We are quite particular about the kind of programming we prefer the children to watch. Choosing programming is a very personal matter for families. For example, we dislike cartoons that are frenetic with rapid camera shots, so that's a pet peeve of ours personally.
I know I am discovering shows all the time that are worth adding to our list, so I thought I'd compile a list to start conversation. I'd enjoy hearing from other families what wholesome shows you enjoy, and for what ages of children.
List created February 4, 2014; last updated June 17, 2017
The Adventures of Paddington Bear (1997)
Barney: For all the mocking of the purple dinosaur, I have come to have a lot of affection for him. I like that the show doesn't present anything as magic, but emphasizes that Barney is a character in children's imagination. The children in the show dress simply and modestly and are polite and kind, not giving sass or using hip lingo. And the littlest of children are mesmerized by this show!
Charlotte's Web (1973)
Jungle Book: This borders on too frenetic for us, but the kids really like it.
Kipper: We really enjoy this slow, calm, British series. Very young tots enjoy this one.
Leapfrog: This series of educational programs is nearly at the line of too frenetic for us, but the children do pick up a lot of facts about phonics, shapes, and colors.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Postman Pat: Claymation always has a nice, slower effect than animation.
Rocky and Bullwinkle: A bit frenetic, but clean and old-fashioned without modern propaganda. Our criticism is that our children enjoy the show so much, they become obsessed and will talk of little else.
Shaun the Sheep: Claymation
Thomas and Friends: We really enjoy this slow, calm, British series. Very young tots enjoy this one.
Timmy Time: Claymation, younger version of Shaun the Sheep.
Up (2009): Be forewarned of some vicious dogs that would scare younger children.
Wallace and Gromit: Claymation
The Alamo (1960)
The Andy Griffith Show: Even the youngest of children recognize the genius of Barney's character! I do read up on each episode subject, as it might include subject matter young children just don't know about (such as domestic violence or drunkenness).
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1979)
Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (1967)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Davey Crockett and the River Pirates (1956)
David Attenborough: Wildlife Specials: These episodes are beautifully crafted. But they are ones I let the children (our oldest being only 7) watch only with my supervision so I can fast-forward particularly bloody animal fight scenes or other things that are just too much. Watch also for environmentalism.
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
The Fighting Sullivans (1944): Particularly charming for Catholic parents and parents of boys!
The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): Good to watch at Easter
Greyfriars Bobby (1961)
Hard Hat Harry series (1990s): My one forewarning is that the premise is that Harry is a genie who appears and takes the children on educational field trips. He looks like a normal man, not like a fairy tale genie.
Heidi (2005): A rare modern movie in which little or nothing was changed from the book. Superior!
How Do They Do It?: This is a show that teaches how stuff works, interesting even for adults. Warning: Check subject matter of each episode because occasionally the "stuff" being taught about isn't age-appropriate for children.
How Stuff Works: This is a show that teaches how stuff works, interesting even for adults. Warning: Check subject matter of each episode because occasionally the "stuff" being taught about isn't age-appropriate for children.
Huckleberry Finn (1974)
In Search of the Castaways (1962)
The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998)
The Last of the Mohicans television series (1957)
A Life of Music (2016): Be forewarned about one scene in which a man is beaten to death: fast forward for children.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
Mighty Machines: Such a fantastic boy show!
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: We love the slow rhythm of this show: the cadence of the voices, the long camera shots. Warning: Watch for show subject matter, such as the six-show series on divorce: one may want to discuss such subjects with children, but a parent wants to make that choice purposefully.
Peter Pan (with Cathy Rigby) (2000): This is a filmed theatrical version.
Rascal (1967): A coming-of-age movie about a young man who adopts a baby raccoon for a summer
Robin Hood (1938)
Seabiscuit (1949): My only forewarning is to be ware that there is a live horse birthing scene that really shows every tidbit!
The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
Signing Time and Baby Signing Time: Our children have learned so much American Sign Language through this series. All my toddlers have used signing, generally knowing around 50 signs by age one-and-a-half, which I find reduces tantrums and makes life easier.
The Sound of Music: Warning: The ending of the movie with the Nazis and escape scenes is too much for young children, so many parents just end the movie a few minutes early.
Tales of Beatrix Potter (1970): This is a live-action version!
Treasure Island (with Jack Palance) (1999)
Where the Red Fern Grows (1963): Forewarning of one vicious fight scene with boys and dogs.
Wild America: Cuddly and Cool Creatures: This nature show is old-fashioned and set within a real family. The camera shots are long and still. (We prefer nature shows that don't overly promote environmentalism to the extreme that we are here to serve animals and nature.)
The Winslow Boy (1999)
Zooboomafoo: Live action nature show with the Kratt brothers--but we do not watch The Wild Kratts, which is the cartoon nature show the brothers produced later. We don't like the modern and saucy talk among the characters.