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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.

We’re kicking it a little old-school in this column. There’s a weird thrill of rediscovering all those shows or movies that you enjoyed in your youth through your children. In some cases, viewer discretion is truly advised. As well, a parent wrote in to suggest a podcast for kindergarteners. As she said, kid-friendly podcasts “make a great choice if you have 20 minutes while you’re getting dinner ready and you don’t want your kids throwing a fit when they have to come to the table before Paw Patrol ends, but everyone is tired and in need of quiet activity. Also awesome for car rides.”

Little Big Stories

  • Age range: Preschooler upwards
  • Where to listen: Wherever you get your podcasts
  • Pitch for parents: You don’t have to sing Wheels on the Bus for the 100th time.
  • Pitch for kids: Stories and songs that will knock your socks off!

Circle time can be a lot of fun – when someone else is leading it. Toronto artist Ashley Braga, a certified early childhood music educator, is a veteran of writing and singing songs for kids, and her podcast featuring puppet character Marcus offers stories and associated songs aimed at very young humans.

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Stories are told in a tone reserved for the littlest ones, and the tunes are jaunty. I especially appreciated an episode called “Bored, Bored, Bored!” Although not written about the pandemic, it’s particularly relevant to the current world kids have been living in.

The Snoopy Show

There’s a timeless quality to The Snoopy Show.

/The Associated Press

  • Age range: 5 upwards
  • Where to watch: Apple TV
  • Pitch for parents: The Peanuts gang is back.
  • Pitch for kids: We loved this adorable beagle – you will, too.

It’s hard to believe Charles Schulz’s original comic strip featuring Charlie Brown and the gang was introduced back in 1950. Everyone had their favourite character: deep-in-thought Linus; his annoying bossy sister Lucy; or Schroder, always on the piano. But the star of the strip was clearly Snoopy, the smartest beagle around.

With this series, a whole new generation will fall in love with Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang. It’s soothing to watch the simply drawn world inhabited by these young people. There’s a timeless quality to the show, even though adults will feel it’s like meeting an old friend. Each episode features three seven-minute stories, which makes it perfect for a range of ages.

The Muppet Show

The Muppet Show is on Disney+.

Disney+

  • Age range: 8 upwards
  • Where to watch: Disney+
  • Pitch for parents: See if your Kermit impression still holds up.
  • Pitch for kids: It’s a more grown-up version of Sesame Street.

“What is this show?” my kids asked as the opening song started playing. They knew various Muppets characters, of course – especially Kermit and Miss Piggy – but hadn’t seen the whole show. Neither had I, for the past three decades or so. They were soon grinning, digging the late-night talk-show approach. As soon as the Mahna Mahna song came on, they were delirious with delight.

It wasn’t until the third episode, featuring actor Joel Grey, that we came across the now-famous disclaimer Disney+ has included, stating that the program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. In it, a Muppet is dressed as a Turkish man wearing a turban strung with pearls, and sings Pachalafaka to a veiled dancer. That, and Kermit’s weird need for female attention, did spark some conversations with my kids.

The Speed Cubers

The documentary Speed Cubers is about an unlikely friendship between speedcubing champs Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs.

Netflix/Netflix

  • Age range: 10 upwards
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Pitch for parents: It’s a lesson in strategy and empathy.
  • Pitch for kids: Your competitors can make amazing friends.

We have a speed cube at home that the kids sometimes fiddle around with. (Their father bought it to introduce them to strategy, while I remembered it as a gadget from my childhood.) They got the idea that you solve the cube by memorizing algorithms, but weren’t keen on spending hours practising.

This documentary turned out to be a heart-warming story about an unlikely friendship between speedcubing champs Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs. Feliks used to hold all sorts of records, until Max came on the scene. Max is on the autism spectrum, and looks up to Feliks – a friendship that Feliks reciprocates, even though it means losing his place to Max.

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After watching the film, my kids decided to have a go at speedcubing again. So, win-win!

Back to the Future

The 1985 classic Back to the Future.

The Associated Press

  • Age range: Family viewing
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
  • Pitch for parents: Do I need anything more than the DeLorean?
  • Pitch for kids: It’s a movie about time travel in a cool car.

We’d watched the shenanigans of Marty McFly and his eccentric friend Doc two years ago. However, my older daughter’s class watched Back to the Future in incremental lunch breaks last week, which reminded me of this 1985 classic. The first time we’d watched it, I worried that the movie might be too dated. In some senses it is – especially when viewed with the hindsight of 2021. And my daughter said that the “adult stuff” was uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, both kids loved the idea of time travel, Doc’s goofy mad scientist character and even found a bunch of the jokes funny. They were also tickled by the idea of a young man going back in time and meeting his own parents – but as awkward teenagers. It also helps that the movie moves along at a pretty fast clip, with plenty of action-packed countdowns.

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