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15 Cartoons Your Child Should Be Watching

kids cartoons, spongbob squarepants

Caillou may be calm, but he's pretty boring compared to these 15 educational cartoons you and your kids will love.

You’re probably aware by now that Pediatrics published a study yesterday pinning attention problems in children on everyone’s favorite cartoon character who lives in a pineapple under the sea, SpongeBob SquarePants.  As my colleague Danielle Sullivan noted yesterday, “researchers are saying that the program causes an attention problem in many kids after just nine minutes of viewing.”  (Yet for SpongeBob’s stoner fan base, that same nine minutes feels like forever, man.)  Lead author of the study, University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard says SpongeBob shouldn’t be the only show chastised for its frenetic action and obnoxious noises.  According to the Sun Times, “She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming,” like these shows that Strollerderby blogger Madeline Holler thinks will wreck your child’s mind.

So what cartoons should your child be watching?  I’ve chosen 15, below, that I think everyone in your household will be able to get behind.  Not only are they calm and educational, they won’t make you fall asleep, either.  (Sorry, Caillou.)

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  • Berenstain Bears 1 of 15
    Berenstain Bears
    The Berenstain Bears are a wholesome bear family, "a lot like people, only more so." Sister and Brother Bear are in elementary school, and learn lessons about things like being kind and responsible. The show can seem a little too goody-goody now and then, but it never gets annoyingly so.
  • Curious George 2 of 15
    Curious George
    I've said it before and I'll say it again: watching Curious George is like staring at a lava lamp - it soothes the tired parent's soul. George is best for younger kids, since most of what the show focuses on are simple lessons like learning shapes, numbers and colors, but honestly - I would watch it without my daughter. (#realtalk I have.)
  • Dinosaur Train 3 of 15
    Dinosaur Train
    The premise of Dinosaur Train makes no sense: there's a train that lets a talking, English-speaking dinosaur family travel through time during the Mesozoic Era. Oh, and did I mention that there's an adoption allegory in there, too? All that said, the bottom line is, kids love dinosaurs, and this show is super educational. (And it's less spazzy than Nick's Dino Dan, but my daughter loves that show, too.)
  • Little Bear 4 of 15
    Little Bear
    Little Bear is an animated series based on the popular children's books written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It's quiet and calm, and the best part? Each episode consists of three seven-and-a-half minute stories, so it's easy to turn off in the middle if you need to without making your kid cry.
  • Max and Ruby 5 of 15
    Max and Ruby
    Ruby and Max! As my 5-year-old put it, "It's a nice little show about bunnies." Each 30 minute episode centers on Max, a determined three-year-old bunny, and his big sister, Ruby, a smart, goal-oriented seven-year-old. Max and Ruby play together and resolve their differences respectfully. Great for dealing with sibling rivalry.
  • Super Why 6 of 15
    Super Why
    Who's got the power, the power to read? My kid does! She's loved Super Why since she started watching TV, and I love it, too. The female characters are racially diverse and strong, the stories are fun and the reading lessons effective. Plus, kids get the whole package: flying spaceships and a princess in the same cartoon? Yes, please!
  • Little Bill 7 of 15
    Little Bill
    Bill Cosby's Little Bill has his signature style all over it, not to mention voice work by his longtime friend and co-star Phylicia Rashad. The program shows kids that what they do makes a difference in the world. By dealing with conflicts encountered in everyday life, the show encourages children to value the love of their family, to increase self-esteem, and to develop social skills.
  • Sid the Science Kid 8 of 15
    Sid the Science Kid
    Sid the Science Kid is not only filled with great songs that teach kids about things like decay, dirt and worms, the sun as energy source and more - it also has a segment called "Good Laughternoon" during which your kid will learn jokes like, "What kind of tree fits in your hand? A palm tree!" Sid's buddy Gerald has kind of an obnoxious pace and voice, but other than that, I have no complaints about the show. Another very educational show that knocks it out of the park. Go public broadcasting!
  • Olivia 9 of 15
    Olivia
    Olivia "is designed to invite preschoolers into the life--both real and fantasy--of an adventurous, can-do 6-year-old girl, her family and friends." Olivia is somewhat unrealistic in the sense that no matter how much trouble she creates for herself, she never seems to have to deal with punishment, but it's an exciting show that plays out in a calm way, and for that reason alone, I'm fine with my daughter's love for it.
  • Martha Speaks 10 of 15
    Martha Speaks
    Martha Speaks is, simply put, a show about a talking dog. The cartoon's educational goal is to teach kids new words, and it does so with aplomb. (See, I'm paying attention!) Martha is a lovable creature who is always trying to solve some sort of mystery, an element of the show that is sure to hook your 4- to 7-year-old. Plus, the theme song is great.
  • Wonder Pets 11 of 15
    Wonder Pets
    My co-hort Madeline Holler thinks that the Wonder Pets will ruin your kid's brain, but I'm (SpongeBob) squarely on the other side of the fence about it. I love the operatic element of the show and feel compelled to point out something we all already know - classical music is good for kids' brains! (Even if it's sung by baby animals.) Also, Wonder Pets is a nice alternative to that other classical music horror show, Disney's Little Einsteins.
  • Word World 12 of 15
    Word World
    In Word World, words come alive! It's not just the animal characters that are made of the letters that spell their name, all of the items in Word World are. This show is done so well and is so creative, you can't help but fall in love with it. The characters are all voiced brilliantly and the simple storylines are kept engaging by the third-person omniscient narrator.
  • Arthur 13 of 15
    Arthur
    Let's not forget the big kids! Arthur and the subsequent cartoons listed here are all great for older elementary students who want all the action of SpongeBob without the spazz factor plus an educational bent.
  • Cyberchase 14 of 15
    Cyberchase
    Cyberchase is an award-winning, research-based adventure series that helps kids develop strong math and problem-solving skills. Not to mention that it features voice acting from the talented Christopher Lloyd and Gilbert Gottfried.
  • Word Girl 15 of 15
    Word Girl
    Wooooooord up! Word Girl is one of my favorite cartoons on TV right now, including adult-oriented animated shows like Family Guy. (Seriously, your kids should not be watching Family Guy, you know that, right? I know it's hard to keep them away...) Word Girl features the voice talents of comedians Maria Bamford and Patton Oswalt and somehow manages to combine a killer comic book vibe with female empowerment and vocabulary lessons. Another PBS hit.

Main photo: PBS Kids

Catch the Babble list of Top 10 Favorite Kids TV Shows!

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