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20 of the Least Annoying TV Shows for Kids

My 3 kids range in age from preschooler to nearly tween (3 and half to almost 9). And I’ve found that there’s almost nothing that we can watch together as a family that isn’t annoying, obnoxious or a catalyst to start at least one of them whining.

The shows that appeal to my oldest are ones like iCarly, Victorious and Shake it Up. These shows, aimed at tween girls, aren’t my thing. I have friends who love them and do things like listen to Big Time Rush in the car even when they’re alone  – and then claim it was an accident.  But at the moment, those shows aren’t a good fit for me and my kids.

The ones that appeal to my middle dude (age 6) are things like Power Rangers, Lego Ninjago and Kickin’ It. Notice a theme? He needs to watch less of programs that make him want to roundhouse or beg me for merchandise. And my preschooler is Dora-obsessed. That has to end now.

So I turned to the 28,000+ fabulous and brilliant moms who read Rants from Mommyland and asked them (via Facebook) what shows they thought were great for kids bigger than toddlers and younger than tweens. We got hundreds of comments, which I then tallied up. I also checked with Common Sense Media to see if there were parent or editor recommendations of shows I hadn’t seen or thought of.


  • Mythbusters 1 of 20
    Mythbusters
    (Discovery Channel) I never would have thought about this show, but was the 2nd most recommended program. It blends science, urban legends and witty hosts, and it's something the both boys and girls can enjoy. It's also highly recommended by Common Sense Media, but for older kids.
  • Word Girl 2 of 20
    Word Girl
    (PBS) I adore this show and so do my kids all of them. The sensibility of this cartoon is just genius. It's really funny and educational without being preachy or obnoxious in any way and features the best sidekick in the history of ever: Captain Huggy Face. My feelings for Captain Huggy Face are embarrassingly strong. In addition to being totally precious, he is also the BEST DANCER in the world.
  • Good Luck Charlie 3 of 20
    Good Luck Charlie
    (Disney Channel) This was widely acknowledged as being the least annoying of all the Disney/Nick tween type of shows. There is an obnoxious younger brother who may make some questionable behavioral choices, but the show is a pretty good balance between the stuff my kids want to watch and what I want them to watch.
  • Phineas and Ferb 4 of 20
    Phineas and Ferb
    (Disney Channel) This is hands down my favorite kids show. EVER. It's brilliant and sweet and hilariously funny. Every time I watch an episode, I catch a new reference to literature or pop culture that I missed before. Sadly, we've seen every episode about 50 times and my kids are starting to sigh when I suggest we turn it on.
  • Wild Kratts 5 of 20
    Wild Kratts
    (PBS Kids) Who doesn't love the Kratt brothers? If I ever saw those guys I would hug them for an awkwardly long time and then give them both high fives. This nature and wildlife-themed cartoon (just like their past shows) is fun, quick-paced and unashamedly educational.
  • Food Network 6 of 20
    Food Network
    Moms recommended the most of the shows on this network, but the one most commonly suggested was Cupcake Wars. There are lots of travel-oriented shows as well, all of which are family-friendly and may even help picky eaters decide they want to be more adventurous.
  • American Idol 7 of 20
    American Idol
    (Fox) It's the most popular show in the U.S. Kids everywhere are watching it and talking about on the playground. My kids asked to see it, so after prescreening it, we watched it together. My oldest loved it, the middle kid was meh and the youngest wandered off to find a snack. But we're pretty weird. For many families, though, this is the favorite.
  • Animal Planet 8 of 20
    Animal Planet
    Shows like Dogs 101 and Meerkat Manor ranked high on parent's recommendations. And why not? They feature adorable critters, they're educational and some people (me) think that the more kids learn to understand and empathize with animals, the more likely they are to turn out to be compassionate, awesome grown-ups.
  • Bizarre Foods 9 of 20
    Bizarre Foods
    (The Travel Channel) This is another show that I never would have considered watching with my kids, but now that someone suggested it, it totally makes sense. You learn about travel, geography, cultures and totally gag-inducing food. What could be better?
  • Full House 10 of 20
    Full House
