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I am looking for good television shows for a seven-to-eight-year-old. Of course, "good" is very vague, so I'll give some examples of what I consider not good, and, while many of you will differ and consider them good, I'd appreciate your putting aside that opinion and instead addressing the question according to mine. :-)

Not good shows include:

  • Good Luck Charlie. I turned it on only once and found that the episode was (partially) about dating and a character called another "hot Jake". Totally not appropriate for an eight-year-old. In fact, Disney Channel shows in general are no good AFAICT, for the same reason.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants. Besides the age issue (it's on too low a "reading level", if you will), it also heavily features characters insulting each other gratuitously. Again, not appropriate.
  • The original animated The Pink Panther Show. Violent.

Good shows include:

  • The Andy Griffith Show, which, as far as I recall, was just plain, clean fun. (I could be misremembering, though. I haven't seen it in a while.) Alas, it's not on here.

Any others?

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"being on" - do you mean TV shows that are currently showing where you live? Where is that? Questions (and answers) should be useful for the majority of the audience, and should remain valid over time, so limiting to a time and an area makes the question somewhat less useful. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 14 '11 at 8:02
    
@TorbenGB, good point. I'll edit. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:13
    
Thanks to parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/73, I've discovered commonsensemedia.org/reviews/a-z. While I may not agree with all its results, it's a great resource. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 18:33
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re: Spongebob...did you not watch Looney Tunes as a kid? –  DA01 Jul 18 '11 at 21:08
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@msh210 the point is that kids cartoons aren't any more or less violent than they used to be. As a parent it's totally your jurisdiction as to what you let them watch, but you might be fighting the current banning cartoons. –  DA01 Jul 18 '11 at 21:23

17 Answers 17

My son and I watch many of the documentaries that are on Netflix instant. There are many sites online where you can watch documentaries for free.

Kids do not need to fill their heads with junk. They need to be built up to learn to respect the knowledge that will help them help make this world great. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel when I was a kid, but it is now mostly junk. I think PBS is great. Get an antenna if you don't have one, most PBS stations will broadcast multiple channels over digital airwaves. Whatever you do, foster his desire for knowledge and discovery.

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+1: Thank you for the advice. –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 4:04
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+1 Kids do not need to fill their heads with junk. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 18 '11 at 7:41

I'm not sure kids TV is any more violence than it was 20/30 years ago. Bugs bunny is as insulting as Spongebob. The pink panther is as 'violent' as Adventure Time. The difference is that you're now an adult and just see things differently. And 40/50 years ago it was plenty of 'cowboys and indians' as well.

That said, given that your example of what is acceptable is rather narrow, I'd say you'll want to stick with whatever is on PBS and maybe a few of the Mythbusters/Dirty Jobs type things. As for older classics, my kids love Get Smart.

Keep in mind that if your kids have friends, they will watch Nickelodeon and Disney.

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+1, thanks for your perspective. –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 21:32

When I was a child, I liked:

Looney Tunes
Tom and Jerry

They're always funny and entertaining. Other options include:

Paddington Bear(Very cute, very amusing)
Charlie Chaplain?(I watched that when I was a kid, didn't understand half of the things they were gabbling, but enjoyed his antics anyway)

Or just try books. Books are much better. Stimulates and enhances the imagination. Makes one cleverer.

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If the asker found The Pink Panther to be too violent, then there is no way that Tom and Jerry will be acceptable. While I love that show, it is exceptionally violent (it is the obvious inspiration for The Itchy and Scratchy Show, the caricature of extreme violence in children's programming from The Simpsons). –  Beofett Jul 14 '11 at 12:10
    
What @Beofett said. However, your (Ham and Bacon's) other suggestions might be worth looking into; thanks. +1. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:12
    
Tom and Jerry is considered violent - it's also boring and annoying since I was child. –  mbx Jul 24 '11 at 11:08

I agree with Hairy that anything on TV is usually too violent or mature, even when aimed at kids.

Consider renting/buying DVD collections of films or TV shows you deem suitable. I'm hoping that older shows like The Muppet Show and Sesame Street are available.

