In this golden age of TV, thanks to cable, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and premium providers — like Showtime and HBO — the options abound for groundbreaking, hella entertaining shows for viewers of all ages. But if you’ve got a kid in that oh-so-sensitive/awkward tween stage, finding a show to watch together can feel impossible. Sure, those mind-numbing Caillou days are over (if you were wondering, yes, Caillou is still 4 years old and all signs are pointing to him staying this age for all of eternity) but it can still be a real challenge to find an entertaining and age-appropriate program. So what else in this overabundance of riches can you stream without wanting to run away screaming?
Have no fear: We’ve got you covered. Ahead are some of the best TV shows to watch with your tween. And bonus: Most of these programs are pretty binge-able, a.k.a. the perfect way to spend your next lazy rainy day.
A version of this article was originally published in October 2017.
Hear us out on this one: The reboot of this Bravo classic is an excellent show for kids. Unlike in many a competition show, the contestants are almost all supportive of each other as we watch them bust their butts to create beautiful, wearable works of art in just a day or two. There are so many lessons about trying, failing, and trying again. And yes, mentor Christian Siriano is every bit as fun and quotable as Tim Gunn was back in the day.
‘One Day At a Time’
Based on a 1980s sitcom of the same name, Netflix’s One Day At a Time follows the life of a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. The show tackles some serious subject matter, including alcoholism, sexism, racism, immigration and mental health, but it does so in a light-hearted and accessible way.
‘Alexa & Katie’
Sitcom Alexa & Katie is all about the importance of friendship and support between girls; much like One Day At a Time, though, it does get around to tackling some serious issues with grace. For one thing, one of the show’s two protagonists, Alexa, is battling cancer. But the show never veers into melodrama — and it serves as a great conversation-starter.
There are so many terrific reality shows that are not the Real Housewives or the Kardashians, and NBC’s The Voice is my absolute favorite because the judges (including musician Adam Levine and professional boyfriend Blake Shelton) only playfully make fun of each other and never mock the contestants, which is good because tweens certainly don’t need another lesson in snark and attitude. Plus, the contestants on The Voice have amazing vocal talent.
ABC’s Speechless is a smart comedy about a teenage boy with cerebral palsy who is in a wheelchair and can’t communicate verbally. He uses a laser pointer and a communication board to express himself. IMHO, any show that exposes kids to people with special needs is worth checking out.
You may remember this show from your younger years, and it’s a great one to revisit. Gilmore Girls is about a fast-talking, coffee-loving mother and daughter, and although the premise is medium-mature (the mom had her daughter when she was just 16), the show is truly funny and endearing. Plus, you can get a peek at Milo Ventimiglia (now starring in This Is Us) when he was teenage bad boy Jess. Perfect for older tweens!
If you’ve got Full House nostalgia from the ’80s, then Netflix’s Fuller House is a good one to try. It focuses on a grown-up D.J. Tanner raising her three boys with the help of her sister Stephanie and old friend Kimmy. Yes, it’s corny and cheesy, but also sweet. Plus, John Stamos (who doesn’t ever age??) usually pops by — isn’t that reason enough to watch?
‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’
Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres just makes you feel better about life. She’s fun, quirky and loves to dance, and her long-running talk show on NBC features celebrity interviews and funny clips from the internet. This is a really positive, feel-good show to watch with your tweens. Keep in mind, though: Not every segment is necessarily appropriate for young viewers, so you may want pay attention to the content.
‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
Based on the books by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is definitely a bit dark. It’s about three orphaned children who are sent to live with their closest relative (played by the talented Neil Patrick Harris) who goes about making their lives miserable. Luckily, there is some humor too. This is for the older tween who likes spooky shows.
Andi Mack is a fun, Disney comedy about, well, Andi Mack — a 13-year-old whose life is rocked when her big sister comes back home. Like Gilmore Girls, this show’s premise deals with teen pregnancy, so you have to be comfortable with that. But it’s also about going outside your comfort zone and taking some chances in life.
ABC sitcom Black-ish is about a black family living in a mostly white, upper-class neighborhood. The dad, who grew up in a rougher area, worries that his four kids are assimilating too well into the wealthy community — and that it’s turning them “black-ish.” This show is a great way to open up a dialogue with your tweens about race and diversity.
Warning: You will not glean any great messages about life from this silly show about a superhero (Captain Man) and his teen sidekick (Kid Danger) but there is just something charming about this Nickelodeon program. That said, Kid Danger’s little sister, Piper, is beyond bratty, so you sort of have to ignore her antics and point out to your children that they must never behave like her. There’s a lot of crime-fighting too, but it’s all good-natured and ridiculous. No fear factor here.
‘Just Add Magic’
Available on Amazon Prime, Just Add Magic is a show about three best friends who discover a magical cookbook — and the strange things (good and bad) that follow. There is a lot of mystery, but it’s not super-scary. I love the focus on friendships, a multigenerational family (the grandmother is a key part of the story) and cooking.
Disney’s Backstage is a show that looks like a reality show but is actually a scripted drama. It focuses on the kids at a performing arts high school. (Did you just start singing the Fame soundtrack? Then this program could be for you.) These talented kids have to deal with the highs and lows of competition while building friendships and navigating the challenges of high school.
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