Ask the Moms: Best TV Shows/Movies for Toddlers?

Up until this point, Lucas has never watched an entire movie or television show. (He has watched football or an adult program if the television is on in the background- which it never is.. hardly ever do I turn the TV on during the day- except for football Saturday-  but I mean he has never sat down and watched an actual kids show or kids movie.) The other day I let him watch 3 minutes of a train show on Nick Jr (it was an experiment) and he enjoyed it, but the noise was driving me crazy and I didn’t feel “right” about it.

Does it sound awful when I say that I’m actually looking forward to the day when we can snuggle on the bed and watch a movie together? Especially Toy Story… love that movie. I have visions of us all laying in bed this winter with the snow falling outside, cuddled on our big bed and watching a movie in blankets. Seriously! I’m asking for Toy Story for Christmas.  Anyways, he has never really watched anything mostly because I’ve never thought about it and also because I don’t even know what he would watch or if he would watch something.

I don’t know if I’m going to need/want him to watch something this winter, but I thought just in case I should be prepared. I honestly don’t know anything about any of today’s popular tv shows, since I’ve never sat done to watch or listen to them. I think I’m more interested in movies anyways. I know about the Disney movies from when I was little, but I don’t know what is fun and good for a young toddler.

I know I’m not the only parent wondering this question, so in your opinion, what are some “good” programs and what are ones I should stay away from? I’m especially interested in 20-30 minute movies. I would prefer those over shows on television so we can stay away from commercials. We’re also getting rid of cable this winter…. so movies are the way to go.

What are your kids favorites that you feel comfortable letting them watch? 

–  In your response would you add the age of your child? Thanks! 

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

26 thoughts on “Ask the Moms: Best TV Shows/Movies for Toddlers?

  1. We let them watch Dora and Diego (they get counting and Spanish). Backyardigans doesn't talk down to them, teaches them imagination and does not annoy the crap out of me. Classic Scooby Doo will stop them in their tracks.

    I felt guilty about tv for a while, but feel it's better to let them watch it and be able to get some things done than have a tv ban and the house be a wreck and me be a total stress monkey.

  2. My 2 year old enjoys watching Berenstain Bears and we usually watch it either on video or On-Demand so no commercials. Every once in a while he watches Thomas as well. Both I feel teach some life lessons, as much as a TV show can.

    With a newborn in the house he will watch TV while I am feeding the baby. I know it is not the best practice but it is what works for me/us right now.

  3. My daughter loves Dora & has a great Spanish vocabulary! 🙂 I really like Sid the Science Kid and Curious George on PBS. George is only 15 minutes and is great when I just need a second to think!

  4. When my son is having an off day and nothing will calm him down, I let him watch “Praise Baby.” It's basically just Christian music with video/pictures of babies, kids, animals, numbers, letters, and flowers. It is very soothing for him. Someday I will let him watch Sesame street. I watched it as a kid and it is very educational, I just don't really even think about turning the tv on for him very often. He has also watched Caliou a couple of times, because I had heard that it was a very calm show. It was and it put him to sleep just like I was hoping 🙂

  5. my kids are 2 and 5 (almost 3 and 6 though)

    I love praise baby stuff when they are younger. At the age they are now I TRY to steer them towards shows like word world and super why (things that teach phonics and reading mostly, found on pbs)

    We do occassionally watch Dora because my son is obsessed with backpack right now.

    I find that most PBS shows are pretty good about teaching good lessons and such. Some of the early morning disney stuff does as well like Handy Manny and Little Einsteins stuff like that.

  6. Not sure if you follow my blog or not, but we moved twice in pretty quick succession. The second was to a new house. It was a nightmare having to move so close together and try and keep things straight. As a consequence, we had 1/2 of her toys boxed and didn't unbox them. There was not room and so when I was trying to clean and pack stuff the second time, I gave in and recorded sesame street on DVR. At first she didn't watch more than a couple of minutes before wanting to do something else, and some days that is still true. Once you go tv, you can't go back, lol. She was…almost 18 months at the time (we moved on her month-day birthday). Sesame street has no commercials, it has different characters, but the same topics or themes each day (letter of the day, number) and they talk about them each time. They count out loud and flash pictures — like clothes appearing on a clothesline item 1 and it says ONE and flashes the number, and then a second item appears TWO, flashes 2, etc. I did not get sesame street as a kid, so I was skeptical, but it turns out to be okay. Now I let her watch Elmo (she calls it) every day when it comes on, and if I need other time to clean or her dad is late, to prepare dinner, then I do turn it on. We also started Blues clues, it's 1/2 hour, but some of that is 'puzzle time' which is not the show, but like a matching game, or find the letter R or whatever on the screen. That's great for a quick 'fix' when I need time to do something. I dont think that even now (ALMOST 2!- omg where did the time go?) she could watch a movie. She is not a 'sit still' type of kid most of the time. I have a friend that plays musicals for her kid-chitty chitty bang bang etc. I like to turn on CMT or cable music station with no picture as well, as my daughter likes music, and she will play independently while the music is on and glance up every once in a while. Without the tv or radio on, sometimes she's nothing but a pest, lol. All in all, I say screw the 'experts' that say no TV before 2. It hasn't hurt mine any, she knows her letters, can count up to 10 with me, her colors. And she's not even 2 yet. Not all of that is from TV, mind you, because I kick ass in the 'teaching' dept, I'm just saying it hasn't hurt her any. I wanted to wait until 2, but our situation forced it, and I'm okay with it now. At first I felt guilty, but I don't think I should let guilt run my life. We balance with playing outside, coloring, doing chores. Sometimes tv is the main deal of the day (as in mom is lazy or sick), but a lot of times it's not. It was a good decision for us. You know your child better than anyone. We really don't watch much else, because a lot of it freaks me out (yo gabba something?) so weird! PBS is your friend if you are desperate, there's not really anything bad on there I don't think. I don't like Dora/Diego because they YELL and encourage your kids to 'say it louder' and I personally can't understand the Spanish, even the words I KNOW from taking classes, I can't understand from the tv. My husband can't either. Umm, yeah that's it.

