The 15 Best Shows for Toddlers to Turn on When You Need Some Downtime

Age-appropriate programming for little kids

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Toddlers are notoriously high maintenance, which is why screen time is particularly appealing when you need to, say, cook or clean (or take some deep breaths and a few sips of wine). Still, finding age-appropriate programming isn’t always easy and the last thing anyone wants is an overstimulated toddler. For this reason, we rounded up the very best shows for toddlers that are mellow, educational and well-suited to viewers between the ages of one and three. (Just keep in mind that the AAP recommends avoiding screen time for children under 18 months old, so wait until then before trying one of the following wholesome picks.)

The 30 Best (and Not Scary) Movies for Toddlers

1. Puffin Rock

  • Run time: 22 minutes

Storylines with only the mildest drama, charming and innocent characters, the scenic backdrop of the Irish coast and a narrator with a soothing lilt—it all combines to make a delightful series that will calm any restless toddler. Indeed, Puffin Rock is especially well-suited to the very young ones who can’t (and shouldn’t) withstand excess stimulation and to parents who want their tots to watch something mellow and wholesome.

2. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

  • Run time: 28 minutes

This riff on Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, featuring animated versions of his beloved puppets, is gentle, calm and entirely devoted to social emotional learning. The episodes, which cover everything from sharing to doctor’s visits, are replete with positive messages about emotional regulation, friendship and family. (In other words, everything your toddler needs to learn.)

3. Charlie’s Colorforms City

  • Run time: 23 minutes

Here, a chipper and interactive animated series that encourages viewer participation and boasts the perfect balance between colorful graphics and gentle pace. The series revolves around a young boy, Charlie, and his vivid imagination, which he uses to turn everyday occurrences into fantastical stories. Best of all, critical thinking, shape matching and other developmental skills are incorporated into each storyline so young kids can use their brains while they watch.

4. Llama Llama

  • Run time: 24 minutes

Based on the beloved namesake book by Anna Dewdney, this sweet and wholesome show about a single (llama) mom, her son (llama llama) and his peer group is full of valuable social emotional lessons. It also features the voice talent of Jennifer Garner as the mom, and let’s just say her character is so gentle and understanding that she gives every parent something to aspire to during the terrible twos and threes.

5. Sesame Street

  • Run time: 54 minutes

Little explanation needed here—namely because Sesame Street is a kid’s programming classic that was most likely around when you were in diapers and is still going strong. Introduce your toddler to Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the rest of the gang and you’ll see why it has stood the test of time. Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fun educational show that promotes diversity, you can’t go wrong with Sesame Street.

6. Trash Truck

  • Run time: 12 to 15 minutes

This offbeat show about a 6-year-old boy and his best friend, an anthropomorphized trash truck, is beautifully animated and sure to captivate the imagination of toddlers. Better still, empathy features prominently in the gentle episodes and the storylines all impart valuable social-emotional lessons without being too heavy-handed about it.

7. Blue’s Clues

  • Run time: 30 minutes

Another long-running show that many millennials will remember from their own youth, Blue’s Clues has featured several different hosts over the years but the concept has remained the same; it’s an interactive show with a gentle pace, an enthusiastic narrator and a cute (non-verbal) dog who presents problem solving challenges to viewers by leaving behind various clues. It’s also a surefire way to keep younger kids engaged while getting their wheels to turn.

8. Peppa Pig

  • Run time: 18 minutes

Peppa Pig is a beloved British animated show with a low-key production style that doesn’t overstimulate and allows its particularly clever breed of comedy to shine. Each 18-minute episode contains three brief stories, all of which revolve around the everyday misadventures of a very endearing family of pigs, so it’s particularly easy to limit screen time to shorter stints. Plus, it’s a highly entertaining watch that boasts plenty of appeal to both children and adults.

9. Teletubbies

  • Run time: 15 minutes

This oldie-but-goodie is a BBC show that dates back to the late '90s and is specifically intended for the very youngest TV viewers. The Teletubbies consist of Tinky-Winky, Laa Laa, Dipsy and Po—a group of friends or family members (we’re not sure) who romp around in a magical land all day, radiating unadulterated happiness. They also have TVs in their bellies which occasionally air scenes of real life kids doing wholesome real life stuff. The Teletubbies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea—you either love them or they give you the creeps—but the show is decidedly toddler-friendly nevertheless.

10. The Wiggles

  • Run time: 22 minutes

Here, a rare live action show that caters to the very little ones. In case you aren’t familiar, the Wiggles are a four-person musical group from Australia who have a TON of fun singing goofy songs about science, math and other educational topics. They’re very silly and very energetic, and their TV series is whimsical, a little over-the-top and reliably entertaining.

11. Peep and the Big Wide World

  • Run time: 22 minutes

Tune into Peep and the Big Wide World for adorable, stripped-down animation and a whole lot of learning, all of which takes place in a large urban park that the main character—a newly hatched chicken—refers to as the “big wide world.” It’s a very cute concept and every episode serves up a very simple, age-appropriate science lesson for the toddler crowd.

12. Baby Einstein

  • Run time: 24 minutes

Toddlers under the age of two who are only just being introduced to screen time would benefit from Baby Einstein, an exceptionally calm and gentle show. Each episode features a combination of goofy puppetry and real life images of wild animals, all set to a soundtrack of classical music and with no dialogue whatsoever. It might sound boring, but you’d be surprised—the imagery is actually quite enchanting, the music is beautiful and it’s an excellent way to let your toddler enjoy screen time without risking overstimulation.

13. Tayo the Little Bus

  • Run time: 14 minutes

This South Korean show about a little bus and his group of friends is very sweet and although Tayo, the main character, is very mischievous, the trouble he gets himself into always yields a valuable lesson. Parents might find the voice acting mildly irritating, but on the whole it’s a decent show that’s not too flashy and full of positive messages.

14. Word Party

  • Run time: 14 minutes

Here, a toddler-friendly animated show about a group of four baby animals who spend each episode singing, dancing, playing…and quite often getting frustrated with their own limited ability to communicate verbally. A resolution is always found, though, and the success is celebrated with a “word party.” Parents should know that this show does have educational value but it might be grating for folks who don’t like hearing baby talk from cartoon characters.

15. Beat Bugs

  • Run time: 15 minutes

The concept behind Beat Bugs is undeniably funny and at times slightly ridiculous in that the storyline of every episode revolves around a band of bug friends acting out an extremely literal interpretation of a Beatles song. That said, the episodes are highly engaging and loaded with positive messages and, of course, the music is good.

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