally as they fly off to adventures in the Thinga-ma-jigger. Everywhere they go, they meet new animal friends and learn all about trees, fish, butterflies, and all kinds of creatures. Thing One, Thing Two and Fish are along for the ride, too!
7. Llama Llama
Another show adapted from a children's book, this one also teaches kids those essential social skills they need to succeed in school and in life. In this show, made for infants to young toddlers, they'll learn about respect, generosity and kindness as they follow Llama Llama his friends along on their daily adventures.
8. The Who Was Show
We've covered a lot of science shows. Now, it's time for a history lesson! Each episode of The Who Was Show teaches kids about two different historical figures through funny live-action skits. Kids might learn about Pablo Picasso, the Wright Brothers or Joan of Arc. This show is great for your older kids (ages 7 and up).
9. Bill Nye the Science Guy
How could I leave out this classic? I can't! I was really excited when this one came to Netflix. But I have to say, my kids, who are 3 and 4, were not. This show is definitely for an older crowd, but it's a favorite of Common Sense Media. And it's definitely stood the test of time.
10. Julie's Greenroom
The unstoppable Julie Andrews teaches preschoolers all about the performing arts, the premise of the show being that theater is for everyone. Kids will learn not only about what happens on stage, but the work that goes on behind the scenes, as well.
TV shows can be a great way to supplement learning (and so can apps). So don't feel too bad if your kid ends up in front of the TV every once in a while. Use the time constructively to help kids stay sharp.