The 20 Best Kids Shows on Netflix

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The 20 Best Kids Shows on Netflix

We are undeniably living in a golden age of television (in both quality and quantity), and the good news is that kids TV—much like grown up TV—has gotten a lot better over the years. Despite the brain-melting accusations and the example set by Nickelodeon’s off-the-air days urging kids to go outside, TV remains an important part of both our childhoods and the childhoods of our kids. So when we’re not begging our kids to pick up a book and instead are being the cool, fun parents (or the parents secretly injecting them with all the knowledge of the universe via entertaining programming, or the parents just trying to keep them happily distracted while we binge The Fall of the House of Usher on our own streaming device), we have these shows to thank. And if we’re being honest, in addition to being wonderful programs for children, these are great picks for the unrelenting kid in us all.


1. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Developed by: Jeffrey Addis, Will Matthews
Stars: Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs

Watch on Netflix

There is a moment in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance—a prequel to Jim Henson’s beloved Dark Crystal movie (which is great but you do not need to have seen it before this)—where two ancient characters are recounting an important tale to our heroes. It’s about the beautiful land of Thra, and an event many years past that caused an imbalance and blight within the crystal that stands at the center of their world. All of the answers they seek will be “brought to life by that most ancient and sacred of arts…” they’re told, with a dramatic pause as the character looks right at the camera and breathes out: “Puppetry!”

“Oh nooo!” our heroes groan, and one immediately falls asleep.

That is the bias that Age of Resistance acknowledges it’s up against—but folks, get over it. Allow this incredible production to sweep you away in an epic fantasy journey, one that is able to so much more deeply and fully explore the world Henson and Frank Oz imagined with the original film. You can liken it to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or any high fantasy series you like, but after ten magical hours it truly stands on its own as a gorgeous, innovative, emotional, joyous, and exceptional wonder. If that sounds hyperbolic, it’s only because that’s exactly the kind of sincere enthusiasm the show engenders. Get past any hesitance over the puppets (which are actually outstanding, as CG is used only to smooth out backgrounds and action), turn subtitles on to help you remember all of the character names, and immerse yourself in this incredible world that we are so, so lucky to have.—Allison Keene


2. Life in Color with David Attenborough


Created by: Colette Beaudry, Stephen Dunleavy
Narrator: David Attenborough

Watch on Netflix

Kids adore cracking into a fresh box of crayons or markers, and this three-part docuseries from the BBC uses the entry point of color in the wild to woo viewers, young and old. Life in Color then pulls back the curtain on what we think we know by allowing us to see what animals really see when a parade of color is put in front of them. Using technology, science, and ingenuity, the series allows us to walk in the shoes of other species and appreciate the intricacies of how color works for them. Throughout, David Attenborough remains the king of compassionate narration. Surprising and fascinating, the best by-product is how much it will boost your science knowledge without the pain of studying. —Tara Bennett


3. City of Ghosts


Created by: Elizabeth Ito

Watch on Netflix

City of Ghosts is almost impossible to describe. One part gentle animated kids’ series, one part deeply humane city documentary, and one part wild artistic experiment, animator Elizabeth Ito’s short, six-episode love letter to the richly storied, non-famous neighborhoods of Los Angeles landed on Netflix so quietly that no one I’ve raved about it to has even heard of it, let alone seen it floating in amongst their personalized recommendations. Sure, part of that might be that few of those same people I’ve raved to live/share a Netflix queue with kids under the age of 8 (City of Ghosts’ most obvious target audience), but for as complex, funny, and emotionally overwhelming as the innovative series is, it really deserves to be thrown in front of the widest audience possible.

No other show, after all, is experimenting so productively with the animation styles it uses to tell its story: The majority of City of Ghosts’ backgrounds consist of real, stylized photos of Los Angeles, while different episodes incorporate everything from stop-motion animation to borrowed footage from live-action shows from the 1970s (see this clip for the latter). No other show, after all, is experimenting so effectively with how it uses dialogue to tell its story: In true documentary style, both the kids who make up the core Ghost Club and the L.A. residents (both ghostly and living) who they interview over the course of their project to document lived experiences across L.A. speak like real people—which is to say, awkwardly, and with many pauses, repeats and ums. This would be a compelling enough approach on its own, but Ito takes the “real people” idea a step further, echoing her use of real photos as background illustrations by casting actual neighborhood experts from around the city as the adults her fictional kids go out to interview—legendary punk rocker (and Atomic Café owner) Nancy Sekizawa, included. — Alexis Gunderson


4. Voltron: Legendary Defender

Created by: DreamWorks Animation Television, World Events Productions
Stars: Josh Keaton, Steven Yeun, Jeremy Shada, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Tyler Labine, Kimberly Brooks, Rhys Darby

