It’s the weekend. You’re looking for something to watch with your kid and you turn on the TV, but it’s not the same. For one, Rupert Bear wears trainers and has tanned fur. Where are all the TV shows you used to love as a youngster? Answer: They’re all on Prime Instant Video.
Uncle Max. My Parents are Aliens. In the Night Garden. LazyTown. There are some good children’s TV series around these days, but what if you miss their broadcast time? What if you don’t like the gender-targeted adverts in between selling pink things for girls and blue things for boys? What if you just want to use your offspring as an excuse to re-watch Thundercats for the 50th time?
Here are the top kids’ TV series on Amazon Prime Instant Video:
Just Add Magic: Season 1 and 2
Amazon’s original live-action kids series aimed at families and children aged 6 through 11 is based on Cindy Callaghan’s book of the same name. It sees three girls – Kelly, Darbie and Hannah – discover an old recipe book belonging to Kelly’s grandma. When a “Shut-Em-Up Shortcake” causes her brother to lose his voice, though, they realise it’s more Merlin than Mary Berry. Extant’s Olivia Sanabia stars as Kelly, alongside Abby Donnelly (Suburgatory) as Darbie and Aubrey Miller (Austin & Ally) as Hannah.
A charming treat that viewers of all ages can savour, it folds in sincere lessons about friendship, honesty and teamwork, but never gets sickly.
Amazon’s charming original kids’ series follows Anne, a young female scientist, and her human friends, along with the android assistants she’s created. Together, they use science to solve a myriad of problems. Did we mention it’s about a smart young girl who makes her own robots?
Based on Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan’s best-selling books, the show follows Devin Burke (newcomer Sixx Orange), who was the star player on her school soccer team, until her family moved to California midway through the academic year. Now, she has to rise to the challenge after discovering her new school team, The Kicks, has been on a losing streak over the last few months and are badly in need of a leader to rally the team.
Nothing says strong teamwork ethics like a sports series, but The Kicks takes an impressive punt at the theme. More TV role models that remind viewers girls don’t have to conform to a Barbie doll image please. Back of the net.
Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street
Life is anything but normal for Gortimer and his two best friends, Ranger and Mel, as they navigate Normal Street – an ordinary suburb that has a hint of something magical just beneath the surface.
Forget the feature film with the same title, this Nickelodeon animated series is fantastic, set in a universe where people can manipulate, or “bend”, the elements of water, earth, fire, or air. Only one chosen one, though, can bend all four: the Avatar. Already seen it? The sequel, The Legend of Korra, is also available.
DC: The Animated Shows
Are you and your kids fans of comic books? Amazon’s line-up of DC animation is super stuff, from the Batman animated series to Justice League and more. Warning: Some of them are a bit violent for younger kids. For more, see our series of Superhero Sunday reviews.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
With Season 1 and 2, there’s more Velma here than you can shake a stick at. There’s even Scooby Doo! Wrestlemania.
Tom & Jerry
If you haven’t raised your kids on YouTube clips of these classic cat-and-mouse shorts, this is the perfect chance to introduce them to the slapstick, wit and suspense of Hanna Barbera’s duo – with a new Tom and Jerry film also available.
The Stinky & Dirty Show
Amazon’s Original Kids Series, based on the I Stink! book series by Kate and Jim McMullan, follows the mishaps of best friends and unlikely heroes, Stinky, the garbage truck, and Dirty, the backhoe loader. The series is written and developed by Guy Toubes (Littlest Pet Shop).
Curious George: Season 5 to 7
The predictably precocious Curious George springs to life in this animated series based on Margret and H.A. Rey’s classic children’s books and narrated by actor William H. Macy.
Dora the Explorer: Season 3 and 4
File this one right alongside Blue’s Clues and Peppa Pig as a pre-school must. Dora the Explorer is a hugely positive role model who not only speaks English and Spanish but can also talk to animals. That’s like three languages. Think Dr. Doolittle. But with a magic backpack. Older kids will find the repetitive call and response patronising, but this is fantastic stuff. ¡Vámonos!