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+1. The Muppet Show, great idea, thanks. Sesame Street might be too young a "reading level", though. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:09
    
Agreed, Muppet Show is awesome, I am going to look for that in the library. –  MichaelF Jul 15 '11 at 14:12

I agree with the comments on the old Hanna Barbera shows, I loved Pink Panther and Yogi Bear and others growing up, they didn't affect me much but compared to some of the kids shows today they seem to be more violent. Lots of gun play going on, and while I don't find that really that disturbing, its a different world these days so I am strict with some of the shows. There are Pink Panther episodes that tend to be rather tame, more trickery than violence and some of the Show Collections I have are ok, my son likes it.

Some others I have had success with:

  • How It's Made, is good as noted previous, it's interesting and moves fast so it keeps my son's attention.
  • Mythbusters, some of what they do is fun, and it does move slow in certain spots, but the explosions keep my son's interest and since they always mention safety and science I think its ok
  • Iron Chef/Food Channel, my son likes cooking shows a lot, so I let him watch those when he has the mood on him
  • Thomas is a good one, if your son likes trains, though mine seems to be moving away from it just like he did with Dragon Tails and Sagwa; those similar type shows were good
  • Sesame Street and Elmo are good, when we don't let him watch on TV we let him watch ones we borrow from the library, your may have a good selection (at least in some parts of the US I don't know about the rest of the world)
  • Dora and Diego are good, Diego speaks more to my son now than he did before
  • Kai-Lan, since my son is half Chinese he has some exposure to Mandarin and sometimes likes watching Kai-Lan
  • Some older series that he didn't mind, which I am ok since violence is at a minimum and keeps a boys attention - Thundarr the Barbarian, Thundercats, He-Man or even Voltron (or similar 80's type robot shows). In the US the cartoons made at the time were heavily influenced to be blood-free, even when someone died it was rare and blood was rarely shown.

I have similar reservations with shows like SpongeBob that seem to be more about grossness than anything, even ones like Transformers that I liked growing up are all product/toy tie-ins now. We really limit actual tv show watching, it is a treat if anything, so most watching is DVD's or foreign language shows that really have little violence in them

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+1 for MythBusters! They make a point of warning against dangerous stuff, and they even explain the physics/concepts behind what's going on. Educating AND fun! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 15 '11 at 14:16
    
+1. Thanks for all the suggestions! –  msh210 Jul 15 '11 at 15:12

I have a 7/8 year old and you'll be amazed about what they want to watch. She'll happily sit through any program the youngest watches (Dora etc), but when she gets a choice, will choose a nature program or something like Wizards of Waverley Place. I'd rather face up to difficult conversations with the kids at home, watching with them, than the alternatives. The trouble, for me, now, is that most things are sexualised on TV and there is so much inappropriate content on "kids'" TV that the only reliable choice, if you want to avoid it, is no TV at all.

Not so bad now, as it is summer and we try and keep them out of the house on nice days and the kids all read lots, but, even kids' films now have adult innuendo all plumbed in, and a clever kid will see through it, and ask questions. I know mine do.

In short, I don't think there's much on, for an 8 year old, that I'd consider good, that they'll 'want' to watch.

To be truthful, kids' TV is a lot more moralistic than it as when I was a kid. Most shows now, will have an angle on them, which inevitably is a 'good' one.

I think this is one of the most difficult situations parents are in today, as it seems everyone wants kids to grow up quicker than we do. This leads to inappropriate content on TV, radio, books, magazines and everything. Have you seen a pop video of late? Lady Gaga, Rhianna? That wouldn't get on TV when I was a kid, not in the daytime.

