Summer was great and all, but curfews are back in session because it's time to get ready for the first day of school! While many kids will be heading back to school in a new grade, others are experiencing the transition for the first time. And what better way to get your little ones excited to hit the books than a little screentime with their favorite TV shows.
The first day of school can be exciting, but a new school year can also bring feelings of anxiety, fear, and nervousness. As adults, we can get antsy about starting new jobs, so it's only natural that our kids can feel the same way about school. First days mean new friends, new teachers, new experiences, and new environments.
Fortunately, we have a number of our favorite children’s TV shows to fall back on for motivation and emotional support. The kid-friendly shows featured on this list all have solid first day of school themed episodes that can help our little ones understand the role school and nurturing teachers play in our lives. Also, the joy of naptime! And for tweens moving on to middle school, those awkward “growing up” phases have not been forgotten.
The Wonder Years: “Day One”
The Wonder Years may be a little dated, but it never gets old. In this episode, Kevin starts high school. He’s intimidated about being the “little guy,” and his obnoxious older brother goes to the school, which means one more bully to look out for. Plus, his best friend got into a private school and an old friend from elementary school who recently moved back into town won’t stop talking about all of their embarassing tales from their days as fourth graders together. Kevin has to learn how to fit in with a new crowd, maintain self confidence and do well in school.
Watch The Wonder Years on Hulu.
Karma's World: “I Am Karma”
Season 1, Episode 1 of Karma’s World — “I Am Karma” — opens up with Karma excited about her first day of middle school. She’s looking forward to new friends, music classes, and homework — yes homework. Karma follows the story of an ambitious little girl who wants to make an impact in the world using her music. The Netflix animated series was created by Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris, and inspired by his oldest daughter. The series has three seasons so far and has been praised for its representation and empowering messages to girls of color.
“It means the world to me that I can create something that not only my family enjoys, but that families worldwide are able to enjoy,” the father of four previously shared with Romper. “And it’s a sense of empowerment that is being instilled in kids, especially young girls. And me being a girl dad, what more could I want?”
Watch Karma’s World on Netflix.
Peanuts: “Lucy’s School”
The latest Peanuts installment premiering on Apple TV+ called Lucy’s School is a tribute to teachers. “The Peanuts gang are anxious about starting at a new school in the Fall, inspiring Lucy to start her own school instead, but teaching isn’t as easy as it sounds,” the synopsis reads. Lucy’s School pays homage to educators and the impact they can have on kids’ lives. It also explores the “fear of change” in a new environment, and how Lucy overcomes those fears with the support of her friends.
Watch Lucy’s School on Apple TV+.
Proud Family: Louder and Prouder: “New Kids on the Block”
In Season 1, Episode 1, Penny Proud is starting high school in the rebooted Disney animated series and there are a lot of changes! From new “woke” neighbors to some serious puberty changes in a few of her friends. The original Proud Family captured the millennial generation when it premiered in the early 2000s and now it has new fans in the Gen Z realm in Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
Watch Proud Family: Louder and Prouder on Disney+.
Finny The Shark: “First Day of School”
In this 11-minute short, Finny is off to his day of school with his new Wonder Shark lunchbox. During the day he helps his friend, shy little Myrtle the Turtle overcome her first-day jitters, enjoy school, and make new friends herself, including Chloe, Fiona, Oscar the octopus, Lea, and Mister Magellan, their teacher. Finny The Shark is a preschool series created in 2020. The song, “Time for school, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, Time for school, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, Time for school, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo,” is a catchy one for Baby Shark fans. Also the tune at the end, “Let's go home doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!”
Watch Finny The Shark’s first day of school episode on YouTube.
Dora the Explorer: “First Day of School”
In Season 5, Episode 6, Dora, Boots, and Tico are off to begin their first day. Dora has to help the two navigate to their classes on time. Meanwhile, Boots and Tico get their first lessons in English and Spanish. The day is going well until Swiper swaps Boots and Tico’s lunches! The episode features catchy songs like “The First Day of School” and the "Me llamo" song. This is also the first episode where the character Camilla makes her appearance and the 13th time Dora doesn’t have her backpack!
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: “A Visit To School”
In the short episode titled, “A Visit to School,” Daniel wants to make sure everyone has a good first day in pre-school. To ease the nerves, he packs his favorite toys in his backpack from home. His hope is that it will help encourage his classmates to bring their own familiar belongings and toys, which will make the transition into school easier and more fun. Another excerpt titled, “Saying Goodbye at School,” can resonate with both parents and kids. In it, Dad Tiger drops Daniel off at school. Daniel is sad about being separated but his dad assures him that “grownups come back.” Kids learn the role school has in their life and also understand they will always come home at the end of the day.
Watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on PBS.
Sesame Street: “First Day of School With Cookie Monster” & “Count's First Day of School”
The iconic children’s show has made several first days of school episodes over the past five decades, but one of the most classic ones is the Season 13 episode, “First Day of School With Cookie Monster.” In it, Cookie Monster is afraid his teachers won't like him. Kermit the Frog steps in and teaches Cookie Monster not to be afraid on his first day of school. In another favorite, Count von Count recalls his first day of school where he is also afraid. But he soon realizes he can count the other kids. Get it? Count!
Sesame Street: Stinky’s First Day of Preschool
If you’d prefer a full Sesame Street episode, Max has about 18 seasons, including one that has a first day of school episode. In Season 45, Episode 15, Stinky goes to his first day of preschool with Elmo and learns about how to relax when feeling nervous. After believing he isn’t a “school type of plant,” the talking stinkweed learns to be more independent and comfortable in a new environment.
Watch Sesame Street’s “Stinky’s First Day of Preschool” episode on Max.
Bubble Guppies: “Get Ready for School”
In Episode 1, Season 3, the Bubble Guppies are helping kids find their cubbies and mats and get ready for their afternoon naps. Boy how many of us wish we can have those as adults now! It’s also Oona’s friend, Ava’s first day of school. Oona shares all of the great things about school Ava will like such as meeting and making new friends. The “Get Ready for School” song is catchy and basically assures kids not to be afraid and to trust their teachers. “Get, get, get ready! Wake up, put on your clothes! You have to get to school on time! You're gonna meet! Lots of new friends today! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Stuck in your head yet?
The Healing Powers of Dude
Animal therapy can also help cope with the first day of school. This 2020 Netflix series is about an 11-year-old boy named Noah with a social anxiety disorder who is starting middle school. To cope with his anxiety, he finds comfort, strength, and emotional support in a four-legged mutt named Dude. He takes the dog to school and everywhere he goes. It turns out Dude needs Noah just as much as he needs Dude. The series is reportedly based on true events. This is a great show for middle schoolers who may find themselves in the same situation as Noah.
Watch The Healing Powers of Dude on Netflix.
CoComelon Nursery Rhymes: “First Day of School”
Not quite a TV episode, but we had to add CoComelon to the list for its perky, upbeat first day of school preschool anthem for our tots! The song, “First Day of School” message is simple — it will be OK! In the video, toddler J.J. is excited but nervous about his first day. But throughout the day, he is exposed to so many new experiences, like meeting his teacher, making new friends, and playing games. “First Day of School” has over 790 million views on YouTube, so clearly the message is resonating.
Want to see more back-to-school features? Check out our 2023 Back To School Issue!
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