Watch on Netflix

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly do so with a series about transforming robots and an intergalactic battle against fascism—as long as you put the right people in charge. That’s what eight briskly-released seasons of Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender taught animation fans with its relentlessly fresh take, which always felt more like a lively reincarnation than a defibrillated cash-grab. Showrunners Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos—known for their work on two of the most beloved shows in modern animation, Avatar: The Last Airbender and its follow-up, The Legend of Korra—brought along writers from the two series to saturate Voltron in empathy and imagination, such that the series’ true complexities lie in its interpersonal relationships. Whether the Paladins are fighting a giant space worm/manta-ray that projects optical illusions to lure its prey, competing on an alien game show, or navigating a white hole, every set piece and fantastical logline always resolves thanks to the personal development of a character. Voltron is delicious pulp with political subtext and personal relevance. —Jacob Oller


5. A Series of Unfortunate Events

Created by: Mark Hudis, Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, Presley Smith

Watch on Netflix

You probably don’t have to be a bookworm, or a kid, to appreciate this adaptation of a series of ironic, lachrymose, self-parodying children’s stories, because the series is just so damn funny—not to mention seamlessly styled, well-cast and well-acted. It does also happen to be an adaptation that should delight fans of the books because it generally knows exactly how much or how little to deviate from its source material to adapt to the constraints (and liberations) of episodic television. It retains the slightly steampunk, highly absurdist, semi-Gothic and delightfully wordsmithy sensibility of its source material and adheres remarkably well to character and plot. My suggestion? Don’t binge watch this show! Let it breathe. Like a fine wine. Because it’s kind of a masterpiece. —Amy Glynn


6. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Developed by: Noelle Stevenson
Stars: Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint

Watch on Netflix

The original She-Ra: Princess of Power of the 1980s may have flipped the gender ratio on cartoons of its time, but it didn’t exactly change the world. It was still a toy tie-in show, and when the merch didn’t sell, She-Ra got the axe. That history is partly what makes the revival so special. Showrunner Noelle Stevenson took the elements that made She-Ra great—butt-kicking girl power, an LGBTQ subtext, and deep female relationships—into the 21st century with all the resources of DreamWorks and Netflix. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a beautifully animated, thematically confident product that’s as willing to tackle action set pieces as it is the dark conflicts of its characters’ upbringings and heroic destinies. The revival hasn’t changed the real world yet, either, but it’s given us plenty of fascinating, flawed, badass ladies to appreciate. —Eric Vilas-Boas


7. The Dragon Prince

Created by: Aaron Ehasz, Justin Richmond
Stars: Jack DeSena, Paula Burrows, Sasha Rojen

Watch on Netflix

After already hitting the post-Avatar the Last Airbender jackpot once with Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos’ venerated Voltron: Legendary Defender, Netflix dipped into the AtLA creative well once more to tap Aaron Ehasz (AtLA head writer) and Jack De Sena (lead voice actor) for The Dragon Prince. Warm-hearted and gorgeously designed, the series’ short first season tread enough fresh water with its inclusion of dragons, elves and classically European magic to draw in viewers unfamiliar with the AtLA brand, while still giving jonesing Avatar fans a taste of that old Ehasz-penned Four Nations magic, focused as it was on a not-unfamiliar trio of young warriors/students of elemental power/heirs to a throne (and their endearingly weird pet) striking out on a dangerous quest. Building on AtLA’s progressive ethos further, The Dragon Prince is made especially strong by its inclusion of a biracial, blended royal family, a badass, ASL-speaking deaf lady general, and an awkward goth teen witch as one of its kinda-villains—all details which, not incidentally, have also snagged the series some of Tumblr’s choicest fandom real estate. —Alexis Gunderson


8. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic


Created by: Lauren Faust, Bonnie Zacherle
Stars: Ashleigh Ball, Tabitha St. Germain, Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck, Nicole Oliver

Watch on Netflix

When Lena Hall accepted her 2014 Tony Award for her performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, she boldly and tearfully declared to the world at the end of her speech, “Friendship is magic.” Of course, this is just one small, example of the incredibly (almost terrifyingly) far-reaching effects of this little show about a unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle, and her adventures in Ponyville, Equestria. There are many great shows on this list that have permeated the pop culture sphere, and have the devotion of adults and children—but with brony culture, countless critical essays and analyses, and that ridiculous Bob’s Burger’s episode (oh, “The Equestranauts”), none can claim quite the impact as this one. —Shannon M. Houston


9. Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts


Created by: Radford Sechrist
Stars: Karen Fukuhara, Sydney Mikayla, Deon Cole, Dan Stevens

