This list applies to UK streaming services
In these most indoors of days, television isn’t only a pal, it’s a lifeline. Especially for families, especially in a time of school and playgroup closure (stay strong, people. You’re doing great.)
Whether you’re looking for a nostalgia hit, some quality family viewing or a bit of headphones-and-bowl-of-sliced-apple alone time for your youngest, we’ve collected up 50 top children’s TV shows from across the UK’s major streaming platforms. Find a few old classics and plenty of new favourites below…
Pendleton Ward’s endlessly inventive fantasy cartoon about the adventures of Finn and his magical dog Jake is streaming exclusively on Sky and NOW TV, where all ten seasons are available. Each episode is a short, sweet 11-minute burst of colourful invention and blessedly stupid jokes for both adults and kids. A joy.
Where to stream? NOW TV (seasons 1-10)
A Series of Unfortunate Events
There are 25 episodes of this solid three-season Lemony Snicket adaptation, which brought the Baudelaire orphans’ travails to their full conclusion last January. Neil Patrick Harris plays the dastardly Count Olaf, who schemes to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune while Violet, Klaus and Sunny thwart him at every turn. Colourful, funny and more than a shade dark, it’s very good stuff.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (seasons 1-3)
Avatar: the Last Airbender
Nickelodeon’s fantasy series about 12-year-old Aang, a youngster with a world of responsibility on his super-powered shoulders, is critically acclaimed, award-winning and beloved by fans for its beauty, warmth and characters. Its 24-minute episodes (followed up by acclaimed spin-off The Legend of Korra, see below) are a must-watch. Read more about it here.
Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom
These 21-minute episodes about elf Ben and princess Holly’s magical fairy tale world are terrific British comedy featuring characters loved by adults and kids alike (Sarah Ann Kennedy’s Nanny Plum would make an excellent post-work pub friend, of this there is no doubt). As a schools-closed treat, Amazon has made all 10 seasons (and several others) free to everybody, not just Prime subscribers.
The calming tones of Mark Rylance as Flop are enough to recommend this one to adults, while kids will fall for toddler bunny Bing, whom Flop gently coaches through life’s difficulties. At only seven minutes long, the episodes are comforting slices of loveliness, even if you don’t necessarily have a particularly firm grasp on what the whole deal is.
When the remake of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s The Clangers was first announced, fans of the much-loved early seventies stop-motion animation expressed doubts. Would a new version take away the original’s imagination, whimsy and homemade feel? No, is simple the answer. This new take on the strange race of pink, knitted space creatures is a charming and beautifully made tribute to the original, from the models to Michael Palin’s avuncular narration. At 11 minutes each, the episodes slot nicely into a pre-bedtime routine.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (22 episodes)
A must for geek parents, this spooky British/Canadian anthology series for kids (eight years old and over for this one, but you know what your kids can handle) is jam-packed with nerdy 80s movie nods. Creeped Out’s 25-minute episodes range from sci-fi to fantasy to horror, and the first six chilling tales are available here.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (6 episodes)
This 2015 reboot of the Cosgrove Hall classic (all ten series of which are also available to stream on Netflix UK) featuring the voices of Alexander Armstrong, Kevin Eldon and Stephen Fry among others, is a total treat. At twice the length of the original episodes, these 22-minute instalments have room for more action and plotting, without ever overstaying their welcome.
Jim Jenkins’ classic 1990s cartoon sees Doug Funnie navigate life, school and first love in the town of Bluffington after his dad is posted there for work. Introduce your kids to Doug’s love interest Patti Mayonnaise and this sweet, gentle cast of funny characters.
Where to stream? Disney+ (65 episodes and Doug’s First Movie)
This delightful reboot of the original Disney series boasts the voice of David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck, with Community’s Danny Pudi, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz as Huey, Dewey and Louie. With season three soon on its way, it’s a fun, knowing show and still has a rockin’ theme song. Read more about DuckTales here.
Where to stream? Disney+ (100 episodes)
The connoisseur’s choice of 1990s Disney series, Gargoyles follows the adventures of a group of nocturnal creatures who turn to stone during the day. It has a little fish-out-of-water comedy as the ancient creatures adjust to life in modern-day NYC, but is mostly dark, layered fantasy.