  7. You will find that there is no advertising during preschool age television programming. I'v heard that there is a federal law or something or other prohibiting it. In our house, TV is only on so that I can get a few things accomplished. Like, mopping the kitchen without help.
    Brady watches Mickey Mouse Club House on cable. With out cable you should still get PBS. Super Why is fabulous. (they go into a story/book) Sid the Science Kid is good also! We've tried Caliou…mixed results. You'll have to try a few things to see what doesn't drive you insane! I personally find Dora and Deigo annoying.

  8. I prefer PBS because the advertising is extremely minimal and nonobtrusive and there's no violence whatsoever. It also helps that we don't get cable, so my other option is Qubo which is NOT happenening. Some favorites are Sesame Street, SuperWhy and Word World. The last two are definitely over the head of a toddler (spelling and reading) but they're visually interesting and fun to watch and they explore the alphabet which is where we are right now (27 months).

  9. I am a huge fan of the LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD. It truly teaches kids the letters and sounds. Jordan is 20 months and can already recognize which letter is which and he can say the sound each letter makes (except W, for some reason. He just laughs at me when I ask what the W says, which cracks me up.) Logan was the same way. He first knew his alphabet by the sound the letter makes, so instead of saying “A” he'd point to the A and say “Ah.” I combine the DVDs with the fridge magnet sets that also play the letter sounds. I think it gives them a good jump-start to reading.

  10. I let my kids watch 30 min during the week & 1 hr on weekends. I let them watch Nick Jr – all of the shows teach something…. Language, teamwork, sharing, patience. We also have Letter Factory & some other educational movies/singing songs. My oldest is 4 & just in the last couple of months, she is interested in her Barbie movies.

    Some kids will watch, some won't. My 2.5 yr old could care less about Tv or movies. But overall, anything in moderation is ok. And I
    if it means you have 15 min to get something done for the baby, by all means… Press that power button!

  11. My vote goes for PBS also. My almost 3 year old loves Curious George and Sesame Street the best. Martha Speaks is another favorite that teaches vocabulary. I stay away from SpongeBob and any show that involves grown-ups dressed up in goofy costumes and dancing. Creepy!

  12. We love the Veggie Tales little movies. They are perfect and they teach good lessons. My absolute favorite is Madame Blueberry. 🙂 There are so many to choose from!
    I also let her watch Nick Jr (there are no real commercials) but if you are getting rid of cable you probably won't have that channel. 😦

  13. Two weeks ago when my 2 year old was sick with a high fever, all he wanted was to be held and watch Super Why. So we watched a TON of Super Why all week (to my horror). BUT guess what? once he was better he started pointing at letters and telling us the names. He totally learned all of his letters from watching that show! I was amazed but knew I couldnt take any credit. So now I swear by Super Why (well he has watched Sesame Street in the past too). Amanda~

  14. my kids (3, 3, and almost 2) love Dora, Diego, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. That's pretty much our staples around here. Nick Jr shows the episodes commercial-free, but then there are commercials between the shows. I very much appreciate about Disney Channel that there are NO commercials. Only “commercials” for the other shows on Disney. There are several morning shows on Disney that he might like… Imagination Movers, Chuggington, Jungle Junction, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso. I find that movies almost always seem a bit much for the little girls, and I only take my 7 yr old.

  15. OH and on video – Hermie the caterpillar stuff – you can find them at a Christian bookstore – they're put out by Max Lucado & all 4 of my kids love them.

  16. My son is 23 months old. When he watches TV, it's usually PBS. He LOVES Sesame Street (especially Elmo, or Melmo as he calls him), Thomas the tank engine, and sid the science kid. Thomas is great since the shows are short (about 10 minutes) and all of these shows are on PBS, so there are NO commercials! 🙂 I am really comfortable with the TV that he watches. They are all very interactive, he sings and dances and repeats things like the letters and numbers that are mentioned. It is fun to watch him enjoy it so much!

  17. THank you everyone!! I need to look into PBS and see if we get it! What about movies? I'm going to look into veggie tales and Praise Baby… I wonder if I can get those in a store around here.. hmm.. thanks for the ideas! Great discussion!

