I'm a Family Editor and I Have Zero Guilt Letting My Kid Binge This Wildly Underrated TV Show

A zen panda bear teaches your kid how to navigate big feelings

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Like most modern parents, I occasionally (read: more than occasionally) rely on screens to keep my kids occupied and entertained while I do various chores around the house, answer work emails and other general grown-up business. And while I’m mostly OK with relying on this free babysitter when necessary, I have noticed an unpleasant correlation between the amount of TV and types of shows my preschooler watches and his behavior. You can guess what the chart looks like—the more TV my kid watches or the more stimulating the programming, then the worse his behavior is. One notable exception? Stillwater, an animated series on AppleTV+ that should be on every parent’s radar. (Psst: Bluey is another standout in children’s programming but you knew that already.)

Based on the 2005 children’s picture book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth, Stillwater follows three kids, Karl, Michael and Addy, and their interactions with their giant panda neighbor Stillwater. As the siblings navigate the usual childhood squabbles and challenges, the endlessly patient and oh-so kind Stillwater is there to help with a perfectly-suited story (and usually a laugh or two). Here’s why I’m obsessed with it.

1. It Isn’t Overly Stimulating

At the risk of sounding a million years old, what is with all the bright colors, quick scene changes and loud noises in childrens’ programming these days? It feels like creators are preparing our youth for a lifetime of scrolling 30-second TikToks and short attention spans. It’s…not good. Stillwater, on the other hand, takes a gentler approach, with tranquil imagery and sounds that are engaging yet soothing. After watching an episode or two, my kid doesn’t seem wired and agitated (no offense Paw Patrol) but rather content and at ease.

2. It Teaches Kids About Their Feelings

As part of the gentle parenting generation, I have spent many hours trying to talk to my kid about his big feelings and teach him how to label his emotions so that he can better understand how to cope with them. To be honest, the results have been mixed. I’m not ashamed to admit that an episode of Stillwater is a far better teacher than I’ll ever be. Through calm examples and storytelling, Stillwater offers the kids a deeper understanding of their emotions, plus tools to help them deal with them (like when a rainy day ruins Michael’s fun and Stillwater helps him find a new perspective, or when Addy really wants to spend Halloween with her friends instead of her siblings and Stillwater helps her prioritize her own needs).

“I believe kids will learn more by watching a beautiful show like Stillwater than just being told what to do,” says mindfulness expert Mallika Chopra, who serves as a consultant on Stillwater. “I am in awe, to be honest, of how the colors, music, and animation of the television series bring these ideas to life.” I couldn’t agree more.

3. It’s Entertaining for Kids (and Adults)

Parents should know that Stillwater doesn’t offer the same amount of silliness that, say, Bluey does. Having said that, my kid will happily watch multiple episodes and is highly engaged when doing so. The visuals are so stunning, the characters and conflict so relatable (in one episode, Addy gets frustrated with her brother’s toy-hogging; in another, Karl is angry that nobody believes his rocket ship can really fly) and the pacing is so enjoyable that kids and grown-ups can’t help but be drawn into the show.

PureWow Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Stillwater is a sincere and soothing show that teaches kids how to navigate the challenges of childhood, without the usual repetitive storylines, bad writing, fluorescent colors and cheesy tunes of kids’ TV. It’s a show parents can feel good about turning on and may even be amazed at what lessons their kid picks up from the ultra-zen panda bear.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...