The 20 Best Kids Shows on Netflix

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The 20 Best Kids Shows on Netflix

Many of us can look back on our childhoods with distinct memories of our parents telling us to turn off the TV—to go outside and play, or pick up a book. Some of us, tragically, even grew up without cable or any TV at all, and we vowed that when we grew up and became parents, we’d let our kids watch all the TV they wanted. Well, the good news is that kids TV—much like grown up TV—has gotten a lot better over the years. And the other good news (sort of) is that we all grew up and became our parents, also telling our kids to turn off the TV every once in a while. But when we’re 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 Kimmy Schmidt 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.

Here are the 20 Best Kids Shows on Netflix:

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. The Planet Earth Series

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Created by: Vanessa Berlowitz, Mike Gunton, James Brickell, Tom Hugh-Jones
Narrator: David Attenborough
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Since the subject of a magisterial sequel, a dispatch from a disappearing world, the original Planet Earth, which debuted in 2006, is perhaps the finest introduction to nature’s innumerable variations ever recorded. In 11 episodes, one focused on the effects of climate change and each of the other 10 devoted to a particular biome, the BBC Natural History Unit’s docuseries captures mouse lemurs and blue whales, oceanic depths and mountain peaks, all in what was, for its time, cutting-edge HD. The series has continued with the stunning, engrossing and awe-inducing Blue Planet II (which took four years to film), as well as Our Planet (from the same producers), all of which investigate animal life on land and through the oceanic depths with stunning visuals and inspiring camera work. The result is a portrait of the planet’s epic scope held in perfect balance by David Attenborough’s lively, intimate narration. If you haven’t seen it yet, turn off the lights, turn on the biggest screen you own, and prepare to be dazzled. — Matt Brennan and Allison Keene


3. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: Syndicated

Watch on Netflix

The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise (And one of the best sci-fi series of all time). Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. —Josh Jackson


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
Original Network: Netflix

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
Original Network: Netflix

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
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Late last Thursday night, Netflix dropped the fifth and final season of Dreamworks’ extremely fun, occasionally harrowing She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
In terms of the series’ epic battle between good (Etheria’s quirky, magic-wielding Princesses) and evil (the immortal Horde Prime and his clone/robot horde army), the season had a lot of ground to cover—so much, in fact, that it extended all the way into space. (Yes, that’s right: SHE-RA … IN SPACE is very real, and not just a fever dream you had when you first read about Netflix planning to reboot such a wild ‘80s property for a contemporary audience.)
More importantly, though, Catra and Adora had spent the last four seasons pacing around each other with such crackling (and often murderous) intensity that if #Catradora didn’t happen by the end of Season 5 … well, let’s just say Seahawk’s (Jordan Fisher) ship-burning tendencies would look like child’s play by comparison.

With the rainbow-solid queer credentials brought to the table by creator Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes, Nimona, The Fire Never Goes Out) and her team, and with the equally sparkling queer representation present in the series from the very beginning (Bow’s nerdy dads, thirtysomething Princess couple Spinerella and Netossa, Scorpia’s whole Scorpianess), fans needn’t have worried that their favorite friends-to-enemies lesbian ‘ship would right itself in the end. Still, when the frenemies’ long-awaited admission of love gave Adora enough strength to stop that apocalyptic countdown in the final minutes of “Heart Part 2,” you could almost feel the internet breathe a collective sigh of relieved joy. —Alexis Gunderson


7. The Dragon Prince

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

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, 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

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Creator: Lauren Faust, Bonnie Zacherle
Stars: Ashleigh Ball, Tabitha St. Germain, Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck, Nicole Oliver
Original Network: The Hub

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. Pee Wee’s Playhouse

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Creator: Paul Reubens
Stars: Pee-Wee Herman, Laurence Fishburne, Phil Hartman, Lynne Marie Stewart, John Paragon
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Netflix

For the last half of the ’80s, Pee-Wee Herman was an unavoidable presence in the pop culture landscape thanks, at first, to his Tim Burton-directed feature film (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) and then via this entirely family-friendly show he developed for CBS. The half-hour paid homage to kids’ shows from creator Paul Reubens’ youth, like Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo, while adding his own brand of anarchic energy and completely respecting the intelligence of its young viewers. Add to it a surrealist playhouse set where every object was given a face and a voice, as well as occasional visits from equally silly friends like Cowboy Curtis (post-Apocalypse Now/pre-Matrix Laurence Fishburne) and Captain Carl (the late Phil Hartman), and you had the makings of one of the most unique programs to ever get screened on Saturday morning network TV. —Robert Ham


10. Carmen Sandiego

Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott, Michael Hawley
Original Network: Netflix

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, glob-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 Schoolbus

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Creator: Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan
Stars: Lily Tomlin, Danny Tamberelli, Malcolm Jamal-Warner
Original Network: PBS

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 transition from the page to the screen was a smooth one, with the creators utilizing the possibilities of hand-drawn animation to do what the books did so well: teaching kids a mess of scientific facts in a fun and cheeky fashion. The Magic School Bus wound up having a long legacy, surviving beyond the end of its four season run. Re-runs of the show have popped up on cable for years, and Netflix is funding a new season, which will drop on the streaming service in 2016. —Robert Ham


