TV Show Recommendations for Slightly Verbal Toddlers

Mouk

An adorable 10 minute show about traveling the world and meeting people from different cultures. It's soft, sleepy and visually interesting. 

Adult Perspective: All the characters are anthropomorphized animals with ridiculously large heads, which often makes a lot of objects sized to their bodies look foolishly small, however they do a good enough job of introducing new cultures that I liked watching the episodes about places I knew little about.

Available on Netflix and iTunes

Animals Mechanicals

Shiney, toyetic 3D animation sucks toddlers in. The ten minute episodes are about 5 mechana animals solving problems in their weird mechana world. 

Adult Perspective: I find it pretty mind numbing, but can't argue that it teaches critical thinking for small children.

Available on Netflix, DVD and iTunes

ABC Galaxy

Pretty art, basic concept, nice delivery. My son watched it obsessively till he'd memorized all his letters. 

Adult Perspective: I find it unwatchable.

Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime

Tinga Tinga Tales

Beautiful traditional African art style, a myriad of accents and the only joint African-Brittish cartoon that I know of. Each 10 minute episode teaches a morality lesson in a lively, Aesopesk style.

Adult Perspective: I think I enjoyed watching it even more than my son.

Available on iTunes (and sometimes on streaming services)

Puffin Rock

Lovely, atmospheric, fun Welsh accents educational and in nice seven minute chunklets. The show follows the adventures of a young puffin and her little brother teaching both ecology and morals.

Adult Perspective: Very relaxing to watch.

Available on Netflix

New Bob the Builder

Catchy music, pleasing art, talking vehicles and a construction theme, just what every kid wants. The show has a nice format, linking two 12 minute episodes together with a song and a couple interstitial construction site facts. It's relatively gender balanced and has decent diversity. If this was actually available in a buyable format, I'd get a copy.

Adult Perspective: You start to realize the plot of every episode is that the construction crew screws up and has to fix the mess they made themselves. Why does anyone hire them?

Available on Netflix

Dinotrux

Based on a rather mediocre book, this show knocks it out of the park. A world where all critters are mechanical, a combination of dinosaurs and construction vehicles and organic objects are there simply as building materials, it is completely internally consistent and ten times as lovely. My son has looped this show more than half a dozen times and the toys based on the characters in the show have been his favorite for half his life, a gateway to innumerable imagination games. The art is great, while not gendered balanced per se, there is a constant ration of 3:1 with the females always being very strong, cool characters and later seasons of the show even introduce female villains. This is one of my absolute favorite kids' shows.

Adult Perspective: Where was this when we were kids? 

Available on Netflix and DVD

Octonauts

Despite the target audience being way older, between the toyetic art, creature report songs and short episode length it's actually great for young toddlers. It is not gender balanced, which is problematic, but it does teach great marine biology facts, so I'd still call this show a win and one of the better pieces of kids ' programming out there.

Adult Perspective: I've actually learned sea facts from it and appreciate them doing some really unusual sea life.

Available on Netflix, DVD and iTunes

Wild Kratts

Another show where it's target age group is quite a bit older, but that doesn't mean the younger set can't get a lot out of it. It's gender balanced, shows women in traditionally male roles, ethnically diverse, has lovely art and great educational  value. This is the culmination of the Kratts brothers doing years of educational nature shows and is truly their masterpiece. 

Adult Perspective: I love watching this one. I'm a fan of the Kratts brothers in general and have always been an animal buff. The art is gorgeous and I like a show that can teach adults as well as children.

Available on Netflix, DVD, Amazon Prime and iTunes

Peixonauta (fishstronaut)

A Brazilian cartoon about nature conservation with an interactive bent, it may not be the most polished show, but it's different, educational and well worth a watch. 

Adult Perspective: It's cute.

Available on Netflix

TV Show Recommendations for Verbal Toddlers

Doozers

A member of my top 5 best little kid shows ever, this STEM program does a great job of not talking down to kids and teaching them serious engineering concepts. Based on the critters from Fragle Rock, Doozers features a perfect balance of male and female characters, doesn't push any gender stereotypes and each ten minute episode does an excellent job of teaching problem solving and creativity. The CG art is good, I don't find it particularly pretty, but it's constrained by its puppet ancestry and certainly my son has no complaints about it.

