In my last surge of nesting, I had convinced myself that a Roku would be a maternity leave necessity. Little did I realize just how timely this on-the-whim, Black Friday purchase would become. Three and a half months later, as we faced the beginnings of COVID-19 and stay-at-home-orders, our Roku became a well-worn avenue for streaming our entertainment.
With all the heaviness of 2020, finding shows that the entire family can enjoy escaping into together has been such a joy-sparking, leisurely lifesaver for me.
Here are ten of my favorite family friendly shows and movies
(Disclaimer: These picks may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s completely OK. In this parenting season of being inundated with kid-centered movies and tv shows, I have become acutely aware of which ones I find to be mentally palatable—even after viewing on repeat. I am sharing with the hope that other parents may find some family friendly refuge in this collection.)
Hilda, Netflix (TV-Y7)
Based on the graphic novels by Luke Pearson, this whimsical animated series stole my heart upon first viewing and has become even more endearing and captivating each time we revisit it. While there are some spooky moments, there is also a good mixture of fantasy, enchantment, friendship, and essential problem solving. Hilda is equal parts kind-hearted and fearless!
Bluey, Disney+/DisneyNOW (TV-Y)
Though each episode of this Australian preschool series about a family of lovable dogs is only seven minutes long, they each jam-packed with funny, heartfelt, frustrating, and inspiring experiences for parents and kids alike. Bluey (age six), her sister Bingo (age four) and their mom and dad, Bandit and Chili, are all heelers living in a suburb in Australia.
Many of the episodes feature the sisters involved in simple, yet creative imaginative play with the humorous involvement of their parents. There are so many hilariously relatable interactions between the parents and their daughters. I have also been moved by the gentle and authentic approach to addressing social/emotional development.
I recommend starting with the episodes entitled “Takeaway” and “Sleepytime” as they capture the full spectrum of greatness that this show is.
Ponyo, HBO MAX (G)
I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli films, and Ponyo is one of my favorites. You can imagine how excited I was that my four-year-old became captivated by this magical storyline. We’ve watched it too many times to count. This tale of a young boy connecting with a goldfish princess who longs to be human is visually stunning and mentally engaging.
Emily’s Wonder Lab, Netflix (TV-G)
While this was only released recently, my daughters are already huge fans. I love how well Emily communicates and engages her young scientists in STEM concepts. The real-time experiments are simple and exciting. I also love how this show normalizes the fact that Emily is nine months pregnant all while being a powerhouse scientist.
Big City Greens, Disney+/DisneyNOW (TV-Y7)
I have full-on belly-laughed at specific episodes in this heartwarming and quirky animated series. It follows the life of Cricket Green, a country boy, and his family who relocate to the city from their rural dwellings. Amidst the fast-paced humor, there are down-to-earth life lessons and truths that have kept me coming back for more.
Song of the Sea, Netflix (PG)
Come for the breathtaking animation, stay for the emotionally-inspiring storyline. This movie features two siblings immersed in Irish mythology and legends. Together, they navigate grief and life obstacles to free fairy creatures trapped in the modern world. They also strengthen their brother/sister bond. My girls love the music in this film, and we’ve added it to their bedtime playlist. It’s notable how well this movie conveys the power of embracing and processing big feelings.
Julie and the Phantoms, Netflix (TV-G)
If you’re a fan of director Kenny Ortega’s iconic films (Hocus Pocus, High School Musical, Descendants 1,2 and 3), then there is a good chance you’ll be hooked on this Netflix series about a musically talented teen who finds herself in a supernatural connection with three teen boyband ghosts. My six-year-old and I binge-watched it in a little over a week, and we were so captivated by the music (be sure to check out the soundtrack on Spotify) and the fashion. Though my husband claims the acting was a little cheesy, I appreciated the honest portrayal of relevant concepts such as self-acceptance, self-expression, and navigating loss.
Black is King, Disney+ (TV-14)
Don’t let the rating steer you away; despite a few theatrically serious moments, this cinematic work of art is filled with empowerment, excellence, and long overdue representation of Black and African culture. I felt very comfortable watching this (over and over again) with my four-year-old and six-year-old. Plus, the built-in dance party makes this an easy choice.
Upside Down Magic, DisneyNOW (TV-PG)
I love that this movie focuses on self-confidence and identifying the strengths in differences. Nory is a young girl with magical capabilities. However, because her powers are different, she, along with a handful of her peers, are labeled as UDMs and isolated from the rest of the Sage Academy magic school. Nory and her unconventional peers set out to prove the headmaster wrong and show that their overlooked gifts are just what the academy needs.
Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, Netflix (TV-PG)
I’m not usually a huge fan of dinosaurs, but my daughters and I indulged in this new Netflix original on a recent Saturday, and it did not disappoint! This binge-worthy animated series follows a group of teens who are chosen to become the first campers on Isla Nubar in the Jurassic World theme park. Drama and thrills ensue when (in true Jurassic Park fashion) the kids encounter more thanthey bargained for. The depth of the characters and the plot twists led me to watch the entire season in one sitting.
Happy family friendly viewing!