Kids at home? Don’t let them veg to any old TV
Did summer come early this year? Are your kids at home all day and do you need something that will, you know, keep them quiet for a precious hour or two? And would you rather not have them digging deep into uncurated, brainless drivel? Lucky for you, there’s a plethora of high-quality, science-minded programming to keep your kids occupied, and even a handful of shows that are great for introducing your kids to a foreign language.
The best science-based shows for kids blend belly laughing jokes with highbrow learning. Don’t be surprised if your child emerges from an afternoon of science show-bingeing to lecture you on the ozone layer and describe the type of ants marching across your dining room table.
Why is Integrated DNA Technologies interested in kids’ programming?
“IDT is not simply a manufacturing biotechnology company,” said Mark Behlke, MD, PhD, IDT’s chief scientific officer, in the introduction to a science experiment booklet for grade-school students. “We are a research company and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) outreach company.”
Ready for some suggestions? Read on!
Sid the Science Kid (PBS): Sid is an aspiring comedian who enlists friends, a teacher, and his family to solve the sorts of perplexing science questions all kids want answered: Why do bananas get brown spots? Why are his shoes shrinking? How do you get down a ball that’s stuck in a tree? The website has accompanying games.
Bill Nye the Science Guy (PBS/Disney): Fast paced and quirky, Bill Nye dons a lab coat and a bow tie as he explores the serious science of everyday things, from the Earth’s crust to the body’s skin, garbage, the structure of objects, and electricity.
Dinosaur Train (PBS): The dinosaur train, led by Buddy, an affable preschool-aged T. rex, rolls out of the station every day and an into a learning environment that explores natural science, natural history, and—of course—dinosaurs.
SciGirls (PBS): This show is aimed squarely at tween girls to engage them in STEM studies. In each episode, a team of girls seeks the answers to questions while also inspiring kids around the world to discover science and technology.
Project Mc2 (Netflix): Four super-smart girls work for a secretive government operation trying to save the world. Wild and somewhat wacky, the series features everything from DIY AI to interrogation techniques to 3D printers.
Odd Squad (PBS): This live-action series features two young government agents, Olive and Otto (later replaced by Olympia and Otis), who use math to solve mysteries on their own. Aimed at preschool and early elementary school children, shows features numbers, mistake corrections, and early lessons in multiplication.
Corneil et Bernie (France Télévisions): Want to add simple French to your child’s curriculum? Cartoons can be a great way to start, since they focus on child-centric language and the audio is usually recorded in a studio, meaning it is free from distracting or confusing background noise. This show follows the exploits of Corneil, a highly intelligent dog, and Bernie, his “dog sitter,” whom Corneil often ends up bailing out of unfortunate circumstances.
Minimalitos (Pakapaka/Televisión Pública Argentina): Irresistibly cute, this tender Argentine show is a great introduction to basic Spanish. It follows little animal friends who go to kindergarten together and has basic playing, singing, and learning. Pakapaka (the word is Quechua for “hide and seek”) has several similar cartoons.
The Magic School Bus (PBS): An oldie but a goodie, this kids’ favorite only ran for four seasons in the mid-1990s but is still popular today. The flying magic school bus leads Ms. Frizzle and her class on field trips, with the bus morphing into a plane, submarine, surfboard, or spaceship as the students learn about science.
Peep and the Big Wide World (TVOntario/PBS): Supported by the National Science Foundation, this show follows a newly-hatched chicken, Peep, who goes on daily adventures with his friends in the “big wide world”—a large urban park—learning about science and conducting experiments.
The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! (PBS): Widely available on streaming services, this Canadian-American-British classic promotes literacy and science learning through the adventures of Nick and Sally, who travel the world, guided by the Cat in the Hat, who pilots the Thinga-ma-jigger. The team visits rainforests, mountain tops, and even the bottom of the sea.
The Inbestigators (Australian Broadcasting Corp./Netflix): This Aussie show features a detective agency run by children who sift through clues to solve a neighborhood mystery in each episode. The show’s creators said they intentionally built the series around ethnic diversity, gender equity, kindness, respect, and integrity.
Bitesize (BBC): Created to help with homeschooling efforts in the U.K., this collection of videos and accompanying lesson plans covers everything the school day does, and more. If you’re not in the UK, you may need to get creative to see this content—try a VPN that allows you to choose your “home” location.