Screen time and TV for toddlers may or may not be a strictly regulated activity in your home. Regardless of how much time your child spends watching shows, though, the animation and pace of the program can affect their mood and behavior.
Try some calming shows that aren't overly stimulating for toddlers so your kiddo can enjoy a little screen time without compromising their good mood that day.
Calm & Non-Stimulating Shows for Your Toddler to Try
Low-stimulation activities are great for toddlers, but a little low-key screen time can be a good quiet-time option too. If you're looking to replace shows like Coco Melon and Little Baby Bum with something less stimulating while still being educational, fun, and age-appropriate, try some of these toddler shows.
First aired in 1997, Franklin is based on the children's books by the same name and is all about a school-aged turtle just making his way through the common growing pains of childhood.
With a slow-paced storyline, slower dialogue, and a fairly neutral color palette, the show is far from overstimulating and features an abundance of life lessons for kids of all ages. This is also one of our family editor's (a mom of four) top picks when it comes to kids' shows.
It doesn't get much more relaxing than an episode of Little Bear. A show you may remember from your own childhood, Little Bear features a young bear cub and the adventures he shares with his other animal friends. Imagination and creativity accompany this sweet show with soft colors and gentle background music.
The toddler show beloved by children and praised by parents, Bluey is perfect for older toddlers who need a break from the typically stimulating shows often marketed to them. Bluey has upbeat music and lots of laughs, but the slower paced story line and soft-spoken characters make it a non-stimulating show that is great for all ages.
This is one of my favorite shows to watch with my daughter - and it even challenges me as a parent in multiple ways.
If your toddler is a little older and ready for movies, check out our list of low-stimulation toddler movies too.
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Clifford has made his mark through movies, books, and TV shows for decades - and the unforgettable red dog is still a great watch for your kids today. The cartoon series of the early 2000s is intriguing enough for toddlers while also able to hold the attention of older children.
The human and animal characters are soft spoken and crafted with a blend of primary and muted colors for a gentle kids show that parents approve of.
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The opening theme song alone should tell you why The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is perfect for toddlers. The classic characters of the beloved children's books are animated in soft colors for this late 80s cartoon. No villains, no violence, and no overstimulating scene cuts make this a sweet little show with gentle humor for your toddler.
Get your toddler excited about nature and animals with Wild Kratts. This show is gentle enough for your littlest tikes while entertaining and educational for your older kids. Neutral colors and educational content without excessive noise or repetition make this an easy show choice for parents.
Out of the Box
If you're looking for a non-animated show your kids will love, this one has all the fun without all the hyperactivity. Out of the Box offers imaginative play, craft ideas, and educational fun for your toddler and older children. There are certainly no excessive noises or bright flashing scenes in this 90s show.
Guess How Much I Love You
This gentle show debuted in 2011 and is based on the childrens books of the same name. With a focus on the loving relationship between parent and child, this animal packed show is neutral in color and offers the sweetest dialogue between characters.
Slow-paced and educational, Guess How Much I Love You is a sweet cartoon to watch along with your toddler.
All the adventure without all the stimulation, Dragon Tales will take your toddler on a magical escape. Pastel colors and soft spoken characters are just a couple of the things that make this animated series a gentle viewing experience. The storyline always includes a valuable lesson and there is plenty of age-appropriate humor along the way.
You probably remember reading or watching Curious George when you were growing up. This gentle show has simple animation and fun storylines featuring a slow paced narration. There are no fast-talking characters or quick scene changes here and you'll love the nostalgia packed in each episode.
Debuting on Disney in 2012, Doc McStuffins is all about imagination and education wrapped up in one beautifully animated package. Though there are some catchy tunes and vibrant animation in this series, it's still fairly slow paced and a genuinely good show for young kids.
There's a reason that Arthur was beloved by children for 25 years and is still a choice for parents today. The neutral and soft colors combined with the slow paced storyline make this show a gentle choice for your older children and safe choice for your toddlers.
Though this educational animated series is a bit more stimulating than some of the other shows mentioned here, it's still a great alternative to other repetitive shows that boast an educational premise. Older toddlers who are learning reading and spelling concepts should be able to enjoy Super Why without feeling overwhelmed.
The Little Mermaid (TV Series)
Combining the beautiful animation of the beloved Disney film, the TV series of The Little Mermaid features familiar and new characters. The three seasons that debuted in the 90s are slow paced enough for a toddler with story lines that older children can enjoy.
Mister Rogers Neighborhood
Beloved by generations, Mister Rogers is the epitome of a gentle childrens' show. The storytelling and educational aspects of the classic show are unmatched in current kids shows and you'll enjoy introducing this nostalgic childhood memory to your own children.
Swap the overstimulating Youtube shows you usually click on for this educational and downright sweet classroom-type of kids show. Caitie's Classroom takes your toddler through crafts, stories, songs, and virutal field trips with her soft spoken and sweet personality.
Although child development pros generally agree that limited screen time is best, experts at the Child Mind Institute also suggest that joint engagement (watching the show with your kid) is one of the keys to media use in young children. As long as parents are limiting screen time, they also don't need to feel guilty about letting kids watch a show just for fun.
What Makes a Show Overly Stimulating for a Toddler?
You might be wondering if your child's favorite show or movie is considered overstimulating for their little minds. If you're on the fence, there are a few features that might help you pinpoint the ones that are more stimulating than others.
Some parents recognize improvements in behavior or see kids engage in imaginary play more often when they don't watch highly stimulating shows. Every kid is different, but you might want consider whether the shows your toddler watches include these elements:
Fast-paced scene changes that cause the show to have frequent cuts and flashes
Characters in the show that talk and move quickly
High noise levels within the show
Excessive sounds and repetitive songs
Bright and bold color schemes with high contrast
Also consider if your child shows these behaviors:
Hyperactivity or excessive crying after viewing the show
Watching the show for extended periods of time with little blinking or the ability to acknowledge other sensory alerts in their environment
Reasons You May Want to Avoid Stimulating Shows With Young Kids
Although there's a lack of conclusive research on stimulating shows and young children, some child development experts suggest that there are potential negative impacts from highly stimulating shows. Shows that overstimulate your child's senses and brain can produce an expectation for that level of stimulation and entertainment at all times. This can impact kids in a variety of ways.
- Impact on Creativity - Shows with too much sensory stimulation might impact their ability to use creativity and play without visual or auditory excitement in their environment.
- Sensory Overload - Some children may even experience sensory overload with fast-paced shows featuring repetitive sounds, quick movements, and stimulating colors, making it difficult for them to even enjoy the show in the first place.
- Behavioral Issues and Trouble Sleeping - These are also possible negative outcomes for children who watch overly stimulating shows too often.
Moderation is key here, but many parents find that shows that are a bit slower, feature softer colors and animation, and contain a storyline your child can actually follow are better for toddlers.
Trying Gentle Screen Time With Your Kids
Screen time can be a great source of entertainment and education for your toddler. The key is to find shows that capture their attention and encourage their imagination without causing tantrums or hyperactivity once the program ends. Try different shows to give your child something that helps them understand life lessons while enjoying beautiful animation and storylines they love.