Kids' Entertainment

HAMBURG, GERMANY - MARCH 02: Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie during the presentation of the ...
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The Best PBS Kids Shows Of All Time

The catchy theme songs and inspirational life lessons alone...

Public broadcaster PBS has put out so many amazing kid shows that it has become a generational identifying factor. Your age can be determined simply by saying you watched Sesame Street pre-Elmo, or you were a huge Clifford The Big Red Dog stan. PBS Kids have maintained a tradition of putting out programming for kids that is once engaging and fun, colorful and sweet. A safe space for little ones that is so beloved Fred Rogers himself defended the publicly funded channel to the U.S. Senate in 1969 when there was concern it would be defunded.

“I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable,” Rogers told Sen. Pastore at the time, per American Rhetoric, “we will have done a great service for mental health.” His words helped to save PBS from being defunded, and by extension save quality children’s programming.

PBS Kids shows tend towards being educational, no matter the age group watching, and as Fred Rogers noted, focused on helping kids deal with every day emotions. Whether it’s little toddlers figuring out numbers or preschoolers learning social skills or older kids delving into the creative world of their imagination, there’s never been a shortage of excellent choices.

Here are the best ones.

Sesame Street

‘Sesame Street’ is a childhood stand-by.

There is no PBS Kids list without Sesame Street. The show featuring Muppets and adults and kids and songs and counting and cookies has managed to evolve seamlessly with every generation since it first aired on PBS in 1970. Sesame Street has never shied away from dealing with serious issues that affect kids, things like racism and bullying, mental health issues and fear. And I suspect it will never stop changing the lives of the kids who watch it.

Arthur

‘Arthur’ is an incredible show for kids.

Who knew a well-dressed, bespectacled aardvark would weave himself so deeply into the fabric of our lives? Arthur, the animated series geared to kids aged 4-8, is based on the books of the same name by Marc Brown. The main character, who opens each show by strutting down the street to a super catchy theme song by Ziggy Marley, deals with issues with his sisters D.W., his friends, and his parents that kids have been relating to since 1996.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ is a great show for little ones.

How best to describe Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood? The sweet little show based on a character from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood decades earlier, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has become massively popular with kids aged two to four who have taken to the show. Daniel and his friends deal with issues like anger over a new sibling, potty-training, and social struggles with new kids in town.

Bill Nye The Science Guy

‘Bill Nye The Science Guy’ is another great PBS show.Graskic Roki/YouTube

It’s not just little kids who get to enjoy PBS Kids; older ones and even adults love Bill Nye The Science Guy. The show featuring the iconic scientist with the bow tie makes science not just easier for kids to understand, but also wildly fun. It’s been running since 1993 and it seems as though Nye himself has seeped into every corner of our lives. Lucky us.

Clifford The Big Red Dog

‘Clifford The Big Red Dog’ is a fan favorite.

What dog-loving kid out there wouldn’t love a massive, talking red dog who can do things like get your ball off the roof for you? Clifford The Big Red Dog has been entertaining kids aged 3-7 with Emily and Clifford, her aforementioned big red dog, since 2000. The two pals have been going on gentle little adventures and generally living their best lives, singing songs and helping out their neighbors with all of their hard-to-reach problems.

Zoboomafoo

'Zoboomafoo' is an oldy but goodie.

Two brothers who are super passionate about nature and the wild world of animals team up with a lemur puppet for Zoboomafoo. This PBS Kids show ran for two seasons, fron 1999-2001, but the hosts are so infectious with their love of animals it really stands the test of time. There were spinoffs like Kratts’ Creatures and the animated show Wild Kratts too.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Fred Rogers is basically a founding father of PBS Kids.Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The show where it all started. Where other popular series were developed like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and the new Donkey Hodie. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a quiet little trendsetter, a show that was gentle and kind and taught kids to talk about their feelings. No list of PBS Kids shows would be complete without it. Kids’ programming wouldn’t be complete without it.

Caillou

'Caillou' is a great bonding experience for the whole family.Caillou/YouTube

Hear me out here; I know Caillou, the show about an especially whiney little boy and his family, has many a detractor. When it was canceled after a 13 year run on PBS Kids, parents celebrated mightily on social media. But let’s be honest here. That’s the best part of watching TV with your kids. Caillou and his little sister Rosie made kids laugh and bonded parents over their shared experience. You can’t ask for better than that.

Thomas & Friends

'Thomas & Friends' has been chugging along for decades.Thomas & Friends/YouTube

My kids loved Thomas & Friends and I imagine their kids will love it too. The British show about talking engines and boats and planes has been going strong on PBS Kids since 1984, and I suspect the merchandise has played no small part in that success.

Magic School Bus

‘Magic School Bus’ is a classic.Magic School Bus/YouTube

This animated series starring the voice of Lily Tomlin as Miss Frizzle, a teacher with access to an incredibly magic school bus, is genius. It managed to be funny and informative in a way that kids found palatable. So palatable, in fact, that the 1994 series Magic School Bus was recently renewed on PBS Kids for a whole new generation to enjoy. And let’s not forget that amazing theme song, always an integral part to a great kids’ series.