Family-Friendly Television Shows

Programs that parents and kids can enjoy together

When my family decides to sit down and watch television together, it never winds up being the quiet, quality time, relaxing activity I was hoping for. With nine years separating the eldest and the youngest, and six years separating the middle child from the youngest (who altogether are made up of two boys and one girl), it can be difficult to find family-friendly television shows that everyone will enjoy.

If you have a preschooler, finding a program is even more of a challenge. Because while there are plenty of television programs for preschoolers out there, your older children may not necessarily want to tune in. And while older kids also have a lot to choose from tv-wise, the two groups don't necessarily overlap. (Not to mention we haven't even talked about what you want to watch!)

If you look hard enough, however, there are shows that you can be entertained by as a family, whether your audience is made up of three-year-olds, 13-year-olds, or 53-year-olds (or a mix of all three!). Here's where to set your dial (check local listings):


The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race. CBS

Want to expose your kids to world culture and geography while they also learn about sportsmanship and the agony of defeat? You get all that and more with The Amazing Race, a CBS reality show that features teams of two (and sometimes four) racing around the world for a one million dollar prize. Hosted by Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race offers up plenty of challenges and drama that everyone in the house will be captivated by.



America's Funniest Home Videos
America's Funniest Home Videos. ABC

While the current version boasts host Tom Bergeron, America's Funniest Home Videos or AFV as it as usually known has been entertaining families of all ages on ABC for more than two decades. The premise is both simple and hilarious — people send in their funny videos and the show airs them. Three finalists are chosen and the end and compete for a cash prize. As the season goes on, the winning videos compete against each other for even more prizes. Funny segments dispersed throughout the show add variety, although the real reason people tune in every week is to see people (and their pets) make complete fools of themselves.



Full House
Full House. ABC/Teen Nick

Full House was a show popular in the late 80s to mid-90s and launched the careers of Bob Saget, John Stamos, and arguably most famously Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Thanks to regular reruns airing on Teen Nick, the show has found a new legion of fans who are happy to follow the family-friendly adventures of the Tanner family and their zany uncles. Some storylines might be hard for preschoolers to follow, but preschooler Michelle Tanner (played by the Olsens) gets plenty of screen time and has lots of funny one-liners that little kids are sure to get a kick out of.



Good Luck Charlie
Good Luck Charlie. Disney

Disney channel has nothing but family-friendly viewing, but probably the one most appropriate for little ones (that grown-ups will enjoy too) is Good Luck Charlie, a show that focuses on the Duncan family with preschool girl Charlie at the center. While some of the plotlines might go over your little one's head, the dialogue is lighthearted and ultimately focuses on the joy of being part of a family. Older episodes show Charlie as a toddler, newer ones show her going to preschool and dancing school and coping with the birth of a new younger sibling.



How it's made
How it's made. Science Channel

A Canadian import that is extremely popular in the United States on the Science Channel, How It's Made takes viewers into a world that they probably aren't exposed to every day — exploring how common objects that we use every single day are manufactured. From crayons to doorknobs, from cake mix to televisions, each segment is an amazing glimpse into the world of building, assembly, and human ingenuity.



MasterChef Junior
MasterChef Junior. FOX

Got a kid who likes to cook with you? MasterChef Junior, a competitive cooking series airing on FOX, features 8- to 13-year-olds who show promise in the kitchen. Hosted by a kinder, gentler (but still honest!) Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef Junior is a spin-off of the popular MasterChef featuring a not-so-nice Ramsay. And don't be mistaken — this isn't just kids heating up a can of soup. These talented youngsters prepare complicated gourmet dishes, eventually honing their craft and working up to take over an upscale restaurant.



Ninja Warrior
Ninja Warrior. Monster 9/Tokyo Broadcasting System

Originally known as Sasuke in Japan where it was originally created, Ninja Warrior or some version of it, has aired in over 150 countries. It features competitors who blaze through four stages of increasingly difficult obstacles such as cliffhangers and rope ladders. Only a handful of people worldwide can boast that they have completed the entire course. While some take the competition very seriously (some Olympic athletes have competed), there are other competitors who show up wearing funny costumes or bring props with them. While the original series (with English dubbing) airs on G4, NBC has shown an original spinoff series —​ American Ninja Warrior — in the past.



Too Cute
Too Cute. Animal Planet

Got a family pet (or want one)? Every episode of Animal Planet's Too Cute follows three groups of animals (generally cats and dogs) between the ages of eight and 12 weeks. These puppies and kittens are truly "too cute" as they explore the new world around them. At the end of each episode an epilogue is shared so you know what happened to some of the animals, and between segments, trivia questions about specific breeds are given so you can test your knowledge.



Wipeout. ABC

Like to laugh? Not a giggle, not a guffaw, but a full-on, eyes-tear-up belly laugh? Then be sure to tune into Wipeout a popular obstacle source series on ABC that not only tests the stamina of contestants but their sense of humor too. Featuring wacky activities such as Rolling Logs, Bubble Bath, and of course, the four famous Big Balls, folks who compete on this funny show wind up tired, wet, and sometimes, $50,000 richer.