12. Bill Nye the Science Guy

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Creator: James McKenna, Bill Nye, Erren Gottlieb
Star: Bill Nye
Original Network: PBS

Watch on Netflix

It might be considered strange for a show dedicated to educating younger viewers about science, and making the subject matter relatable to general audiences, to begin with this insane, off-the-wall intro. But that’s the point: You don’t turn away. If you’re watching the opening of Bill Nye the Science Guy for the first time, it takes a bit to figure out what’s happening on screen and what the narrator is actually saying. You see Bill’s disembodied head spinning, plastic toy dinosaurs flying by, radio frequencies and volcanoes bursting with energy—all set to a pounding theme song by music writer (and math teacher) Mike Greene. Bill Nye shouldn’t have a traditional theme song, because this wasn’t your traditional TV show. He was here to educate, yes, but he was also a lot of fun. The series’ fake music videos, science puns and skits with celebrities turned Nye into a household name that ’90s kids would learn to equate with science itself: Bill! Bill! Bill! —James Charisma


13. Trollhunters

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Creator: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Kelsey Grammer, Ron Perlman, Charlie Saxton, Steven Yeun, Jonathan Hyde
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

This acclaimed adventure story features one of the final performances of the late Anton Yelchin, who left behind a wealth of recorded material before his tragic passing in 2016. Yelchin voices a young man who is chosen to the Trollhunter, a magical hero who fights against evil trolls and protects the world. The series is the brainchild of Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) and Marc Guggenheim (Arrow), so it comes from an excellent pedigree for sci-fi adventure. The series is a bright, high-stakes adventure with gorgeous animation, well-rounded characters, and more than enough action to keep kids and adults engaged. —Trent Moore


14. Anne with an E

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

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. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That

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Creator: Tony Collingwood
Stars: Martin Short, Jacob Ewaniuk, Alexa Torrington
Original Network: PBS

Watch on Netflix

Scaling back the anarchic spirit of Dr. Seuss’ original books, this series (and the books from which it was adapted) puts The Cat In The Hat in teaching mode, bringing his endlessly curious and positive friends Sally and Nick along to learn about science and nature. Taking some cues from from The Magic School Bus, the Cat and his friends are ferried along in a strange vehicle called a "Thing-a-ma-jigger," which can rocket through space and shrink down to microscopic size as needed. Like most kids’ shows, it follows a pretty strict formula, but is endlessly enjoyable thanks to spirited voice work from Martin Short as The Cat and the impressive amount of information it relays in each episode. —Robert Ham


16. Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation

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Creator: Haim Saban
Stars: Michael Dobson, Kirby Morrow, Jason Gray-Stanford
Original Network: FOX

Watch on Netflix

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a part of the pop culture landscape since their first appearance in comic book form way back in 1984, and show no signs of disappearing any time soon. But for a while, the TMNTs went quiet, following the cancellation of this series that aired for one season in the late ‘90s. The live-action show was seen as a continuation of the original animated series, but also attempted to expand on the brand by excising characters (like Casey Jones and April) and introducing new ones (like a female ninja turtle named Venus de Milo). Though it was successful, it didn’t last beyond 26 episodes, and kept the TMNTs off the air until their animated reboot in 2003. —Robert Ham


17. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

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Creator: Andy Heyward
Stars: Lou Albano, Danny Wells
Original Network: First-run syndication

Watch on Netflix

Hollywood’s desire to cash in on a pop culture craze has no better exemplar than this live-action/animated show that arrived in the midst of Nintendo’s early reign over U.S. living rooms. Even viewed through a lens of nostalgia, this program remains one of the more surreal entries into the kids’ marketplace of the late 80s. Each episode featured the animated adventures of either Mario and Luigi or The Legend of Zelda, bookended by live action segments featuring former WWF figure Captain Lou Albano as Mario. The real life parts got even stranger when they introduced famous guests like Magic Johnson, Elvira, and (for some reason) Norman Fell. While kids of the 90s still get a kick out of the show’s chintzy sets and animation, today’s youngsters are still latching on to the show due to Nintendo’s continued re-use of these characters for current videogames. —Robert Ham


18. Sid the Science Kid

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Creator: The Jim Henson Company
Stars: Drew Massey, Julianne Buescher, Victor Yerrid
Original Network: PBS

Watch on Netflix

The idea of introducing scientific concepts like inertia and simple machines to kids made this show worthy enough to make this list. But what separates it from similarly minded shows like Magic School Bus is its unique animation style. Using motion capture, the CGI-created series builds its characters to move like actual kids would, and renders them as if they were made of molding clay. This gives the series a quaintly homespun feel, but also allows you a bit of dazzle while you’re swallowing sometimes heady lessons about physics and ecosystems. —Robert Ham


19. Danger Mouse

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Creator: Brian Cosgrove, Mark Hall
Stars: Alexander Armstrong, Kevin Eldon, Stephen Fry, Ed Gaughan, Shauna Macdonald, Dave Lamb, Marc Silk
Original Network: Netflix

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

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Creator: Josh Wakely
Stars: Ashleigh Ball, Lili Beaudoin, Rebecca Husain, Charles Demers, Erin Mathews
Original Network: Netflix

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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