The pop culture-related question I am asked (and overhear or read) the most is, “What’s a good show for my tween to watch?”
Which might seem like a simple, straightforward question . . . but it’s really a pretty complicated one! First of all, what’s a tween? And if a show is good for tweens, does that mean it’s too mature for younger kids (like siblings) or too baby-ish for older kids? And what makes a good show? Good story? Educational? Something with a message? Nothing with a message, because that’s annoying? Reality? Animated? Scripted?
I can’t speak for every tween parent (or, certainly any tween ever). But I can tell you what shows my own daughters have loved. And I can give you the parameters and categories I’m using. Basically, what I’m saying is that this list includes the best TV shows for tweens, according to me.
Tweens, for the purposes of this post (and, I think everything else in the world about tweens), are kids ages 8 to 12. All of these shows will appeal to kids in that age range. However, because lots of us have younger kids as well and some of us are conservative in what we allow even our teens to watch, you can assume these shows are also good for kids in other stages unless otherwise specified.
You can listen to The Couch podcast episode S2E11 to hear me talk about these shows (and many more) in depth. You’ll also hear Amanda share her very strong opinion that kids’ shows don’t need to be teaching her kids lessons, while I admit that I love a TV show full of lessons I want them to learn. To each her own.
If you listen to our conversation, you’ll also hear us wax eloquent about our deep love for the delightful series on Amazon Prime, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. You guys? It is SO GOOD. So good! It is sweet and timeless and fun and gentle and let me just put it this way: My 5-year-old, my 12-year-old, and I all cried when we watched the series finale.
So Gortimer Gibbons is the gold standard, but it’s also just the beginning. Here’s a list of other great shows for your tweens! (In no particular order but sorted into general categories.)
- Just Add Magic (Amazon Prime) – Three tween girls find a magical cookbook. A little intense for younger viewers, but not scary for tweens. Sweet and timeless show.
- The Kicks (Amazon Prime) – A girl joins a new soccer team after her family moves across the country. Based on books by Olympic soccer player Alex Morgan.
- Project MC2 (Netflix) – Four smart, trendy girls are friends and spies who solve mysteries and save the day with their awesome STEM skills.
- The Worst Witch (Netflix) – Young tweens attend a school for witches. It’s like Harry Potter if there were no Voldemort. Bonus points to this show for starring normal-looking kids.
- The Who Was? Show (Netflix) – Scripted sketch show with teens teaching funny, memorable lessons about famous figures from history.
- Brain Games (Netflix) – Educational but fun (no, really!) show about how the brain works.
- Julie’s Greenroom (Netflix) – Julie Andrews and puppets teach us about the theater. Just as delightful as it sounds!
- When Calls the Heart (Netflix) – This Hallmark series is a a big hit with many tweens.
- Heartland (Netflix) – Another long-running series that tweens love. Multigenerational Canadian family on a horse ranch.
- Annedroids (Amazon Prime) – Tween and her friends build androids and do experiments. We haven’t watched this one yet, but I want to!
- Dino Dana (Amazon Prime) – Young tween loves dinosaurs and gets the ability to imagine them into real life.
- Wizards of Waverly Place (Amazon Prime) – A family of wizards runs a restaurant and prepares for a wizard competition. Stars Selena Gomez.
- Sabrina the Teenaged Witch (Hulu) – A teen girl is raised by her aunts, who happen to be witches. Oh, and she’s a witch, too. (This is not the new, scary, grown-up Sabrina. This is the one from the 90s!)
- Girl Meets World (Amazon Prime) – Spinoff of Boy Meets World, with Cory and Topanga’s daughter. Disney show.
- Raven’s Home (Amazon Prime) – Single mom and her best friend raise their kids together. The mom and her son are psychic. The mom is Raven, and this is a spinoff of That’s So Raven. Disney show.
- Stuck in the Middle (Amazon Prime) – Young teen navigates the world being the middle of her six siblings. Disney show.
- Sydney to the Max (Amazon Prime) – Sydney lives with her dad (Max) and her grandma. The show alternates between stories about her life as a tween and flashbacks to her dad’s life when he was also a middle schooler. Disney show.
- The Thundermans (Hulu) – Silly but fun Nickelodeon series about a family with superpowers.
- Knight Squad (Amazon Prime) – Two students at a magical school for knights keep each other’s secrets and become friends. Nickelodeon show.
- The Deep (Netflix) – Animated show about a family of underwater explorers.
- Spy Kids: Mission Critical (Netflix) – Brother and sister attend a children’s spy academy and save the world while they’re at it. My kids liked this better than the original movies.
- Phineas and Ferb (Amazon Prime) – Two stepbrothers and their friends spend their summer vacation on the most creative adventures while battling their big sister and the local supervillain. Super funny and clever with so many catchy songs!
- Milo Murphy’s Law (Amazon Prime) – The great-great-great-grandson of the original namesake of Murphy’s Law has adventures. And misadventures.
- Kim Possible (Amazon Prime) – Two high school students balance the trials of adolescence with fighting crime around the world.
- Dragons: Race to the Edge (Netflix) – Animated series based on the How to Train Your Dragon movies.
- Spirit Riding Free (Netflix) – Animated series based on the movie, Spirit, about a girl in the Wild West, her friends, and their horses.
- Carmen Sandiego (Netflix) – Based on the computer game and game show, this animated series features Carmen, a globe-trotting thief. Might be too intense for some younger viewers.
- Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix) – This is a bit creepy and quirky for my kids at this point, but I know lots of families who love this show based on the books!
- The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Netflix) – This and basically every other cooking competition are big draws for tweens!
- Get Out of My Room (Amazon Prime) – A DIY makeover show for kids sharing rooms. Other DIY or home renovation shows might be good, too.
- American Ninja Warrior (Amazon Prime) – The adult version is fun, but the kids’ version (American Ninja Warrior Junior) might be even more inspiring to young audiences!
- World of Dance (Hulu) – This global competition show features dancers from different countries and different styles. Judges are Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo.
- Shark Tank (Hulu) – Entrepreneurs and inventors try to secure investors for their big ideas.
- America’s Funniest Home Videos (Hulu) – Mishaps, practical jokes, and strange behavior caught on camera.
This list only includes shows that are available to stream, but they’re not all free. (And some links in this post may be affiliate links, which means if you click and buy, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.) However, you might also find these shows On Demand if you have cable or available on DVD at your library.
For more discussion about all these shows and more, listen to The Couch podcast episode S2E11. Amanda and I have no shortage of opinions when it comes to, well, anything — but especially children’s entertainment!