Let’s be honest, 5-year-olds are notoriously hard to please or get a handle on. One day they’re obsessed with dinosaurs, and the next they’re going gaga for board games. In the morning they’re asserting their newfound independence by refusing to hold your hand, and by nighttime they come crawling in bed for a cuddle. While it might be impossible to expect any consistency from these energetic little humans, one thing is for sure — almost all of them enjoy a little downtime by watching some television.
Of course there are the tried-and-true’s of kids’ TV. We’re talking classics like Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and everyone’s fave family doggy comedy — Bluey. But there are so many fantastic shows out there that are made just for your little one. On this list, you’ll find an educational series about all kinds of wild animals and an exciting show about the adventures of a Native Alaskan girl. There’s a cartoon about budding scientists and a show with adorable puppets who have pretty sophisticated palates. So whether you just need to sit your kid in front of a screen for a few minutes while you prepare some last-minute dinner, or you just want your kid to relax a little before the battle of bedtime begins, there’s a TV show that’s sure to get your 5-year-old excited and keep them thoroughly entertained.
Here’s a list of 15 of the best TV shows for 5-year-olds that educate, entertain, and inspire those growing imaginations.
While yes, some parents might understandably find live-action Blippi to be somewhat grating with his boundless energy and high-pitched voice, Blippi Wonders is a whole other can of worms. This animated show is all about learning new things as Blippi and his robotic cat and dog buddies, Tabbs and D.Bo, set off together to acquire some invaluable knowledge. Together with one of his robot pals sitting shotgun, Blippi activates the high-tech Blippi Mobile to answer burning questions like where sneezes come from and why popsicles melt. Each episode is super-short, so it’s easy to burn through a few shows at once or stream on a screen when you need a little kid-free time.
Stream Blippi Wonders, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again
Based on the book and series of the same name, The Magic School Bus Rides Again is just the reboot you need to feed your appetite for nostalgia and introduce your little one to a revamped classic. Miss Frizzle’s little sister Fiona has taken over the keys to the bus to lead the kids on some epic and educational field trips to learn about new places, time periods, and of course, science. If the teacher sounds really familiar, it’s not because you are getting elementary school flashbacks, but because the role is voiced by talented SNL alum and comedian Kate McKinnon.
Stream The Magic School Bus Rides Again, rated TV-G, on Netflix.
My World Kitchen
Five-year-olds love to munch on snacks throughout the day or maybe bake some brownies with a parent, but My World Kitchen will take your kids' love of food to a whole new level. The show features talented young chefs as they take charge to whip up a delicious meal in the kitchen. But beyond recipes and ingredients, this show is a celebration of culture and heritage too. Kids will also learn where food comes from and how it grows. So the next time your 5-year-old sits at the dinner table, they’ll have a whole new appreciation for what it takes to make that nightly family meal come together. So grab your aprons, and maybe this show will light a fire under your kid to become the next Julia Childs!
Stream My World Kitchen, rating unavailable, on YouTube.
Ada Twist, Scientist
Based on the beloved book of the same name with a well-placed comma, Ada Twist, Scientist is the show you definitely want to share with your tiny, budding scientist. Ada is an enthusiastic and curious 8-year-old who is absolutely obsessed with the big questions she has about the world. Luckily she has some equally inquisitive friends in Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, who just so happen to be passionate about engineering and architecture. When these brainy besties get together, there is almost no question that remains unanswered. While Ada Twist is lucky to have a friend-group bound together by their love of learning, her supportive and adoring family is definitely another huge appeal of the show.
Stream Ada Twist, Scientist, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
Sibling bonding meets the animal kingdom in this hybrid live-action and animated show. Chris and Martin Kratt are actual zoologists who star in this outdoorsy and educational show that will teach your little animal-lovers all about biology, ecology, and the “creature powers” of every species under the sun. Each episode starts out with the IRL brother duo who are then transformed into pretty cool cartoons. Kids will feel like they’re out in the wild as they follow along with the Kratt brothers as they embark on exciting expeditions to study fascinating creatures, rescue baby animals, and even battle the occasional villain.
Stream Wild Kratts, rated TV-Y, on PBS Kids.
Molly Of Denali
If you’ve ever dreamt of taking a trip to Alaska, 10-year-old Molly Mabray would make the perfect tour guide. Not only does she have a lot of spunk, she’s incredibly resourceful and has a pretty amazing puppy buddy — her Malamute named Suki. This show is truly a triumph for its behind-the-scenes story too. Created by over 60 Alaska Natives, the cartoon series is an incredibly authentic spotlight on the culturally rich history of Alaska. Blending comedy and adventure, Molly of Denali will make you want to slap on some snowshoes, and take the next plane to the 49th American state. Molly is not only an ideal role model for adventurous kids everywhere, she’s an example for everyone to have pride in your heritage.
Stream Molly of Denali, rated TV-Y, on YouTube.
Waffles + Mochi’s Restaurant
You can’t go wrong with a television show that features one of the most admired women in the world. Michelle Obama is back for a spin-off with her buddies Waffles and Mochi as the puppet duo realize their culinary dreams of opening up their very own eatery. The meals that the twosome create cover the bases of both spicy and sweet and are inspired by their travels around the globe. When they’re not busy impressing restaurant critics or welcoming celeb guests, Waffles and Mochi still have plenty on their plates. In one episode, they venture out to a honey farm and in another, they whip up the ultimate cheesy dish for the most famous band in the world. Yum!