Adult Perspective: It's OK, might even teach you an engineering concept or two!

Available on Hulu, DVD and iTunes

Team Umizoomi

This is the show that taught my son shapes and I don't mean 'square' and 'circle. I'm talking 'hexagon', 'semi circle' and 'trapezoid'.  It takes educational entertainment to a new level. The first two seasons are a very different tone from the second two, focusing on child actors presenting the tiny superheroes with their problems whereas the second two get...weird, forgetting about the children and focusing on pirates, ninjas and princesses. That said the educational umph is there on all four seasons and depending on your child's developmental stage they may find one half more interesting than the other. Certainly my son wanted nothing to do with the later seasons at age 18 months and now at almost 3 finds the thematic, more action oriented episodes more engaging. While not something I enjoy watching, it's top notch for small child entertainment. 

Adult Perspective: I find it unwatachable both from an art and content perspective.

Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes

Monster Math Squad

A solid math show for kids. The females are annoyingly pigeon holed into traditional women's roles and the ratio of male to female isn't great, but there's a whole lot of math for the kids to absorb and it's presented in a fun and engrossing manner.

Adult Perspective: I find it hard to watch, too heavy on the learning and the characters are too stilted.

Available on Netflix and iTunes

Rusty Rivets

The underrated newest show from Nick Jr. Gender balanced, ethnically diverse, STEM oriented and a lot of fun I don't know why this show hasn't gotten more buzz. Split into two 10 minute episodes, it's theming is all about maker culture and solving problems through inventions. The art is nice, the opener catchy and while it may be no Blaze, it's some of the most quality cartoon I've seen come out this year.

Adult Perspective: The world doesn't make much sense, but it's fun and I find the very effeminate supporting male ice cream entrepreneur a fascinating character choice.

Available on iTunes

Blaze and the Monster Machines

The ultimate small child show. It's got it all, STEM curriculum, catchy songs, the humans are gender balanced and ethnically diverse and it's about talking vehicles. What more could a kid want? I think it's extra cool that the girl character is a mechanic, which is a world populated by anthropomorphized trucks is like being a god. It is the first show we bought on iTunes for our son and still the best value for money.

Adult Perspective: This is very watchable. If you're not up on your science terms you might even learn a few things from it. If you buy into the theory of a post singularity, post apocalyptic world, it's actually even internally consistent, though in an increasingly creepy way. You start looking at how empty the world is or things like how Blaze has blue eyes (is he a machine fused with a man?), but that makes it pretty fun.

Available on Netflix

Masha and the Bear 

One of the coolest things to come out of Russia in recent years, this slap stick, physical comedy is short on words, but great for teaching dos and don'ts of behavior. I wasn't keen on my son watching this before his language skills were fully developed, but now that he can talk in full sentences, we have watched it more times than I can count as he studies the behavior of the mischievous Masha and the reactions of the father figure bear.

Adult Perspective: I enjoy spotting the foreign elements, the things that are distinctly Russian about the show, like the outdated technology or Grandfather Frost filling the role of Santa Claus

Available on Netflix and iTunes

Sarah and Duck

One of my son's absolute favorites. Split into 7 minute chunks of trippy fun, the cartoon follows a little girl and her duck as they have magical adventures taking a bus to the bottom of the sea to watch manatees, have conversations with the moon at his gallery opening and make friends with a boy and his flamingo. The art is incredibly rough and simple, a few steps above stick figures, but it works and the CG actually makes enough movement to give the cartoon as sense of fluidity. 

Adult Perspective: I'm told it has quite the adult following in the UK. I personally find it surreal and a little hard to follow. Having decided that the narrator is the protagonist's father has made it a bit more understandable, but seriously, it's a show with talking handbags and cake, but the titular water fowl only says "quack".

Available on Netflix and iTunes