Watch on Netflix

One of the few post-apocalyptic series that doesn’t take itself so seriously, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a brilliant mélange of all things strange and wonderful. It’s got an admirable and funny female lead in Kipo, and an ensemble of lovable weirdos including a girl raised by wolves, a mutant insect constantly regenerating, and a pig with six legs and four eyes. There’s also amazing representation across the board, which earned it a GLAAD award, and is a place for kids to see themselves as having a place in a world of many “others.” Plus, the show has a banging soundtrack that is beyond anything you’d expect from an animated kid’s show; a treat for kids who are musically-minded.—Tara Bennett


10. Carmen Sandiego

Created by: Duane Capizzi
Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott, Michael Hawley

Watch on Netflix

Kids these days live on screens, and while the adults in their lives know that there are plenty of downsides to that fact, it at least has the side-effect of giving them a chance to develop a more sophisticated relationship with the mechanics of storytelling than any generation to come before them. For another, Carmen Sandiego, which in its newest Netflix iteration takes the red-coated thief of Millennial viewers’ youths and transforms her into a kind of modern-day, globe-trotting Robin Hood, isn’t just any artistically daring animated family series—it’s one that boasts the exact kind of high-stakes, adrenaline-drenched narrative structure that all good “choose your own adventure” stories need. Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is the plucky wunderkind who takes that hypothesis’ potential and turns it into something real. Something deep? No, not really. But something fun, for sure. And at a time when there’s so much good TV that it can easily feel like work just to think about catching up on a sliver of it, fun is all it needs to be.—Alexis Gunderson


11. The Magic School Bus Rides Again


Created by: Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan
Stars: Kate McKinnon, Lily Tomlin, Miles Koseleci-Vieira, Mikaela Blake

Watch on Netflix

Like almost all public television kids’ fare, The Magic School Bus was born from a popular book series and adapted into an animated show. In fact, it was the first completely animated show to be part of the PBS lineup when it began back in 1994. The Magic School Bus Returns is the third iteration of the series and the first for Netflix. It introduces Professor Valerie Felicity Frizzle, Ph.D.’s younger sister, Miss Fiona Frizzle (McKinnon) as the new teacher and she breathes some special life into the series for a new generation. —Robert Ham and Tara Bennett


12. Goosebumps


Created by: R.L. Stine

Watch on Netflix

An entire generation of ‘90s kids developed their personal horror aesthetic based on this series. An anthology of original stories and adaptations of Stine’s crazy successful line of books, Goosebumps is five seasons of ghosts, monsters, and creepiness meant for the tween set. It’s the perfect primer for kids who love horror, or are just extremely curious to dip their toes into the murky waters. There’s nothing gory, violent, or too dark for kid audiences, and it sets up a healthy appreciate for the genre.—Tara Bennett?


13. Tales of Arcadia Trilogy


Created by: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Steven Yeun & many more?

Watch on Netflix

After five years across three separate series, Tales of Arcadia is now a massive trilogy to get lost in as Trollhunters, 3Below, and Wizards links together the over-arching mythology with a huge ensemble of characters that cover the realms of monsters, aliens and mystics. The whole story gets an epic full-length feature film to tie it all together (on Netflix in July 2021) with Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. It’s the perfect epic binge for kids who love to get lost in world-building that’s visually impressive and has a lot of heart.—Tara Bennett


14. Anne with an E


Created by: Moira Walley-Beckett
Stars: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R. H. Thomson, Lucas Jade Zumann, Dalila Bela, Corrine Koslo

Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s excellent Anne with an E may have had a bit of a shaky start as an Anne of Green Gables adaptation, but the show has gotten better with each new season and truly come into its own. Tragically, Season 3 is set to be its last. That’s a shame for a number of reasons, the foremost among them is that this is a show that understands teenagers so, so well, not just as the TV-trope of agents of camp and chaos, but as having heart and passion to set the world to rights. Each season of Anne has been increasingly triumphant as this core group of Canadian teens at the turn of the 20th century battle societal issues like racism, freedom of speech, and consent while navigating changing friendships, budding crushes, and studying for their college entrance exams. Anne is not always subtle—in fact, it almost never is—but it manages to meaningfully include the stories of people of color, LGBT narratives, and native peoples in a way that naturally extends the scope of its source material. At its core, Anne is a wonderfully optimistic and unique series that makes you feel better for having watched it, and we could certainly do with more of that. —Allison Keene


15. Dead End: Paranormal Park

Netflix's Dead End: Paranormal Park Is a Decent Cartoon with Groundbreaking Trans Representation

Created by: Dan Perrault, Tony Yacenda
Stars: Misha Brooks, Da’Jour Jones, Ely Henry, Holly Chou

