Kid shows similar to Daniel Tiger?
November 27, 2017 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Hi -- my five year old loves Daniel Tiger and has been watching it religiously for the last year. He has ASD, and the social stories, self-regulation tools, and interpersonal relationships and problem solving on DT have all been beneficial for him. The problem is he seems to be boring of it and I'm trying to find another show with similar qualities.

There are so many kids shows that I'm having a hard time narrowing and I don't want to introduce him to something only to decide it's not what I want him watching. This happened with Dora recently. The things I didn't like about it were that there's a ton of yelling, a ton of repetition of things that don't have context outside of the show (this was especially unwelcome as my son tends to repeat dialogue), and there was not really any interpersonal relationship modeling. Also the educational aspects (counting) seemed gauged for a younger child.

So, I'm looking for suggestions of shows with good social and emotional modeling. Thanks in advance!
posted by JenMarie to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
DT so occupies its niche; I’ll be watching other answers with interest. I’d plug Arthur and possibly Curious George. Less overtly geared towards emotional skills but filled with positive peer and community relationships (and none of the annoyances of Dora) is Tumble Leaf on Amazon.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 3:26 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

My kid sounds similar to yours only a few years older. He loved the original Mr. Rogers shows, most of which are available on DVD through Amazon for as I recall, about $5 an episode. Possibly you can even stream them for free. We also got several at the library. The shows are gentle, slow-moving and do a nice job of sorting out emotions. I know they're aimed at really little kids but when my son was about 5, the shows worked very well for him. A few years later, he undertook a sudden and intense "retrospective" where he watched all the shows again over several days and then was done.

He also liked Yo Gabba Gabba at that age - it broke situations down for him into manageable bits. Things like getting along with friends, teeth falling out, going to the doctor. It's more frenetic than Daniel Tiger by a lot but I think he really liked the exposure to typical kids without the pressure to actually interact with them.

He's 11 now so I'm not up on the current crop of TV for little kids but that's what worked for us. He also liked Jack's Big Music Show, and a whole bunch of adult videos (yikes not ADULT CONTENT) on topics of interest to him like windmills and classical music.

I hope this helps.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:59 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

One current favorite in our house is Sarah & Duck. It’s low key, but lots of creative problem solving and messages of acceptance and such.
posted by cabingirl at 4:01 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

The kids unlimited subscription from Amazon includes ALL of the Mr. Roger’s episodes. My neurotypical 9yr old binge-watched all of them and loved them. I loved that it’s something she and her 40+ yr old mom can share.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:24 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I did a few storyboards for that show. It was reeeeeeelly tedious work because the scenes were so long and everything was so flat, but it's nice to know your son is getting something out of it.

Another show that was exactly as tedious (to work on) is called Creative Galaxy, which is on Amazon. I don't know where they're currently available but Max and Ruby, George and Martha, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast are all cute, quiet shows about people learning how to get along with each other.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:55 PM on November 27, 2017 [14 favorites]

My son was an absolute DT fanatic between ages 2 and 4. I can tell you what he got into after that started to subside a bit (though he returns to the well every now and then still). Mister Rogers Neighborhood definitely. Kids don't care that it's hella old. Then he got super into Dinosaur Train, which is STEM focused obvs but has a similar vibe in that all the characters are nice to one another, care for one another, and work together to solve problems. (For my neurotypical but obsessive/quirky kid, the dinosaurs + trains element was also the perfect storm of Shit You Can Totally Learn And Recite All The Names For.) Peg + Cat is also STEM focused but part of Peg's shtick is that a few times per episode she "totally freaks out" over a difficult problem but then is prompted to count backwards from 5 to calm down. Once calm, she works together with the other characters to solve the problem. Reading Rainbow might also be something to try out. My kid's not a big reader, but he enjoyed the quiet, informative, gentle tone nonetheless.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:24 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

What a about plain old Sesame Street and Elmo's World for social-emotional learning?

Other shows I like are Pocoyo, Kipper, and Wonder Pets. All gentle and non-obnoxious cartoons.

[and bonobothegreat how cool you worked on Daniel Tiger. It IS tedious, but it actually truly teaches preschoolers social skills, and parenting skills as well!]
posted by yarly at 6:09 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pocoyo is a similarly gentle show with a few characters that treat each other kindly. I'll nth the original Mr. Rogers. A slightly left-field suggestion: my kid LOVES baking competition shows (GBBO and Kid's Baking Championship in particular), and I think he has learned a lot about the different ways that people deal with challenges but in a pretty low-stakes way of making a messy cake. People treat each other well on those shows, the judges are truthful but kind, the bakers sometimes help each other even at the cost of their own finished product. A later episode with fewer people to keep track of might be a place to start.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:18 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Charlie and Lola? Kind big brother shepherding younger sister through typical pre-schooler minor disasters. It’s very gentle, and the plots involve things like Lola being upset because she’s lost something, and Charlie helping her to get over it.

