8 kids' TV shows that embrace diversity—and totally rock
Inclusive shows the whole family will love.
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Faces in children's media have changed dramatically over the years. Gone are the days of sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning with a huge bowl of cereal, staring at half hour, after half hour of shows featuring very little diversity among the cast. We've seen a welcome shift in the way that characters and storylines are portrayed in children's programming—and that's a good thing.
Gina Dearing, a parental and family coach with a background in social work and early childhood education, cites the importance of exposing kids to diversity in children's media. “When children watch a television show depicting different races, ethnicities, or lifestyles, they have an opportunity to see that all people are capable of and interested in all kinds of different things.” says Dearing.
These are important lessons to teach our kids and it's vital that we have conversations in our homes around such subjects. What better way to reinforce these lessons than through the media that we share? These days, it's much easier to find media that is not only entertaining, but also diverse. These eight children's TV shows highlight diversity, while also being fun and engaging.
1. Molly of Denali
Where to watch: PBS Kids
Age range: 4 to 8
Molly of Denali follows the experiences of 10-year-old, Native Alaskan, Molly Mabrey. Molly lives in a fictional Alaskan village and vlogs about her adventures with nature, her friends Tooey and Trini, and the trading post run by her family. Native ceremonies, traditions, and tales are often featured in this heartwarming series.
2. Mira, Royal Detective
Where to watch: Disney Junior
Age range: 5 to 8
Mira is a clever—but common—girl who is appointed to the role of Royal Detective by an Indian queen, Queen Shanti. It is Mira's job to travel through the fictional kingdom, based off 19th century India, helping both commoners and royals, alike. Scenes featuring traditional Indian marketplaces and festivals are regular settings for Mira and her two mongoose sidekicks, Mikku and Chikku.
3. The Casagrandes
Where to watch: Nickelodeon
Age range: 7 to 10
Set in an apartment complex in the fictional Great Lakes City, The Casagrandes follows a multi-generational Mexican-American family living and working together. Rich characters, such as an uncle who is a surgeon in Peru, a mother and aunt who is a nurse, a sister and cousin who is a spunky tomboy, a lovable cousin and brother with Downs syndrome, and a patriarch and grandfather who owns the family bodega, comprise the large extended family.
4. Motown Magic
Where to watch: Netflix
Age range: 3 to 5
From executive producer Smokey Robinson, comes an animated series aimed at introducing the magic of Motown music to a new generation. Each 11 minute episode reimagines a classic song while honoring the roots of the music. Timeless tunes featured include, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “My Girl”, “Superstition”, and “For Once In My Life” performed by contemporary artists such as Ne-Yo, Skylar Grey, and Becky G.
5. Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
Where to watch: PBS Kids
Age range: 4 to 7
Follow young Xavier Riddle, his sister Yadina, and their friend Brad, as they enter a secret portal to the exciting world of history in this animated series. With show titles such as “I am Helen Keller”, “I am Harriet Tubman”, “I am Abraham Lincoln” and “I am George Washington Carver”, the team explores monumental events in history in a developmentally appropriate—and fun—way.
6. Craig of the Creek
Where to watch: Cartoon Network
Age range: 7 to 10
What could be more universal than a bunch of kids seeking independence by hanging out down at the creek every afternoon? Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Children's Animated Series, this relatable premise is explored by a cast of interesting and diverse characters. Included in the group are Chelsea, a dramatic, Jewish, only child, JP, an awkward and sweet second-banana (think the kid version of Kevin Malone from The Office), and Craig the lovable protagonist, raised among a strong, Black family. Topics explored cover everything from pet turtles to recollections of a civil rights march.
7. Diary of a Future President
Where to watch: Disney+
Age range: 10 and up
Elena is a 12-year-old Cuban American trying to navigate the ups and downs of middle school while pursuing her dream of someday becoming president. This live-action series is told through the narration of Elena's diary as we see her path to presidency. Flash-forwards of Elena as President highlight themes of diversity and inclusion in her campaign.
8. Sesame Street
Where to watch: PBS Kids and HBO Max
Age range: 2 to 5
No list of influential children's programming would be complete without including this trail-blazing gem. Set on a fictional street in Manhattan, Sesame Street has been exploring groundbreaking subject matter since 1969. Some of the most memorable scenes over the years include a young girl describing the parts of her wheelchair in the 90's, a mother normalizing breastfeeding on a street corner in the 70's, a discussion around adoption in the 80's, and the song "Love My Hair”, a celebration of natural hair, in 2010. The 2019-2020 season, Sesame Street's 50th anniversary, saw the addition of a new military family to Sesame Street.
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