Watch on Netflix

Dead End: Paranormal Park, the new Netflix animated series based on the short film Dead End and the comic series DeadEndia by Hamish Steele, made enemies before it even premiered. The office of senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) cited it as one of the “hypersexualized” children’s shows he and four other U.S. senators are demanding new content warnings for. The reason these censorious senators are so upset about Dead End: Paranormal Park? Because it’s the first American children’s show to center on a trans main character. For those of us who have been frustrated with both Netflix’s gutting of its animation department and its uncomfortable defenses of transphobic comedians, it feels like a minor miracle Dead End: Paranormal Park actually got made at this time. With extreme transphobia spreading across the country and trans youth being particularly vulnerable, an all-ages cartoon showing a gay Jewish teenage trans boy finding love and acceptance while struggling with unaccepting family members feels genuinely important. But beyond issues of importance and representation, is the show good? Yes, though it’s not on the same level as other silly-spooky story-driven cartoons like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and The Owl House. Thankfully, the show’s writing fares better than its sometimes stiff animation, effectively balancing the story’s serious diversity issues with wacky adventures in a haunted theme park, which the story builds out in compelling directions. Dead End: Paranormal Park is not the best version of itself it could be, but even with my frustrations with the animation, I’m happy the show exists. —Reuben Baron


16. Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous


Created by: Zack Stentz
Stars: Paul-Mikél Williams, Jenna Ortega, Sean Giambrone

Watch on Netflix

This animated series leans towards tweens and teens who can handle the tension and scares of a theatrical Jurassic Park or Jurassic World movie. As an Amblin Entertainment series, Steven Spielberg is an executive producer which means that the show’s narrative ties directly into the events on Isla Nublar in Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And the series also isn’t worried about how kids will process some of the more intense dinosaur scares. Focusing on a group of teens who win the opportunity to be the first campers at Jurassic World’s Camp Cretaceous, the concept is painted as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay at a dream archeology and paleontology adventure camp. But things quickly go awry. The six disparate kids are eventually left to survive on their own, and they’re written to be relatable to today’s tech savvy viewers. But there’s also a healthy respect for smarts, ingenuity and empathy, especially from Darius Bowman (Paul-Mikél Williams), who becomes the de facto leader as the island falls apart around them. —Tara Bennett


17. The Last Kids on Earth


Executive Produced by: Max Brallier, Scott Peterson, Jennifer McCarron, and Matthew Berkowitz

Watch on Netflix

Based on Max Brallier’s book series of the same name, this animated series is the post-apocalyptic story for teens who aren’t into the realism of The Walking Dead but appreciate mayhem, monsters and comedy. With three seasons and a special available to binge all at once, The Last Kids on Earth leans into the absurd and the idea of an absurdist found family. The animation style is crisp and illustrative, which lends itself well to the show’s creative monster creations. The visuals are all about the laughs and not the gore, but the show still has stakes that are surprisingly effective and propulsive. —Tara Bennett


18. Waffles + Mochi


Created by: Erika Thormahlen, Jeremy Konner
Stars: Michelle Zamora, Russ Walko, Michelle Obama

Watch on Netflix

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is continuing her passion for educating children about healthy eating as executive producer (and actor) in this series that dives into world cuisine. Starring BFF puppets, Waffles and Mochi, the curious culinary critters set off on adventures to speak to real-world chefs from around the globe who can teach them about new foods and their culture. Part high-end puppet show, part comedy, part cooking show, the series is altogether charming and is a no-brainer for kids who love to help in the kitchen, or is getting curious about trying something new at the family dinner table. —Tara Bennett


19. Danger Mouse


Created by: Brian Cosgrove, Mark Hall
Stars: Alexander Armstrong, Kevin Eldon, Stephen Fry, Ed Gaughan, Shauna Macdonald, Dave Lamb, Marc Silk

Watch on Netflix

No, we’re not talking about the original 1980s series — but Netflix’s modern day remake — which features a lot more whiz-bang action and wise-cracking than the more tame Danger Mouse stories of yore. Like the original, the show follows the secret agent Danger Mouse and his hamster sidekick Penfold as they save the world every 15-or-so minutes, zipping across the globe (and occasionally to space) in the process. The show features homages to everything from classic James Bond tropes, to general sci-fi cliches, but repackages it all in something shiny enough to become more than the sum of its parts. —Trent Moore


20. Beat Bugs


Created by: Josh Wakely
Stars: Ashleigh Ball, Lili Beaudoin, Rebecca Husain, Charles Demers, Erin Mathews

Watch on Netflix

This clever animated series focuses on a group of young bugs just looking to live their lives on the ground, but throw one interesting twist into the relatively simple format: Every episode is framed around a Beatles song. Each episode features Beatles songs covered by popular artists such as Eddie Vedder, The Shins, James Corden, and Of Monsters and Men, who all put their own spin on the song. The episodes feature positive messages about things like friendship and dealing with loneliness for the kiddos, and parents can tap their toes to the rocking soundtrack. Plus, it will have your kids humming Beatles tunes all day long. —Trent Moore

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