I recommend using video streaming services offering an ads-free plan like Amazon Prime Video or Netflix with your children so they are not exposed to advertisements. One reason for this is to shorten the duration of their screen time. Another is to avoid exposure to unwanted content. Lastly, your life will be a lot simpler if you keep them away from persuasive ads that convince them they need today’s popular toy.
Below are some of the TV shows we have enjoyed as a family over the years. I always recommend consulting CommonSenseMedia.org for objective age recommendations for all forms of media. You’ll also find some options below related to video games, which will inevitably come up sometime during their elementary school years.
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Early Years TV Shows
Your Baby Can Learn! Deluxe Kit
You can start using this learning series as early as 3 months, and this is the only type of digital media my children were exposed to in their first 18 months. I debated whether to include this kit on my Treasures page because the company has endured some legal issues over the years, as I understand it, primarily related to the specific claim “Your Baby Can Read!” and hence, has changed the name to “Your Baby Can Learn!” However, I felt that my Treasures page wouldn’t be complete without including this learning series. You can learn more on my Treasures - Books page about how we intentionally focussed on early reading with our kids. I followed the program instructions to a tee and had a lot of fun introducing my children to reading in this way, plus supplementing with an array of picture books. Of note, it is easiest to follow the protocol with your first child and more challenging with future children because older children provide distractions from the program. When my oldest child was three-years-old, he said, “Mom, friends are more important than money.” For a moment, I thought I had the next Aristotle on my hands until when I asked him to tell me more about that, and he replied that the sentence was written on a Lululemon bag I had with me. Clearly, the kid had learned how to read! There aren’t a lot of three-year-olds who can read fluidly, so coupled with a lot of Mom and Dad reading time, I have to believe this program contributed to him developing early, rapid reading skills. He can devour huge chapter books in a matter of hours - a skill that will be tremendously advantageous throughout his life.
This is my absolutely favorite show for young children. It is fun to watch, has thoughtful messages, and teaches early literacy skills.
Our family loved the Leap Frog show series, all of which have educational themes and lovable, kind characters.
Sid the Science Kid
This adorable fellow teaches kids about information gathering, problem solving, and all sorts of other valuable skills. It’s a great show.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
This charming show is great for building social-emotional awareness.
Kids love dinosaurs. This cute show makes it fun to learn more about natural history and paleontology.
These adorable pups get themselves into and out of all sorts of mischief and share some nice stories involving problem solving and teamwork.
Keep up the wildlife focus with the Karats brothers in this adventure-packed show. It’s geared toward a slightly older audience, so you might choose to introduce it closer to age five.
We started with the Nintendo Switch when we entered the video game world for two reasons. First, the games offered by Nintendo seemed much more appropriate for younger kids. Second, you can play on the go, which is great for long travel days, or with the Joy-Con, you can play at home through your tv for a bigger screen.
DOBE Nintendo Switch Controller
One add-on your kids may ask for is an upgraded Nintendo Switch controller with more ergonomic handholds on the side.
YCCTEAM Wireless Pro Controller
Similarly, they may ask for a more ergonomic wireless controller for use when interfacing with your tv.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This is our favorite Nintendo Switch game. Four people can play at the same time, making for a fun family activity.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Zelda game has changed a lot since I was a kid, but it’s still a fan favorite in our household.
When the kids start asking for specific games that their friends play that are only available on specific consoles, you may consider getting a PlayStation or an XBox.
Xbox Series X
Last but not least, there’s the Xbox to consider for your gaming console. You really can’t go wrong with any of these three. If there are any specific games your child is eager to play, confirm which consoles offer that game, then make a selection from those options based on price, familiarity, and perhaps what consoles their friends use.
Our family is pretty conservative about how much screen time the kids are allowed, but we are very generous with digital devices while traveling. We’re an Apple family, and when we travel, it is incredibly helpful for the kids to have their own iPads for entertainment.
Amazon Fire Tablet
I do not personally have an Amazon Fire Tablet, but I am including it here because I have had so many parents rave about it to me. In addition to the reasonable cost, one key feature is how easy it is to set up parental controls to regulate and monitor your child’s screen time.
Electronics Charging Station
Regardless of the type of device your family owns, I highly recommend that families have a central charging station that is set up in a way to make it very easy to monitor when devices are in use to help keep the family accountable and sticking to the family screen time schedule. Learn more about setting up a reasonable digital media plan for your family in my Screen Time Masterclass.
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