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+1. Thanks: good points. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:08
    
"kids films now have adult innuendo all plumbed in" an interesting observation but I think in many ways that is done to keep adults interested when taking kids to the movies. With young kids most of that goes over their heads anyway, up to a certain age I don't have a problem with it. –  MichaelF Jul 15 '11 at 14:14
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@MichaelF to a degree, I agree with you, but a bright child will know something is amiss and work it out. What I am alluding to, is that these innuendos are actualy getting stronger, and bright kids will pick up on them. One film, which escapes me, had my wife and I cringing waiting for the inevitable question. I think you have to be really careful to avoid exposing them to this kind of behaviour. Just a quick trawl yesterday morning saw all kinds of stuff I'd really think was inappropriate. –  Hairy Jul 18 '11 at 7:13
    
And as an aside, I watched my kids end of term play. All people 8 or under. The innuendo in that was quite awful. At oen stage, you had a 7 year squeezing her fake boobs to get a laugh out of the adult audience (dressed as a slut too). I am no puritan, but sometimes you have to wonder why people are squeezing the childhood out of the child –  Hairy Jul 18 '11 at 7:15
    
You can be sure, someone is making money out of it. Like I said, up to a certain age I don't have a problem with it, but only YOU know what that certain age is for your kids. Mine, I know has maybe a year or two left for this sort of thing, then he's going to end up restricted from certain movies because of this. Being a parent is a 7/24 job and its not a popularity contest, you have to make had choices if you want your kids to grow up the way you want. –  MichaelF Jul 18 '11 at 11:54

I'd suggest the Science Channel, if you have it. While some nature shows are great, some feature a lot of violence (predation) and other mature themes (death, illness, mating, etc.), so you'll have to use your discretion.

I have a friend who watches How It's Made (the entire Science Channel site appears to be down, however, so I'm not sure if that's merely temporary) constantly with his two sons, and it seems to be both interesting, and safe.

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+1, thanks, will look into it. I don't get the Science Channel, and I was thinking more about fun shows, but maybe these are fun enough.... –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:11

I can highly recommend the Magic School Bus. Sadly, there's no good streaming sources for it, but the DVD's are excellent. Informative, Interesting and entertaining, each episode generally focuses on some area of science ("Dinosaurs", "The Solar System", "Gravity", etc). The TV episodes are based on a excellence series of books by Joanna Cole. I think the class is 1st or 2nd graders. It doesn't hurt that the Theme song is by Little Richard. Magic School Bus on Wikipedia

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+1, thanks. The "reading level" might be too low, but I suspect you may be right that an older kid will be interested anyway. Worth a try. –  msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:10

Bill Nye the Science Guy is an excellent show and I highly recommend it. Our kids absolutely love it.

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We actually don't watch a lot of TV at my house (we had our cable turned off as my husband and I felt most of our favorite shows were available on netflix and we didn't mind waiting a season or two and getting stuff late - why pay when you don't have to?)

That means we don't have access to all the newest stuff, but, we borrow a lot of Bill Nye from the library, watch Curious George with the little guy we watch and use netflix and youtube a lot (Netflix or Hulu might have the Andy Griffiths Show? - If not, you could probably find it on youtube or through a library).

My daughter loves history so she has watched a lot of stuff from the BBC about various aspects of world history (I preview everything though). She LOVES Liberty's Kids (which I didn't see anyone else mention) which is a cartoon about the American Revolution - it is historical fiction that is a little overly dramatic at times in terms of effects, but gets the idea across and introduces historical figures, events and places.

I think Little House on the Prairie with Michael Landon is still in syndication - It was a great show after-all and if they've already read any of the books, it might be especially fun to watch.

We've also enjoyed David Macaulay based stuff, like "Castle" and "Cathedral," but especially the series based on "The Way Things Work" with the wooly mammoths (must have book for the science home library by the way). Mechanical Advantage and various simple machines are the aim of the series.

Lately, we've been having fun watching the "How the States Got their Shapes" series for geography lessons. That one is aimed at adults, but most of the episodes I've seen are pretty wholesome and funny with only an occasional thing thrown in that causes her to go, "what?" (For example, I had to explain dry counties vs "wet ones." She asked, "why do the people at the bar care if the next county gets a lot of rain or not?" Obviously, when watching shows intended for adults - even if I've previewed it, we watch together so she can ask questions like that. Also, since history is a big part of the show, war (like the civil war) and the violence that comes with it is often mentioned, and even little snippets of reenactments might be shown - but she loves history so it is just something we've addressed. I try to be careful to be sure it isn't gratuitous though (History channel stuff often is).

