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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 parentspicks@globeandmail.com.

Even if you don’t know the name Ryan Kaji, your kid has probably seen one of his toy unboxing videos. In 2020, Kaji once again ranked as YouTube’s top earner, bringing in close to US$30-million dollars. Makes sense if you consider his channel has more than 28 million subscribers.

Want to steer clear of unboxing videos? Here are some alternative viewing options.

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Pocoyo

Pocoyo is a cute toddler in blue.

youtube/Handout

  • Age range: Preschooler and up
  • Where to watch: YouTube
  • Pitch for parents: Cute animation for little ones also tickles adult funny bones – plus Stephen Fry’s soothing voice
  • Pitch for kids: A boy, a duck and a dancing elephant will become your best friends

Pocoyo was a lifesaver in our household. It’s like the animated version of Sandra Boynton books – and if you have to read to your kids over and over again, it’s always better when you can have fun doing it.

The animated series centres on Pocoyo, a cute toddler in blue. His main friends are Pato (a duck) and Elly (a pink elephant who loves ballet), although the crew is frequently joined by Loula (a dog), Sleepy Bird and Octopus, among other friends.

Wandering Wenda

Wenda and her friends Wu and Wes (the woodchuck) set off on missions armed with wordplay.

CBC

  • Age range: 5 to 8
  • Where to watch: CBC Kids
  • Pitch for parents: Based on a book by Margaret Atwood; it’s literary
  • Pitch for kids: A fun way to increase your vocabulary

Wenda first wandered into our home through Margaret Atwood’s book Wandering Wenda and the Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery – which, to be honest, annoyed the bejesus out of me. Some of the alliterated passages were terrific tongue twisters. But the book amused my kids because of its musical feel. It’s about a waif called Wenda and her search for her missing parents with the help of a woodchuck and other kids. It’s pretty grim, until the happy ending.

The show continues the alliterative aspect of the book as Wenda and her friends Wu and Wes (the woodchuck) set off on all sorts of globe-trotting missions armed with wordplay.

Odd Squad

The Odd Squad solves odd happenings around town with math skills and teamwork.

PBS

  • Age range: 6 and up
  • Title: Where to watch: TVO Kids/Netflix
  • Pitch for parents: Canadian edutainment that’s fun and wholesome
  • Pitch for kids: Math can be fun, especially when used to solve odd happenings

This show is genius. The premise is that a kids-run spy agency called Odd Squad solves all sorts of odd happenings around town with math skills and solid teamwork. The show is immensely watchable – even for adults. (I roll my eyes at my kids watching reruns, but I often join them because the child actors are so good at being goofy.)

Every agent’s name starts with O. We started watching when the leads were Olive and Otto, and also loved the phase with Otis and Olympia (played by Anna Cathcart, who went to star in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before). Now the kids are watching Season 3 with agents Opal, Omar, Oswald and Orla.

We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest

These young people are inspiring in the way they talk about injustice and prejudice.

HBO/HBO

  • Age range: 8 and up
  • Where to watch: Crave/HBO Canada
  • Pitch for parents: An inspiring doc about kids can inspire even you
  • Pitch for kids: Kids like you can change the world

Every year in Oakland, Calif., hundreds of students compete in an oratorical festival that is named after, and pays tribute to, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. We Are the Dream follows preparations leading up to the 40th edition of the annual event.

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At first, you’re just taken in by the cuteness – the kids striding on the stage, and commanding it. Then a wonderful feeling starts sinking in: These young people are inspiring in the way they talk about the injustice and prejudice they see around them. They are a wonderful example for all.

Lost in Space

The 2018 Netflix version offers a snazzy sci-fi adventure filled with modern-day family dysfunction.

Courtesy of Netflix/Netflix

  • Age range: Family viewing
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Pitch for parents: In times of crisis, a family comes together to face interstellar challenges
  • Pitch for kids: A family adventure set in space

This one was a reader suggestion. A riff on the 1812 Swiss Robinson Family novel, Lost In Space tells the story of a family sent out to find a world that can sustain humans after life on Earth is threatened. Except their spacecraft veers off course and crash lands on a different planet. The family must work together to survive life on strange new grounds as they try to find a way back.

You can choose from three versions of this space adventure. The original was a 1965 TV series, and you can watch clips of it on YouTube for some nostalgic fun. Then came a 1998 movie starring William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Gary Oldman and Heather Graham; give it a wide berth. The 2018 Netflix series, however, manages to get viewers invested in the story, offering a snazzy sci-fi adventure filled with modern-day family dysfunction.

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