Parents’ Picks is a new series that will help you wade through the endless options competing for your kids’ screen time. If you have other TV or film suggestions or questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Even though my interest in staying up to watch actual award ceremonies such as the Emmys, Golden Globes or the Oscars has diminished over the years, I still check out highlights the next day – taking in the red carpet fashion, as well as the heartfelt and passionate speeches by the winners. For me, the nominees for such award shows serve as reminders of TV shows or movies that I might have missed.
Here are some suggestions of award-winning shows or movies over the years. I’d love to check out other acclaimed children’s entertainment from around the world. So if you have any suggestions for me – and fellow parents – do send them along to email@example.com.
- Age range: 3 to 7
- Where to watch: Kanopy Kids, YouTube
- Pitch for parents: You can never forget your way to Sesame Street.
- Pitch for kids: Elmo! Big Bird! Cookie Monster! Need I say more?
Still a gold standard when it comes to children’s entertainment, Sesame Street has won several awards, including Emmys, Peabodys and even Geminis. Born out of academic interests and the American civil rights movement, the show, revolutionary at the time it launched, was meant to educate children, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who were watching far too much TV.
Kids today still learn a lot from Sesame Street, whose cast members continue to be Muppets and people of different backgrounds and abilities. Adults can learn more about the history behind this popular show through the documentary Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, available on VOD.
Shaun The Sheep
- Age range: 5 upwards
- Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix
- Pitch for parents: British humour meets claymation for a surreal escape.
- Pitch for kids: Sheep can be pretty smart.
This is a bit of a cheat entry. This show is a spinoff from the Wallace and Gromit claymation comedy franchise. The feature length film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) won several awards, including an Oscar and a BAFTA. Wallace and Gromit centres on the cheese-loving eccentric inventor Wallace, and his super smart but silent dog Gromit.
Shaun the Sheep is a spinoff centred around a character from the franchise’s short film A Close Shave. Shaun and his sheep friends live on Mossy Bottom Farm in rural England. In each episode, Shaun and his fleecey mates plan some sort of escape from their mundane lives, much to the chagrin of the sheepdog Bitzer. Since there’s minimal language used, the show is appealing to young and old alike.
- Age range: 8 upwards
- Where to watch: Apple TV+
- Pitch for parents: It’s one of this year’s Oscar nominated films.
- Pitch for kids: Dive into a magical world of two girls and their wolf friends.
The same team behind the Oscar-nominated Irish film The Secret of Kells brings another bewitching story about friendship and magic set in 17th-century Ireland. Unsurprisingly, Wolfwalkers was also nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature. I watched it with my two kids when it was just released, and was immediately taken by its stunning hand-drawn animation. I was intrigued by how much my kids also enjoyed the film, asking to watch it again and again for weeks afterwards.
The story isn’t that simple. There are historical elements of colonization and gender expectations, ecological themes (clearing out the wolves from the forests that a growing city is encroaching upon) and, of course, magic. But the central story of a friendship between two girls, Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey) and Mebh (Eva Whittaker), clearly struck a chord. Plus there’s a catchy tune, Running With the Wolves.
- Age range: 10 upwards
- Where to watch: Netflix
- Pitch for parents: The kids learn to distinguish between Malawi and Malaysia.
- Pitch for kids: Learn some super cool skills while on a caper with Carmen.
I had no idea that the animation series my kids were binge-watching is the latest spinoff of an award-winning TV game show for children that won several Emmys and a Peabody Award. Based on an educational computer game, the nineties TV game show was created to teach children about geography in a fun way. The Netflix series is an origin story of the titular character.
Carmen Sandiego is actually a globe-trotting thief who steals stolen goods in order to return them to their rightful owners, and stop the villainous V.I.L.E. organization from committing further crimes. In doing so, she’s also on the run from a mysterious government agency, A.C.M.E. But Carmen has help from her white-hat hacker friend Player, and siblings Zack and Ivy, while solving all sorts of technical and geographical puzzles.
- Age range: Family viewing
- Where to watch: Disney+
- Pitch for parents: Black excellence in abundant display.
- Pitch for kids: It’s an MCU superhero film.
It will be bittersweet for a while to watch any film that stars Chadwick Boseman. When I recently rewatched Black Panther with my kids, I could still feel the thrill I experienced when I first saw it in theatres in 2018. First of all, there’s the sheer talent involved: directed by Ryan Coogler; besides Boseman, it stars Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, (the truly awesome) Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya, among others. Add to that visual wizardry, cool action sequences and a biting sense of humour. It was no wonder the film was nominated for many awards, including its seven Oscar noms.
I still remember how it resonated with audiences, especially Black viewers. I still occasionally watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon segment, where fans were surprised by Boseman’s appearance and referred to him as their king. Given the recent verdict in the case of George Floyd’s murder, Black Panther seems even more relevant. Wakanda forever!
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