Stream Waffles + Mochi’s Restaurant, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
Deepa & Anoop
When your best pal is a pink elephant with the magical power to change colors, life is sure to be filled with tons of excitement. Deepa & Anoop is not just an adorable, music-filled show perfect for the preschool set, it also celebrates the beauty and rich traditions of Indian culture. Kids will have fun tagging along with this mischievous pair as they get into all kinds of shenanigans at the Mango Manor Hotel, which is owned by Deepa’s parents. Whether Deepa is helping out a friend with a science experiment or trying to train her pet elephant for a space mission, the common denominator of each episode is joy.
Stream Deepa & Anoop, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
For kids who are obsessed with the water and always sporting goggles on land, Octonauts is the show to catch. In this animated adventure series, Captain Barnacles the Bear leads his team of super cuddly-yet-capable pals who jump into action as undersea explorers. With a lofty mission to protect the blue waters of the deep sea, these heroic animals brave some incredible rescue missions to save all kinds of aquatic creatures. From their cool underwater “Octopod,” all eight crew members (including a professorial octopus) work together to fight a ginormous squid or solve an oceanic mystery with the help of some island-dwelling coconut crabs. Octonauts will have your kid begging for swimming lessons (or maybe a pet dolphin).
Stream Octonauts, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
When the planet is in big trouble and needs a whole lot of saving, leave it to a squad of 9-year-old girls and their fantastic technicolor hair to step up and do the job right. With names that rival the rainbow, there’s Rosie Redd, Mandarin Orange, Anna Banana, Pepper Mintz, Bonnie Blueberry, Indigo Allfruit, and Lavender LaViolette. Each episode revolves around a problem involving nature that occurs on Earth, and three ideal rangers are chosen for the important mission. These kick-ass little heroes travel the globe and prevail in their plans to save a baby cub on a mountain or protect a family of migrating snakes. They even clean up a landfill overflowing with fashion magazines, and then ride off into the sunset in their snazzy Spectra Scooters.
Stream Rainbow Rangers, rated TV-Y, on Netflix.
If your kid ever dreamed of going on a top secret mission, it’s time to enter the world of Odd Squad, where young, whip-smart government agents are tasked to investigate the odd things happening around town. After they are assigned cases by their pint-size boss Ms. O, the agents work together to solve some very peculiar mysteries like when the zeroes go missing or their mail room is overrun by pentagurps (you know, those pesky creatures who escape from the 19th dimension!). The Odd Squad features teamwork, problem-solving, and some good old-fashioned math. The popular show on PBS Kids enjoyed a long run, but just wrapped up the series finale in July 2022. But just because there aren’t new episodes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a stream while you daydream of the prestige of wearing that official government gold badge.
Stream Odd Squad, rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime.
Tumble Leaf is a shiny gem of a stop motion television show that tells the story of a blue Fox named Fig who lives on a shipwrecked double-decker boat. His most prized possession is his treasure chest that he calls his “Finding Place.” As a new object appears inside, Fig and his friends use their imaginations and gumption to figure out how it works and what it’s used for in the world. Whether Fig finds a kite or a straw with his best friend (a cute caterpillar named Stick), there’s always adventure, learning, and play in store on the delightful path to discovery.
Stream Tumble Leaf, rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime.
Pete The Cat
Pete The Cat jumps right off the pages of the best-selling picture book and grabs his starring role in this feline-focused TV show for kids. But don’t worry if you’re not a Cat Person because there’s a ton of other animal characters to keep your kid entertained. Callie Cat, Grumpy Toad, Sally Squirrel, Emma the Quebecoise Pug, Gustavo the Platypus all round out the cast to help Pete handle new experiences that make him a little jittery (like picking out an outfit for picture day or starting a new band). Music is a big part of this upbeat show, and you’ll be sure to cheer along as Pete and his rockin’ pals land their first gig at the town picnic.
Stream Pete the Cat, rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime.
The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo
Of course Sesame Street is the G.O.A.T. of kids’ entertainment, so the show should definitely be on this (and every) list. But there’s a cooler Sesame spin-off that might not be on your radar. Not only will it excite your kid to get to bed, it will thoroughly entertain tired parents too. The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo is an adorable kids’ version of a talk show hosted by the most famous red furry creature ever to exist. The amazing guest roster rivals Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert, with celebs like Jimmy Fallon, the Jonas Brothers, John Oliver, and Jason Sudeikis hitting the stage with Elmo. The musical guests are awesome, and you won’t want to miss out on Sara Bareilles’ beautiful mash-up of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” featuring a chirpy duet with Big Bird.
The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo, rated TV-Y, will be back on PBS Kids as of Feb. 10, 2023.
Everyone knows that 5-year-olds are bursting with energy and boundless excitement for life. But when your little one needs a little downtime, a great TV show can be just what they need to relax. So grab the remote, snuggle up on the sofa next to your fidgety kid, and take advantage of some much-deserved moments of relaxation. It won’t last long!
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