  18. Brook is 14 months and she really only watches Yo Gabba Gabba and Dora/Diego. Usually she will watch one or the other in the morning while I am getting breakfast started. So 30 mins at the most. If I have the tv on during the day its generally nick jr so if she does come into the livingroom its nothing inappropiate. I like background noise and…..ok I'll admit it…I sing right along to those songs =)

    She's not into movies yet. Ive tried sitting with her and watching Madagascar and Ice Age but she's not into them at all.

    We dont watch praise baby because I dont own any, but we listen to it alot. We love Praise Baby. I HIGHLY recommend!

  19. Nathan is 3 and he can't sit through an entire movie…but PBS and Sprout have a lot of the same shows and the nice thing is they aren't very long…15-20 mins. He loves Dora and Diego and busted out 1-10 in spanish yesterday! I know you can find Veggie Tales at Target and probably Walmart. I don't think you can go wrong with Toy Story!! Even if he only watches a few minutes at a time. It usually takes Nathan a few times of seeing the same movie before he gets really interested and will watch more than five minutes! (You might find that a few good shows will help you out when you have baby 2!!) Good luck!!

  20. I definately agree with whoever mentioned the hermie and friends dvds. they are SO cute and very character building oriented. the characters usually learn some character trait of God that they should “mimic” and weren't doing so before. they sell them at any christmas bookstore or you could check or amazon or whatever for those and praise baby and veggie tales. i love them all.

  21. My 24 month old daughter likes the following
    Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
    Leapfrog Letter Factory(really awesome for learning the alphabet & phonics)
    Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey
    We Are the Laurie Berkner Band(Super fun for dancing & singing & being silly)
    Scholastic Storybook DVD's(her favorite is How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight AND The Wheels on the Bus)

    TV shows(all of these shows we also have on DVD's that we have picked up thru amazon or tjmaxx so we have no commercials):
    The Berenstain Bears
    Curious George
    Sesame Street
    Harold and the Purple Crayon

    My daughter also has books with many of the characters from these shows, so she really connects with the stories.

  22. tv shows… my kids love Super Why and Dinosaur Train (and sesame street). my 3.5 yr old will watch others, but we only have the tv on for a little each day and it's when those shows are on.

    Movies… my kids love a Biblical based animated cartoon called “Boz”. there are several movies out there of this green bear and it's so cute!!! and Bible based too!!!

    my kids are 3.5 and 21 months

  23. We got rid of cable, because we never watched it, so until recently, the only TV my daughter (now almost 2) ever saw was a couple of Baby Signs videos when she was sick and awake in the middle of the night and I was desperate, which was pretty rare, and a couple of old Sesame Street videos when my inlaws watched her, which was also rare.

    Then they started watching her more often (once every week or two) and seem to put the videos on as soon as she walks in the house (at least they're turning off CSI, so we don't complain) and she learned to say “Elmo” (Ahmah!). Then we showed her some Sesame Street videos online and . . . well, long story short, now it's Elmo Intervention time!

    I've started limiting her to two or three viewing sessions a day, and setting a timer for 10 – 30 minutes, and telling her that when it goes off, Elmo has to “go eat breakfast and get dressed” or “take a bath” or “go night-night” (whatever it is that's next on our agenda!) because otherwise, she'd be in front of the computer (cryptically demanding every few minutes that we find and play a different video!) all day.

    So, yeah, I'd start with Sesame Street. It's incredibly addictive for toddlers, but I think they all are, and if my kid has to be into any TV show (although I'd really rather she not), Sesame Street is DEFINITELY be my first choice.

    I think it's probably the most educational one on the air, and we watched it as a kid, so we have warm fuzzies about it, and it includes so many little things that go right over the kids' heads and entertain the grownups that it's not nearly as mind-numbing as so much children's programming.

    And, when my not-quite-two-year-old is too exhausted to be still and nurse and go to sleep, and she starts crying for “Ay Ee Eeeee! Ay Ee Eeeee!” (“Please sing the ABC song, Mama.”) I figure old Ah-mah must be doing something right.

  24. <3 I have a strong convictions to not watch TV and with prayer DH agreed to have a 'movie only' policy only he took that a step further and we gave all our TVs away. Honestly one of the best things for our marriage and children relationships. I barely ever let them watch tv, kids shows included bcos I always felt they shouldn't be so they'd get turned off. We don't do Disney.

    So with a Laptop the children are allowed to watch a DVD called 'My Fathers World'. It has super simple screen shots of items and they all adore it.
    We have other movies also. All 'God/Jesus' based with positive Godly morals attached to them.
    Our children are now aged 4, 2, and 1.

    I ❤ the way that we do this and feel it is right for our family.

  25. Thanks everyone!! I am surprised so many of you suggested Sesame Street! I honestly didn't know it was so good! I don't know if I can handle it though… 🙂 We just got cable about a month ago so we could watch football, so once the season is over we will get rid of cable, because we never watch it (except for ABC and those shows that we can get with basic cable) ANYWAYS! 🙂 I might pick up a few basic DVD's for this winter…

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