Educational Cable TV Programs for Kids

by Julia Hall

It’s no secret, kids like television. They like it a lot. So for parents, it’s refreshing to know there are quality shows on the air that educate while they entertain. In fact, some shows include enough adult humor (by design) so parents and kids watch and learn together. The grand-daddy of this type of program is Sesame Street, and it’s still going strong. There are a handful of other shows, though, that are also teaching young minds and inspiring kids to ask questions and search for their own answers.

Sesame Street

It’s perhaps the most famous street in the world. Everyone is welcome and it doesn’t matter what color you are, or if you have skin or purple fur. For more than forty years, Sesame Street has proven its combination of live actors, Jim Henson's Muppets, celebrities, animation, humor and cultural references is magic when it comes to educating kids. Creative segments incorporate reading and arithmetic fundamentals while others demonstrate life skills, conflict resolution or cognitive processes. Sesame Street is infused with enough subtle humor to keep adults and older siblings entertained and this co-viewing approach works to facilitate learning and parent-child dialogue.

– Elmo, joined by First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden, demonstrate how the resources on this website help military families connect, thrive, plan homecomings or persevere in the midst of deployment or grief.

Dora the Explorer & Go Diego Go

Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go are each half-hour animated series incorporating play-along viewing and interaction in every episode. In Dora the Explorer, Dora is a 7-year-old Latina girl inviting viewers to join her in an adventure as she consults Map, her purple Backpack and her best friend, Boots the Monkey, all while keeping Swiper the Fox from stealing key items that will help her accomplish her mission. Dora the Explorer encourages kids to move with and respond to Dora and also introduces them to simple Spanish words and phrases. The star of Go Diego Go is Diego Marquez, Dora’s 8-year-old cousin. Similar to Dora the Explorer’s interactive format, Diego loves nature and animals and is always rescuing or helping an animal in trouble. During each rescue mission, Diego informs viewers about each animal’s characteristics while using tools like a computer, field journal and camera.

– American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association explains how to teach your child to be bilingual and what resources are available.

– Kids who love animals can learn about different animals in need and discover how to volunteer, get involved and make the world a better place for animals to live.

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder and his Can-Do Crew believe when it comes to projects needing a little elbow grease, the fun is in getting it done! Ready to tackle any project, Bob the Builder and his machine buddies (Muck the digger/dumper, Dizzy the cement mixer, and Lofty the crane, to name a few) are determined to help with renovations, construction and repairs. Unexpected delays and challenges arise in each episode, prompting Bob to ask “can we fix it?” The answer is always “yes we can!” Each show inspires kids to stick-with-it and work to find positive solutions.

– Habitat for Humanity provides worksheets for kids that include fun activities and information.

– ArchKIDecture encourages kids to learn about math, science and visual art concepts through the medium of architecture.

Liberty’s Kids

This animated series chronicles two young teens during the American Revolution with vastly different outlooks on issues including slavery, fair representation, the role of women in society and self-governance. Although she’s living in America, Sarah is English and loyal to England. James is a printer’s apprentice and feeling oppressed by the British. The pair work for Ben Franklin’s newspaper, the “Pennsylvania Gazette” and their often polarized viewpoints are explored as the series brings to life the history that shaped America’s fight for independence.

– This site contains links to timelines, biographies, student projects, music samples and more.

– Students curious about journalism can test their editing know-how and brush up on a journalistic style guide.

Sid the Science Kid

This show celebrates curious kids and encourages them to ask questions and see the science happening all around them. The series centers on Sid, a five-year-old, who seeks answers to a big question in each episode. Each question is built around a scientific theme or concept and Sid’s classmates and family help him observe, compare, contrast, describe and eventually better understand the world around him.

– For kids with inquiring minds, these science projects for kids K-12 are fun, educational and a great way for parents and kids to spend time together.

– Museums, particularly hands-on science museums, are located throughout the U.S. and are listed here by state.

Cyberchase

Developed for kids ages 8-12, Cyberchase teaches mathematical concepts in a way kids can understand. The show’s villain, Hacker, is obsessed with overthrowing Motherboard and ruling cyberspace. Motherboard knows she needs help and asks three kids, Inez, Jackie and Matt, to help her using the best weapon they have – brain power. A core math standard developed by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics is introduced in each episode and kids find themselves learning fractions and decimal points without even realizing it.

– These online games and projects are designed to help kids learn core math skills and advance to more difficult concepts.

– Jet Ski Addition, Island Chase Subtraction and Demolition Division are among the online games kids can play to build self-esteem when it comes to learning math.

Design Squad Nation

Judy and Adam are two hip, professional engineers who travel the world to meet kids and make their structural dreams come true. Kids learn about engineering and design while watching Judy and Adam do things like build a playground in a rural Nicaraguan village or a skate park at the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. Judy and Adam use math, science and technology to complete their projects and encourage viewers to start their own hands-on engineering activities.

– Science Toy Maker is a resource for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and learn how to make their own toys.

- Engineering For Kids brings science, technology, engineering, and math to kids ages 4 to 14 in a fun and challenging way through classes, camps, clubs, and parties.

MythBusters

This show follows its hosts as they set out to prove or disprove popular beliefs, internet rumors or other myths. If the hosts need to construct something to test a theory, it’s built in their workshop and results are scientifically measured in a manner appropriate for the experiment. By the end of each episode, each myth is rated as: Busted, Plausible, or Confirmed. Myths tackled on the show included: can you trick a bloodhound’s sense of smell (Busted), is it possible to gouge a shark’s eyes out when you’re in its jaws (Plausible), and do fainting goats really exist (Confirmed)?

– The National Science Teachers Association created a resource for parents designed to help families explore together.



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