Let me start by laying this out there for you – when I say “family show,” I’m definitely not talking about TGIF or Nick at Night shows. Do these even exist anymore? Either way, when you get to my list of “family shows,” you’re probably going to be like,
Wow, Julie, I think you are confused about what a family show is.
Let me explain. For us, a family show is a show we watch together, as a family, every night before bed and it is not, necessarily, something every family would consider “family-friendly”. My boys are eight and nine, and while they seem to love medical dramas and Sci-Fi, I know better than to put on anything they’d deem “too corny.”
Depending on the length of episodes in our current family show pick, we’ll either watch one episode a night or two. We start every night at 7:30 PM so we can begin our bedtime routines at 8:30 PM. And, most importantly, we ONLY watch this show when all four members of our family are home and we are able to watch TOGETHER.
Yes, every night, we watch TV together before bedtime. Don’t go off on me about screen time. We love books in this house, too (or at least mom and dad do.) We have family books that we read together (one read by dad each night at bedtime and one read by mom every morning at breakfast – plus we listen to audiobooks together on long drives.)
However, we’re not an- everyone on a different device watching different things in different rooms- family either. No criticism if that’s you, I totally get needing to have your own time and interests that are simply not satisfied by PJ Masks. I usually stay up until about 11 watching my own shows or reading. We just happen to be one of those weird families that do not have a TV in any bedroom. Our kids’ devices lock at 5 PM and their Nintendo has a 2-hour limit – one hour on each of their accounts – each day. By evening, their only choice is to chill with us and we take advantage of this by making it as fun as possible.
As I mentioned, you might think, “OMG I can’t believe you let your kids watch that.” Not all of the shows I share are a fit for kids their age or younger, but I know my kids and I know what they can handle. We openly discuss all aspects of what they see so we’re able to monitor how they process the information they take in.
I grew up in the 90s watching Unsolved Mysteries, X-Files, and Sightings when I was like 5 years old and I turned out fine… kinda. Right?
Four reasons my family loves having a family show:
1. We thrive on routine.
We are a family that leans heavily into a routine. Both my husband and I (and at least one of our sons) thrive on and need routine. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we leaned hard into our “family show” routine because we were all home together every single night and wanted some normalcy.
Enjoying some TV time together each night just before beginning a bedtime routine is a nice way to begin the process of winding down.
2. We love to be together.
I realize that my kids are 8 and 9 and they won’t want to do this forever so I am soaking it in while I can. I will take every single moment I can get with them while they still think I’m cool and smart.
Here’s the coolest thing… Now that our kids are getting older, we can watch shows with them that we’re actually into, too. AND share shows with them that we loved when we were younger. It’s genuinely fun for all of us.
This goes hand in hand with both our love of routines and our fondness for being together. If we know we will end our day together, we can look forward to that no matter how stressful or chaotic the rest of the day gets.
Again, I realize there is a time limit on this, but I’m loving it while it lasts.
4. It gives us something to talk about in the car and at dinner.
Much of our dinner and car ride conversations revolve around what just happened in our show, what we think is going to happen next, ideas for where we’d take the story if we were writing it, and other shows and movies the actors have been in. If you know me, you know that this is one of my favorite pastimes in general, so getting to share it with my family makes my heart happy.
Eight shows my family has loved watching together
This was one of the first shows where we really committed to sitting down and binging 1-2 episodes a night. We chose this show when we were studying the human body in our homeschool. Sure, there have got to be shows about the human body made just for kids, but what fun is that?
There were mature topics that we needed to discuss with the kids after most episodes. However, ER is shockingly less risque than shows that air on network TV these days.
My kids absolutely loved the fast-paced scenes in the ER and became really attached to the characters. They both wanted to be like Carter and there were real tears when Dr. Greene lost his battle with cancer.
Where to watch: Hulu
My kids loved The Office. The second they heard the first few bars of the opening credits, they would come running to the living room and hum and dance along. They thought Dwight was hysterical and I’m pretty sure they wanted Pam and Jim to be their parents.
Where to watch: Peacock
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Truth, the kids were far more into this show than the parents… but we stuck with it. It was definitely an age-appropriate family show and, since it’s based on a book series, I had hoped the kids would want to read the books as well. But, they didn’t.
Where to watch: Disney+
Secret of Sulfur Springs
Another truth here, I got sucked into this show with the kids! I love that my kids are budding little conspiracy theorists and mini true crime junkies, just like me. This was the perfect show for kids who love mysteries. And far more age-appropriate than my foray into mystery at their age – Unsolved Mysteries (anyone else still have a physical reaction when they hear that music and Robert Stack’s voice?)
Where to watch: Disney+
Parks and Recreation
My kids are huge fans of the Jurassic Park and World franchise so for a while there we had to watch everything starring Chris Pratt, aka Owen Grady (not me complaining over here.)
I mean, the whole cast is great. The show is entertaining and funny. I really appreciate the Leslie Knope positivity, too.
Where to watch: Peacock
Watching Lost together as our family show has probably been the pinnacle of parenting so far for me. I was so excited to share Lost with my kids because I loved it when I was younger and I can remember watching it with my family. I was very worried about introducing it to the kiddos too soon, in case they were too young to enjoy and appreciate it. I am happy to report that they LOVED Lost.
They got so into it that we pulled so much of it into our everyday lives and homeschool. My kids built models of airplanes and the Hatch out of cardboard boxes. We used it as an opportunity to teach them wilderness and survival skills. We chose Lord of the Flies by William Golding as our morning read-aloud and compared how the kids acted in the book to how the adults acted in the show. Each of my kids kept a mystery journal and recorded in it every mystery that came up during the show. Then, when the reason or answer was revealed, they added that to their journal, too.
I know we did even more that I’m not even thinking of right now. It was so great and so fun. The best part was how much the creativity in their writing assignments flourished while we were watching this show!
Honestly, my number one parenting tip is to watch Lost with your kids.
Where to watch: Hulu
Everest: Beyond the Limit
We listened to Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer on a road trip and then watched the movie. My kids got so into the book and the film that we began searching for additional shows and movies about climbing Mt. Everest. We found this three-season reality show on Prime Video and binged it!
This is the only family show we’ve had that wasn’t scripted television. I think, because of that, it didn’t hold the kids’ attention quite as much, but it was still a hit. The show follows three consecutive mountaineering seasons at Mt. Everest as groups attempt to summit the mountain in the early 2000s.
Where to watch: Prime Video
This is our current family show and we are obsessed. We started watching it because one of our younger son’s friends was telling him about the show at school. The funny thing is, we’re about to finish season four and his friend ended up stopping midway through season one because she got scared.
Turns out my kids love all things 80s – the clothes, the music, the bikes. We’re even getting begged every day to get them Dungeons and Dragons. And, my youngest has decided to dress as Dustin Henderson in season 4 for Halloween!
Where to watch: Netflix
And one show we couldn’t seem to get into… Once Upon a Time
I think we made it through one season of this and no one was on board with continuing. We had heard such great things about it but we struggled to get attached to it. Once, about a year after we stopped watching it, my younger son brought it up again, but even that didn’t get us back into it.
So, here I am, encouraging you to watch TV shows with your kids. Make watching a family show together a part of your routine. Share shows you loved as a child or young adult with them. Talk about the themes of the shows with them. It will be so rewarding for all of you!
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