Where to stream? Disney+ (78 episodes)
R.L Stine’s hugely successful series of spooky Goosebumps kids’ books found their way onto TV (and children’s nightmares) in the 1990s, and now the first series in this horror-for-kids anthology is streaming on Netflix UK. See also: Creeped Out (above). Be warned though, this one’s for older kids and tough-as-nails types only.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (13 episodes)
Alex Hirsch’s spooky-cute cartoon has plenty of draw for adults and kids alike. It’s the story of twins Dipper and Mabel, who are sent to stay with their great-uncle Stan in the town of Gravity Falls. An ancient text and a series of adventures later, and the twins learn more about the town, their family, and each other. Here’s more on why we love it.
Where to stream? Disney+ (41 episodes)
Green Eggs and Ham
Goofy, quirky and exciting are Netflix’s descriptors of this new Dr Seuss cartoon, all of which seem fair. May we also add ‘a massive pleasant surprise’ and ‘honestly, it’s lovely weird stuff and totally justifies its existence’. Rhymes, jokes, colour and zing, these half-hour episodes have it all.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (13 episodes)
This CBeebies delight is very funny and extremely charming, with plenty for adults to enjoy. Hey Duggee is the story of The Squirrel Club playgroup and the seemingly endless list of activity badges its children earn under the supervision of their barking leader, Duggee. Over 100 of its seven-minute episodes are available on BBC iPlayer, with roughly half that on Netflix UK.
His Dark Materials
One for older kids and grown-ups, His Dark Materials is a BBC-HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy of the same name. It conjures a richly built fantasy world and boasts some excellent performances, not least from young Dafne Keen as lead Lyra. It’s the story of the epic journey Lyra undertakes to rescue her friend, and all the magic she encounters along the way. Perfect for sparking family conversations about good, evil, nature/nurture and what your daemon would be. (Mine’s a pigeon.)
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (8 episodes)
One of the greatest children’s television programmes of all time, Horrible Histories is a work of comic brilliance. The TV show added songs and parodies to the premise of Terry Deary’s popular UK history book series, performed by a comedy cast well on its way to national treasure status. The first four of the five series featuring the original cast (Jim Howick, Mathew Bayton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Simon Farnaby, Ben Willbond, Laurence Rickard) are available to stream, which is where a lot of the best stuff resides. Here are the show’s top 15 songs.
In the Night Garden
Nonsense names and strange creatures live in the Night Garden, and pre-schoolers can’t get enough of it. Climb on board the Ninky Nonk (a train) to meet Makka-Pakka (obsessive-compulsive… alien?), Upsy Daisy (she likes dancing) and whatever the hell else is going on. Luckily for parents of young children, Amazon has made all the episodes available to non-Prime subscribers. Whack them in a pair of headphones and have a biscuit, you’ll feel better.
Jake and the Neverland Pirates
Not a cult classic for grown-up kids, but very popular with actual children, Jake and the Neverland Pirates sends characters from Peter Pan including Captain Hook, Smee and Tick-Tock the Croc into battle with a band of young pirates on the search for treasure.
Where to stream? Disney+ (100 episodes)
A variety show/live studio audience sitcom featuring CBeebies king Justin Fletcher (also to be seen in Gigglebiz and Something Special), Justin’s House is terrific nonsense. Come for Justin, but stay for Robert the Robot, played by Steven Kynman. The 25-minute episodes are a hoot.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (65 episodes)
Another recent reboot that totally justifies its existence by being utterly charming and filled with love (see also: Clangers, Danger Mouse, DuckTales), Moominvalley brings Tove Jansson’s characters to life with very sympathetic CGI, and a voice cast including Taron Egerton, Rosamund Pike, Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry and more. It’s lush.
Where to stream? NOW TV (26 episodes)
Aardman’s little stop-motion animated plasticine character, recognised by a generation from his appearances on Tony Hart’s children’s television programmes, is back with 30 new episodes, all available to stream on NOW TV.
