There’s a whole heap of brilliant kids television on Lightbox. But where to start? Anna Gowan runs down the best shows to watch with your kids these school holidays.
Paw Patrol (Seasons 1-3)
Parents, teachers and nannies will weep tears of gratitude as Ryder and the gang return to protect the shoreside community of Adventure Bay.
For the uninitiated (how, I ask? HOW?), Paw Patrol centres on a group of pups with skills based on real-life professions – a firefighter, a police officer – and they live in these super sweet dog houses that turn into vehicles. (Like dog caravans, only cooler.)
Paw Patrol is like a cult for 2+ year olds. My daughter watched one episode at kindy and now speaks in an American accent and only answers to ‘Chase’. You have been warned.
This fast-paced animated series has a nice local connection – POW Studios in Wellington provide audio and post production for the series, which was created in South Korea. Seven local actors (including up-and-coming star of Sundance Thomasin McKenzie) lend their voices to the series. You won’t find any Kiwi accents here though – Nori also airs in the States and is dubbed for Korean audiences.
Nori, the little roller coaster who could, is fighting the takeover of his theme park home. The animation is really impressive, including the motion-master-esque roller coaster scenes as Nori cruises around his theme park home. While not pitched at pre-schoolers, my four-year-old enjoyed this one (in spite of the slightly menacing looking roller-coaster villain, complete with evil eyebrows).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Seasons 1-2
Older kids can go back to where it all began with the world’s most famous pizza-loving testosterone-laden turtles. This animated origins series tracks Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo’s reptilian bromance as they rise to the surface after being mutated into Ninja ass-kicking turtles.
The series retains much of the energy and chemistry that made the series so iconic in the 80s. This time round the voice talent includes American Pie’s, er, pie enthusiast Jim (aka Jason Biggs) and Sean Astin aka The Goonies’ Mikey Walsh and Frodo’s sidekick, Samwise Gamgee.
Henry Danger (Season 1)
What kid doesn’t want to be a superhero? Henry Hart is a 13-year-old living the dream – he’s the sidekick of superhero Captain Man, who’s looking to hand over the reins and needs Henry’s help. Of course, Henry’s sworn to secrecy, so has to keep his new gig quiet from both family and friends.
Henry Danger originally screened on Nickelodeon and features a cast of typically precocious tweens. Lightbox is doing a good job of targeting this age group, with other shows in a similar vein including Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, School of Rock and Victorious.
Blaze and the Monster Machine (Season 1)
Science, technology and monster trucks… prepare to make your kid’s world implode with Blaze and the Monster Machine, a loud, fast-paced animated series for both pre-schoolers and primary school aged kids.
Pitched as a CGI interactive educational series intended to teach kids about STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), this Nickolodeon series focuses on Blaze, a loud and chatty monster truck and his human driver, AJ.
Blaze and the Monster Machine totally harks back to Cars, and features a cast of characters, some human (including AJ’s mechanic mate, Gaby), some trucks, some animal-truck hybrids … and loads of shouting. Consider investing in headphones.
When I was a kid, I was desperate to be a twin. The thought of being a quad would’ve blown my mind.
This live-action American comedy series for tweens follows 10-year-old quads Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn who fight a lot, have little in common, but are forced to band together to solve life’s problems.
The quads play to type –there’s the responsible girl, the bookish geek, the ladies’ man and the comedy relief. It’s not a show for subverting sterotypes but it’s fun nonetheless.
School of Rock (Season 1)
Richard Linklater’s noughties classic is given the Nick treatment in this series for tweens. Tony Cavalero takes over Jack Black’s reigns as Dewey Finn, a musician who teaches a new class how to rock.Inevitably this is less about the teacher and more about the kids – there’s plenty of budding romances, unrequired crushes, tests of friendship and really great tween hair. Who knew puberty was so kind?!
Penguins of Madagascar (Seasons 2-3)
The lovable waddling larrikans from the hit movie Madagascar score their own show with Penguins of Madagascar, a co-pro between Nickolodeon and Dreamworks. A gang of penguins in Central Park Zoo set out on a series of missions … but it all turns pear-shaped when Julien, King of the Lemurs, arrives at the zoo and challenges the penguins’ dominance.Dreamworks’ hand in this is clear – it’s funny, the characters are classic and works for both parents and older kids. (Hallelujah!)
Fresh Beat Band of Spies (Season 1)
Move over Scooby gang, there’s a new group in town (complete with an animal side-kick) and they’re hell bent on solving wacky mysteries. In Fresh Beat Band of Spies four friends and their chimp Bo Monkey use nifty spy magnets to bring down baddies and solve mysteries.
This animated series from Nickolodeon is quick-paced and fun entertainment for the primary school set – and surprisingly, it totally takes the piss. What’s not to love about a series featuring a recurring guest called Champ Von Champ Von Winnerchamp, a kleptomaniac with his own cheer squad?
Victorious (Seasons 1-3)
Fans of Ariana Grande are set for a treat: all 57 episodes of Victorious (the Nickolodeon series that launched Grande’s career) are now available on Lightbox. Tori Vega is living the tween dream – she’s the newest recruit at Hollywood Arts, a performing arts school for the supremely talented and good-looking.
Tori never realised she was gifted and only finds herself at the school after she takes the place of her talent-less (yet incredibly forviging) sister, Trina. While Tori is 16, this series feels tailored to a younger audience than older teens. It’s an easy, harmless watch with a likeable lead (Victoria Justice).
Little Charmers (Season 1)
Hazel, Posie and Lavender are wide-eyed fairies (aka charmers) in the magical land of Charmville. They’re just getting the hang of their magical special powers, resulting in plenty of wayward adventures. While not necessarily for pre-schoolers, I live in fear of my four-year-old discovering this show. She would LOVE it. Heavy on pink and purple, Little Charmers is clearly and unashamedly targeted at girls.
Ultimately it’s about three friends helping each other out – a nice message to remind yourself of when you re-mortgage the house to buy more Little Charmers merch.
Hey Duggee (Season 1-3)
This BBC series is a little gem and a firm favourite with our kids (aged two and four). Targeted at pre-schoolers, the episodes are short and sweet and feature a cast of likeable characters and cute and colourful animation. Dugee, a lovable dog, is the leader of a Squirrel Club, an activity group for kids (aka ‘squirrels’). The kids complete activities, go on adventures and win badges for their achievements. Like another Lightbox favourite, Sarah and Duck, there’s a narrator who speaks to the squirrels which makes the show feel more interactive and inclusive for the younger set.
My Pet and Me (Season 3)
This fantastic CBeebies show is a bit of a rare find – a live action show that’s suitable for both pre-schoolers and primary school aged kids and it doesn’t feature a bunch of Australians singing and dancing about hot potatoes and ba-nay-nays.
My Pet and Me is a fab educational show where two (adult) hosts take turns meeting kids and their pets. One week they’ll be off to the farm to watch a sheep compete in a country show, the next they’re in the city visiting guinea pigs.
It’s informative but not boring, with songs and animations to keep the pace up. The interactions between the kids and the hosts are lovely, too.
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