Good Luck.

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+1. Many thanks! –  msh210 Nov 22 '13 at 19:18

Here's another repetitious vote for Discovery, and Discovery Science Channel. My 10 8 6 yo's watch everything from mythbusters to cash cab... An Idiot Abroad, etc etc.

The main point of my post is to decry the state of kids shows these days.

  • spongebob is todays looney toons. sometimes it's funny, sometimes it sucks.
  • Disney is geared towards tween girls and it is horrible. My 10 yo wants to watch it, but i'll FORCE her to change it to Discovery or Animal Planet and she'll wind up going "ooh! Dirty Jobs!" or "I love Canine Cops!" or whatever.
  • Nick is geared a little younger, but it's just as horrible.
  • Cartoon Network is the worst. all of these shows except Adventure Time have rehashed crap for the cartoons. It's really ridic.
  • Nick Jr., too young for an 8 yo.

I think it's a sad state of affairs that your best bet for a kids show is untargeted, general, family programming on a niche network. You might try catching full episodes of the discovery based shows over the web.

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Reading Rainbow, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and Captain Kangaroo if you can locate them would probably meet your criteria.

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+1, thanks for the suggestions. –  msh210 Jul 31 '11 at 4:07

Youtube is a wonderful option. You can dig through the site, hand select programming that supports your goals for your child and setup playlists. The wonderful thing about playlists is that you can control the duration of the programming. That way you can mix old and new.. amateur and professional.. without the constant commercial interruptions filing your kids heads with must-have new toys and sugar snacks.

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+1, many thanks: excellent point. –  msh210 Oct 7 '12 at 2:04

This is late in the day, but as a suggestion on top of all the other posts. This is an idea to include educational with interesting:

Wildlife shows.

We love watching David Attenborough's documentaries about wildlife; the Life Series. In fact any wildlife documentary (though you may worry about animals hunting prey, in terms of upsetting your son).

There is the Deadly 60 which is a wildlife show and rates how deadly animals are, and is very interesting and entertaining.

There is another show out now is Bindi's Bootcamp, the late Steve Irwin's daughter. The kids on the show have fun challenges and it's educational.

These shows are age flexible, I enjoy them, my teenage kids enjoy them and they also enjoyed these types of shows when they were younger.

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+1 ; thank you. –  msh210 Nov 22 '13 at 19:19

I have a 7 year old boy and an 8 year old girl so finding something they both like is a challenge. I finally had success with The Cosby Show and The Brady Bunch. Good luck!

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What I remember from my childhood which I now think were appropriate:

  • Dexter's laboratory
  • Captain Tsubasa (great for promoting soccer)
  • Batman Beyond - a great choice for a boy
  • Tom and Jerry
  • Mr Bean (though not all children appreciate the humor)
  • Ed, Edd'n'Eddy - surprisingly smart, in its own way
  • SeaQuest

And also from modern toons:

  • Star Wars Clone Wars
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Thanks. I'm wholly unfamiliar (Batman) with most of these shows, but I seem to recall (from my own childhood) that Tom and Jerry is very violent. –  msh210 Nov 22 '13 at 4:54

I may be going out on a limb (for this crowd!) but I will say Phineas and Ferb.

Yes, it's on one of those blingy, commercially channels (Disney?), and you'll have to talk to your kids about the atrocious gender stereotyping, but with that exception the level of intelligence and humor is orders of magnitude higher than anything I remember from my childhood. We don't watch much TV at my house, but my daughter discovered it while flipping channels two years ago at my mom's. I walked in to tell her to turn it off and got hooked.

I wouldn't say it's exactly educational, but it's free of sexual innuendo (or everything I've seen so far is), and I have more than once pointed out to my daughter how positive and kind Phineas is, even when people are clearly trying to be mean to him. (Kindness and cheerfulness are high on my value list.) Most of the jokes and SF references went over my daughter's head when she first started watching it, but she liked the action and adventures. Now that she's ten and does get some of the jokes, watching it with her is even more fun.

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