Where to stream? NOW TV (30 episodes)
Not just colourful and exciting for little kids, British animated series Octonauts also manages to be pretty educational. The marine creatures encountered by the underwater adventure gang all have something to teach little ones about the world under the sea. Read about more of our CBeebies favourites here.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (40 episodes)
Once Upon a Time… Life
Children of the 80s, prepare for a nostalgia jolt thanks to the arrival of this 1986 French cartoon on Netflix UK. Remember? The one that educated us all about how the body worked by depicting anthropomorphic red and white blood cells running around inside a human’s veins? It’s here in full.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (26 episodes)
This Canadian series needs no introduction to parents of young children. Its merchandising has infiltrated every lunchbox, rucksack and pyjama set for years now. For everybody else, it’s about a pack of search-and-rescue dogs working missions in Adventure Bay, led by human boy Ryder. Paw Patrol to the lookout!
About the time of the Peanuts movie, this French-Italian-American animation arrived featuring Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip characters. It does a nice job of capturing the hand-drawn charm of the original animations, and the voice work is pretty spot-on.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (34 episodes)
Again, not one that requires any introduction to parents of pre-schoolers. Peppa, George and co. are characters that have long loomed large, whether on merch or in the 18-minute episodes following the young pig’s experiences of playgroup, school, neighbours and her various animal friends. It’s all sort of baffling when you think about it, which we have. Amazon currently has all episodes free to view for everyone, even non-Prime customers.
Phineas and Ferb
Irreverent, imaginative and packed with witty pop culture references, Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh’s Phineas and Ferb, about two step-brothers who undertake ambitious (some might say, impossible!) adventures is a joy.
Where to stream? Disney+ (136 episodes)
Another pre-school classic, this stop-motion animated show about a cheeky penguin and his family remains a hit for its charm and silent movie sense of humour. Its six-minute episodes are popular all over the world, thanks to the lack of a real spoken language – we can all speak Pingu.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (seasons 1-5)
Round the Twist
All four series of this Australian’s children’s fantasy are here, from the first two 1990s series (i.e. the ones you’ll remember) to the final two 2000s instalments. It’s the story of three children and their widowed father who live in a lighthouse and have a series of very strange, magical and sometimes very spooky adventures. Cracking theme song too.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (seasons 1-4)
The first two seasons, equalling almost forty episodes, of Klasky Gsupo’s hit children’s cartoon Rugrats, about the lives of a group of babies and one megalomaniac little girl, are available and they’re as much a delight as they ever were. Join Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, the fearsome Angelica and Spike the dog in imaginative adventures wittily based around domestic life.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (seasons 1-2)
Sarah & Duck
Like Hey Duggee, Sarah & Duck is a CBeebies cartoon well loved by adults and children alike. From its delightfully minimalist theme song (“quack!”) to the calming voice of Roger Allam as the narrator, Sarah & Duck is loveliness personified. Its stories of the friendship between a little girl and her mallard best friend are warm-hearted adventures with a beautifully British sense of humour.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (55 episodes)
Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated
Arguably the best TV incarnation Scooby Doo has ever had, this fast-paced, witty series won over fans of all ages with its fun pop culture references and wacky adventures. Beloved characters given a new lease on life – dig in! Here are ten reasons you should be watching.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (52 episodes)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Noelle Stevenson’s reboot of the 1980s Filmation cartoon about Princess Adora and her superpowered alter-ego is a hit. With layered writing and convincing characterisation over its four seasons, not to mention bright, dazzling visuals, kids could do a lot worse than get hooked on this. Read more about the series here.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (39 episodes)
Shaun the Sheep
More great work from Aardman Studios in the A Close Shave spin-off stop-motion series that paved the way for the terrific 2015 Shaun the Sheep feature film. Featuring the baas of Mr Tumble’s Justin Fletcher as Shaun, and Vic Reeves on the theme song, these twenty-minute adventures are great fun.
Another from the king of CBeebies, Mr Justin Fletcher, Something Special packs its 20-minute episodes with songs, rhymes and laughter, using Makaton sign language to help young viewers communicate and share the fun.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (97 episodes)
Less a cartoon than a religion to some, this cult Nickelodeon cartoon follows the adventures of peppy SpongeBob and his pals in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. Its 24-minute episodes are zany, colourful and delightfully bonkers.
