The landscape of children's television is littered with landmines — something I've come to be even more aware of as my son gets older and more handy with the remote control. And to be honest, my 9-year-old is less than discerning when it comes to what he'll watch. Which can be a problem, especially when he wants to watch something together. I love an invite to sit alongside my son and watch TV, but I just can't grin and bear it through yet another episode of SpongeBob SquarePants (while sober). Thankfully we've been able to find a few shows that work for everyone.
Both my husband and I are huge fans of cooking competition shows like Top Chef or MasterChef, but most include some language or concepts that aren't 100 percent child-friendly. Enter Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef Junior. It's a take on his successful adult version, but without the yelling and swearing. Plus, after watching the first few seasons together, my son has become more active in the kitchen, even whipping up a few signature dishes of his own. I also love that it shows both boys and girls cooking, despite not having a female winner yet (maybe this season?).
This Nickelodeon show is pretty adorable. As my son gets more into the tween genre, I've found that a lot of shows geared toward that age range can be pretty laden with awful stereotypes. Game Shakers shakes things up just a bit. It's the story of two completely different girls who pair up, make an awesome app that goes viral and end up partnering with a superstar rapper and his son. I love that the show features girls rocking it when it comes to STEM. The cast is diverse. And the plotlines aren't too saccharine or cheesy to enjoy along with your kid.
My son is just a wee bit superhero obsessed, which sounds right on target for his age. It helps that my husband and I are also into sci-fi and superheroes. And I love that there are multiple shows out there that fly in the face of stereotypical boy-saves-girl-from-evil-villain themes. The Thundermans is basically your regular old family comedy, with the twist that the family happens to be a bunch of superheroes — even the kids! While some of the story lines are a little hacky, the overall messages are pretty sound and do a great job of not being sexist or too violent, which seems to be challenging for anything involving superheroes these days.
It's refreshing to find yet another show with a diverse cast that doesn't trade on super-tired stereotypes. This one is right up my son's alley, as it allows him to imagine what would happen if he found a hidden world of superheroes, and I appreciate the humor and strong young female lead.
I love that I can enjoy classic TV shows with my son because of things like Hulu, Netflix and YouTube. Pee-Wee's Playhouse is one of those. It's silly and goofy, and all of us love it. I dig it because it reminds me of when I watched it as a child, plus I get to see all the "before-they-were-stars" cameos, like Laurence Fishburne and Phil Hartman. And my son enjoys the pure absurdity of it all.
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