Shaun the Sheep: Season 1 to 5
Aardman’s animated spin-off from Wallace & Gromit is baa-rilliant.
Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter
Studio Ghibli’s first TV series, directed by Goro Miyazaki and narrated by Gillian Anderson (in its dubbed English version), is based on the children’s fantasy book of the same name by Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking. Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter follows 10-year-old Ronja (Teresa Gallagher), born on a stormy night in a mountain fort, surrounded by her father (Rufus Hound), mother (Morwenna Banks) and a loving band of robbers. She grows to be a strong girl, and discovers that the forest is both a beautiful and frightening place inhabited by strange creatures.
First created in 2004, Peppa Pig has wasted no time in becoming a modern children’s classic. It’s educational and teaches valuable social lessons, but the secret lies in its simplicity: unfussy animations and everyday stories make up the action, which sees young Peppa Pig go to school or ride a bike. Low-key, charming and – proof of it’s success – appealing to both boys and girls of pre-school age.
The Trap Door
Don’t you open that… TRAP DOOR. One of the most infectious TV theme tunes of all time belongs to this fabulous stop-motion fantasy show about Berk, who has to do everything his master tells him – but, most importantly, not open the hatch in the castle floor. Talking skulls, booming voices and an endless supply of plasticine critters make for a delightfully colourful 80s horror fest that’s more funny than scary – and all the better for it.
Six heroic puppies are led by a tech-savvy 10-year-old in this animated series that follows a string of high-stakes rescue missions using brains, cool vehicles and humour. Warning: once you introduce them to it, younger kids will be hooked.
Claymation doesn’t get more charming than Pingu, everyone’s favourite anthropomorphic penguin. The key to its success? There’s no speaking at all: just squawking. And babbling. And chirping. And other weird noises. A couple of episodes of this and your house will be full of Pingu impressions for days – and that’s just the adults.
“He lives in a pineapple under the sea…” If you’re not won over by that description, you’re missing out on one of the most surreal, strange and silly TV programmes ever created.
Perhaps the definitive Nickelodeon cartoon (apart from Doug), Rugrats wins points partly for nostalgia – and partly because of its originality. From the red hair of neurotic Chuckie to Tommy’s cute bald head, the visuals are unique, while the decision to focus on small toddlers’ adventures is not only fun (and funny) but about as close to capturing the joy of kids playtime as television gets.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
By the power of Grayskull!
She-Ra, Princess of Power
For the honour of Grayskull!
This animation brings something new to the table
even if you’ve read Roald Dahl’s brilliant fables.
Purists may frown at the updates on screen,
but playing with playfulness is no sin
– siblings, buses, gamblers added, undaunted?
It’s that kind of twist that Dahl would’ve wanted.
The result lives up to The Gruffalo,
which the same studio made not long ago.
These dark fairytales are revolting – but thankfully,
suitable for viewing by the whole family.
Read our full rhyming review.
Thomas and Friends
Trains are awesome. Especially those called Thomas. So if your kids are familiar with Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s books, these are a must. Those keen on colourful urban adventures may well enjoy the similarly cute Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder. But while one is the hero next door and the other features a chart-topping theme song, they have one thing in common: they’re not trains. Plus they don’t have Ringo Starr as a narrator. Is there a more relaxing sound than the drummer from The Beatles saying the words “Sir Topham Hatt”?
The Morph Files
Ever since Morph first appeared on Tony Hart’s TV show in the 1970s, Aardman’s claymation character has been a joy to watch. Resurrected 20 years later with Neil Morrisey as narrator, Peter Lord and David Sproxton’s nine-minute episodes blended old footage with modern elements (computers!) to spellbinding effect. From the entertaining bickering between our orange hero and his noisy friend Chas to the ever-moldable sets, The Morph Files is a hands-on piece of playful creativity, an enjoyable introduction to the world of stop-motion and a testament to the infinite possibilities of imagination. The only thing better is buying some clay and building a Morph of your own.
Note: The Teletubbies are there too.