Need something to watch with the kids this school holiday? You’re not alone – and the streaming world knows it. From Netflix and YouTube to BBC iPlayer, everyone has their own standalone kids’ VOD product these days, stuffed with shows or films suitable for the little ‘uns.
Sky’s service, Sky Kids, took a step ahead of the competition a while ago, when it signed a deal with Cartoon Network for its vast library of shows, which includes the rights to the infamous Adventure Time, Dexter’s Laboratory and more. On the other hand, there are some creepy Peter Rabbit animations and the weird new CGI Alvin and the Chimpmunks, not to mention the terrifying In the Night Garden.
Looking for the best things you can watch with the kids this week, or the shows that won’t drive you insane? With the service also available for non-Sky customers (using contract-free subscription service NOW TV) for £2.99 a month, we round up the best kids’ series available on Sky and NOW TV. For more information or to sign up for a Kids Pass, click here.
“This is the Earth, our home…” begins Michael Palin at the start of each episode of Clangers. “A tiny, wet planet, lost and alone.”
It’s not the introduction that older viewers will be used to, but the Beeb’s reboot of the Clangers couldn’t be more faithful to the original.
“An idea is always worth having. You just have to know what it’s for,” says Palin, in one of his many charming narrations. His avuncular tones are the perfect fit for The Clanger’s reassuring voice-over, which rejoices in the small details of our creatures’ lives. CGI animation is used, from spinning washing lines and glowing backdrops to sequences floating in space, but there is a focus on the tangible objects that anchor the stop-motion visuals. The result is something that feels as timeless as ever, because it doesn’t alter what made the Clangers special in the first place: its ability to present imagination as the most natural thing in the universe. Cute and comfortingly familiar, Clangers proves you don’t need explosions and fast-paced scripts to entertain young audiences – a warm-hearted reminder that remakes aren’t always a bad thing and that, as Palin says, maybe we’re not so alone after all.
Photo: BBC/Coolabi, Smallfilms and Peter Firmin
Morph (The Amazing Adventures of Morph)
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, and now again, for some Sky original episodes, our orange hero is as spellbinding as ever – and still forms an enjoyable introduction to the creative world of stop-motion, and a testament to the infinite possibilities of imagination.
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 the new Tom and Jerry Show also available.
The Scooby-Doo Show
Between The Scooby-Doo Show and What’s New Scooby Doo?, there’s more Velma here than you can shake a stick at.
The Looney Tunes Show
Don’t have those battered VHS tapes of all the kids series you watched in the 1990s? Don’t miss the opportunity to pass on the tradition to the next generation, with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang all here – and even, for fans of niche sci-fi pastiches, the entertaining Duck Dodgers.
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”?
Yes, the puppet series is still going strong today – and you’re never too old to learn something from Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar, Bert & Ernie and co.
He had us at “lives in a pineapple under the sea”. No matter what age you are, this one of the most surreal, strange and silly TV programmes ever created.
Jan Lachauer and Max Lang’s animation based on the now iconic picture book is a charming wee beast. There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo, but there’s no doubting that this is an absolute gem.
Room on the Broom
After charming everyone’s socks off with The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, Jan Lachauer and Max Lang made this equally lovely animation based on the best-selling book by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Their words and illustrations are beautifully brought to life.
Dora the Explorer
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!
Ben 10 (Ben 10: Omniverse, Classic Ben 10)
A young boy with a magic watch that lets him transform into different aliens? If that premise sounds disturbing, your kids have clearly not been through the Ben 10 phase, which will run from watching episodes non-stop to asking for all the merchandise that goes with it.
One of the most unappreciated cartoon series of the last 20 years. Tiny kids will recognise the childhood inventor’s petty bickering with his meddling sister, Dee-Dee, while adults will be charmed by the knowing wit and Genndy Tartakovsky’s stunning animation.
The Powerpuff Girls
Because who doesn’t love The Powerpuff Girls? Candy-coloured, hyperactive, and irresistibly upbeat.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise
This animated sequel to Transformers: Prime sees Bumblebee return to Earth after prison ship Alchemor crash-lands, leaving him taking charge of a new team of Autobots as they hunt down the escaped Decepticon prisoners. Animated by Polygon Pictures, Hasbro’s animated series was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
The Legend of Korra
If you’ve seen the fantastic animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (no, not film), then make sure you check out its sequel. The Daytime Emmy Award-winning series follows Avatar Korra trying to defend Republic City from spiritual and physical evil forces. The result is epic, stunning, ambitious and brilliant. Not bad going for a kids’ series.
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.
Education TV? Whatever. But CBBC’s historical series, based on the popular book franchise, combines hyperactive puns and visual gags with a whole heap of facts. Witty, clever – and, most of all, very funny.
Duggee is a dog and he leads an after-school club, The Squirrels, in this animated pre-school series, which promotes exercise and learning. If that sounds dull, trust us: it isn’t.
The Warners, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, are three cartoon stars from the 1930s who were locked away on the Warner Bros. studio lot, until they escape in the 1990s. Havoc ensues, as the trio run about parodying Disney moneys, referencing pop culture and slapping sticks with all the verbal silliness and energy of the Marx brothers in their prime.
Finn, possibly the last human alive, and Jake, a shape shifting dog, live together in a tree-house in the land of Ooh, made up of multiple fantasy kingdoms (for instance., the Candy Kingdom and the Ice Kingdom). They go on journeys through these kingdoms, often battling the Ice King (who steals princesses) and trying to win the heart of Princess Bubblegum. Most episodes, they just want to have a good time. It’s got that wonderful, free-wheeling spirit of youth: it has no morals or lessons, rarely bothering with arcs and big climaxes where everything works towards a dramatic conclusion. It’s just two best friends doing cool things.
Two friends, Mordecai (a blue jay) and Rigby (a raccoon), work as groundskeepers at a park, spending their days trying to avoid doing any real work. Enjoyably relatable viewing.
Justice League Unlimited
From Arrow to Agent Carter, comic book TV shows have rarely been so popular or prolific, but what if you want some superheroics with your kids? Amazon Prime Video is the home of a vast library of DC animations, but Justice League Unlimited is available on Sky Kids, and it’s a wonderful reminder that it’s possible to bring together Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and more with a real sense of fun and scale, opening the screen up to all manner of comic book characters.
We Bare Bears
Three bears live together in a cave near San Fran in this endearingly warm series, which combines the relatable concerns of a modern audience (trying to go viral online, flat-sharing websites) with a cute message of support, kindness and friendship. Also, they travel around by standing on top of each other, which is just adorable.