    (ABC Family) I'm too old to have watched this show when it first came out. Scratch that. I was too cool to watch it as a tween and teen, and was therefore totally unprepared for how strongly my kids (especially the little one) would react to it. My girls LOVE this show. And while yes, it's annoying and cloyingly sweet there is absolutely nothing else objectionable about it. My kids can watch it and not absorb anything but the painfully obvious moral messages in each episode, like "don't tell lies" or "be nice to your sister" or "don't get drunk in middle school". I can live with that.
  • Avatar the Last Air Bender 11 of 20
    Avatar the Last Air Bender
    (Nickelodeon) My son likes this show a lot. And more times than I can count, the rest of us sit down when it's on and get totally sucked in. It was frequently mentioned by readers as being a good choice. Although it does feature fighting and violence, there are strong female characters, a broad mythology behind the story and a clear sense of right and wrong.
  • How Its Made 12 of 20
    How Its Made
    (Discovery Channel) This show will probably go right over the heads of little guys, unless they are in the stage of asking a million questions per day. Older kids will like it as it doesn't dumb down content, but is still easy for even elementary age kids to understand. This might be a good show to DVR and prescreen, so you can be sure that each segment is appropriate for the age and personalities of your kids.
  • The Sing Off 13 of 20
    The Sing Off
    (NBC) This singing competition has a really short season and is only one for a few weeks a year. It features singing groups (like choruses and glee choirs) from around the country and is just fun to watch. I've been a fan for two seasons and have never seen anything that would be objectionable for kids, either.
  • Fetch with Ruff Ruffman 14 of 20
    Fetch with Ruff Ruffman
    (PBS) This show features a competition between live action kids, as adjudicated by a cartoon dog (Ruff Ruffman). It's clever and funny and more educational than kids realize. A good pick for a wide age-range of kids, though not easy to find in every media market.
  • Lab Rats 15 of 20
    Lab Rats
    (Disney XD) This brand new show is part sci-fi, part action-adventure and part family sitcom. The show aimed primarily at boys - may be better than you think. Teenagers with super-powers who don't really belong anywhere is not exactly a new concept in the sci-fi genre, but one your kids may want to watch anyway. Worth a try!
  • Oceans Blue 16 of 20
    Oceans Blue
    (Planet Green) If you get the network Planet Green, this one is definitely worth checking out. Common Sense Media tapped it as an editor's pick and describes it as awe-inspiring. Besides, if I have to watch Finding Nemo again, I'm going to lose my schmidt.
  • SciGirls 17 of 20
    SciGirls
    (PBS) This show features regular tween girls engaging in science projects (physics, math, biology, engineering) and solving problems and having a great time. It also features some mildly annoying animation. But over all? Awesome. I think I might enjoy this show slightly more than my kids, but that's just too bad for them.
  • Majors and Minors 18 of 20
    Majors and Minors
    (The Hub) This is a great show. It's a singing and music competition for kids (mostly tweens) that features celebrities and industry experts and mentors, just like American Idol. Unlike Idol, the kids don't get voted off every week and though they're competing with each other, they work as a team. The cast is made up of real kids who are genuinely talented. And it may inspire your kid to go practice piano, without being asked.
  • Shaun the Sheep 19 of 20
    Shaun the Sheep
    (Disney Channel) Older kids may get a little bored with this stop action animation show (from the creators of Wallace and Gromit). Or they may appreciate its brilliance. Shaun is a leader and a problem solver and very silly. The series has garnered excellent reviews and was recommended both by moms and by Common Sense Media.
  • Scooby Doo 20 of 20
    Scooby Doo
    (Cartoon Network) Come on. Scooby is the best. Moms recommended him in droves. And it's good advice! How can you go wrong with Scooby?

No one knows your kids better than you, so hopefully it follows that you’re the best judge of whether these shows are a good fit for your family. Which ones do your kids like the best?

Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on her posts for Strollerderby, too – where she is often slightly less stupid.

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