Star Trek: the Animated Series
Both seasons of the original 1970s animated Star Trek series are available to stream on Netflix, continuing the story of The Original Series in the 23rd century, and following the progress of the USS Enterprise in its exploration of space. Here are the top 25 episodes of the original and animated series.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (seasons 1-2)
Created by former Adventure Time writer and storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe is huge fun. Airing on Cartoon Network in the US, it’s the story of a boy who lives with three super-powered aliens, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. They protect Earth from attack while Steven struggles to activate and control the power of his magical gem. It’s inventive, kind-hearted and seasons one to three are available to stream.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (seasons 1, 4, 5)
Teen Titans Go!
This comedic spin-off from Teen Titans follows the Titans in their downtime from saving the world. and is packed with self-deprecating humour, nerdy DC cameos and fun in-jokes. The original voice cast are all present and correct, while the series also welcomes a number of special guests including more than a few Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossovers.
The Amazing World of Gumball
This Cartoon Network show blends a variety of animation styles to relay the stories of 12-year-old Gumball, his 10-year-old brother, and his best friend (a goldfish). Light and playful and always colourful, with simple comedic storylines that are packed with stuff, it’s currently Cartoon Network’s longest running show. Read more about it here.
Where to stream? NOW TV (160 episodes)
The Demon Headmaster
This continuation of the 1990s The Demon Headmaster TV adaptation is an apt satire of modern educational trends, while also being a roaring, intrigue-filled sci-fi-fantasy adventure. Based on Gillian Cross’ latest additions to her ongoing book series, it’s a treat of an update that features more than a few Easter Eggs for fans of the original. Read our creator interview here.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (10 episodes)
The Legend of Korra
The sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender (see above) and one season longer than it, The Legend Of Korra is an animated fantasy set in a world where the classical elements can be harnessed by those with special powers and training. This acclaimed series is available in its entirety to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (seasons 1-4)
These are the original American-Belgian animated episodes from the 1980s, so no CGI and no winky self-referential nods or movie star cameos. Based on the Belgian Peyo comic, there are over 250 episodes in existence, around a fifth of which are here.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (57 episodes)
The Worst Witch
Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch book series was given another TV adaptation in 2017, with terrific results. Adapted by The Demon Headmaster‘s Emma Reeves (see above), it tells the story of hapless witch-in-training Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Cackle’s Academy, with Game of Thrones‘ Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) in the lead role.
Thunderbirds are Go!
When the first image of the Tracy brothers emerged from this 2015 Thunderbirds revival, the reception from fans of the original wasn’t altogether positive. When the full series arrived though, many admitted that the new version captured something of the adventure and fun of Gerry Anderson’s beloved supermarionation 1960s series. The first two series of this CGI remake are available to stream.
Where to stream? Amazon Prime UK (seasons 1-2)
Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia
Guillermo del Toro’s first Netflix children’s series, this animated fantasy adventure show sees teenager James discover a land of magical creatures when he stumbles into a secret realm after finding a mysterious amulet. Soon, he and his friends are tasked with protecting their small town from the mystical menace.
Where to stream? Netflix UK (52 episodes)
This stop-motion animated series is beautifully done and makes for highly relaxing viewing. Twirlywoos is about a family of four creatures who live on a boat and, in each 11-minute episode, travel to the live-action world where they cause a bit of lovely mayhem. It’s among our favourites.
Where to stream? BBC iPlayer (58 episodes)
This CBBC show is a fresh twist on the werewolf mythology, which weaves in Celtic legend and supernatural powers around honest, powerful storytelling about the difficulties and joys of teenage life. With strong writing, a great cast and a cohesive world, Wolfblood is up there with the best of them.
All three series of the brilliant fantasy puppet comedy Yonderland are available to stream on NOW TV. Created by and starring the original Horrible Histories cast, it’s a total hoot, bringing together a chosen one called Debbie, a mystical land, magical creatures and more brilliant comic characters than you can shake a wizard’s stick at.
Where to stream? NOW TV (3 series)