They are both VERY posh kids, which grates on me, but since your son is both American and a young child he is unlikely to notice stuff like that.

If we’re going vintage: Bagpuss, Postman Pat and Bob the Builder are popular for a reason...
posted by tinkletown at 6:23 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

My kids have definitely been interested in Arthur as they outgrow Daniel Tiger, lots of social issues and interpersonal disputes form the focus of episodes, and there's good framing before each episode.

Chuggington (on Netflix, and I guess Disney) has similarly very clearly understandable emotional stories, and also trains. Thomas the Tank Engine's newer episodes take on emotional stories as well, and do so with ASD children in mind. (Theo the Experimental Engine, from Journey Beyond Sodor, is a brand-new character who has ASD characteristics.)

My ASD child also really enjoys Dinosaur Train, Wild Kratts, Curious George, and Peg + Cat (and they don't introduce anything that drives me up the wall). Now that he's 8, he is really enjoying Star Trek: The Next Generation, which introduces him to a lot of intriguing emotional situations among the crew, and most particularly via Data trying to understand what's going on. Although the character he's most interested in is Deanna Troi, since she is the one who explains emotions and understands what's up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tumbleleaf - Amazon Prime (Science-y self guided learning and exploration)
Justin Time - Netflix (friendly and supportive imagination and history)
Bookaboo - Amazon Prime (Reading Rainbow with a dog puppet that plays the drums and celebrities)
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:47 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wonderpets, maybe? It’s an older show about classroom pets who on their off time save baby animals from mild peril (think getting stuck up a tree) together. They have to work together and sometimes one or the other needs a reminder about how to play nicely.
posted by Night_owl at 9:07 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I agree, there's nothing quite like Daniel Tiger. But of the shows my 5-almost-6 year old ASD kid likes, Doc McStuffins and Arthur both have that social-emotional learning component and I see aspects of those shows that fit in with other social-emotional lessons in her real life therapies.

There are lots of great shows on PBS Kids if you're looking for other educational entertainment, but Doc (Disney/Hulu) and Arthur (PBS/Amazon) if you're looking specifically for the social-emotional.
posted by stowaway at 9:45 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about some kids shows from the 70s? Slower pace, simple messages. Googling, it turns out there were a lot of them (I don't know what The Flumps was, but it looks intriguing!) The Wombles is something with a slow pace, simple stop-motion animation, cute creatures, and simple messaging.
posted by latkes at 10:16 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Creative Galaxy (or in our house, Daniel Tiger in Space)
posted by tristeza at 11:18 PM on November 27, 2017

Beat Bugs is similar and has the added bonus that your kiddo will learn Beatles songs. Skews just a bit younger but my 6yo (who loved DT and still watches it with little brother) enjoys it.

We quite liked Stella and Sam, which is about a sister (around 6?) and younger brother (around 3-4). Still learning about relationships, it has a little bit of a quieter feel than DT.

If you don't mind going in more of a straightforward learning direction, 6yo now loves Magic Schoolbus (we even ended up picking up some of the books at the library, they were enjoyable even for me).

Another vote for Dinosaur Train.
posted by vignettist at 12:13 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Poko is similar to Daniel Tiger in that it has a gentle tone and deals with feelings & interpersonal dynamics*. It can get repetitive, though. 2nding Peg + Cat, though sometimes it's a little manic and frankly I enjoy it more than my kid.

*Though DT is the best; thank you bonobothegreat for contributing to something my daughter says "Is very, very special to me."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:27 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pablo from the BBC is a kid's show that is specifically about autism and deals with how a little kid with autism (and I think the actor is autistic too) deals with various situations. It features a fantasy world with animal characters who have certain autistic characteristics. I've not seen Daniel Tiger so I don't know if it's similar but it does cover the social stories aspect.

Woolly and Tig might also fit the bill - about a (live action) NT little girl and her toy spider facing various new experiences (thunder, being scared of handdryers etc). When Tig has problems, Woolly discusses them with her and helps her face various feelings of anger, fear etc.

They're both super gentle, with some repetition, and very cute (especially Tig :))
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 4:43 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above, the Curious George cartoon series on PBS is great. Much better than the books. Very engaging and educational for kids, and parent-friendly as it has non-irritating voices and music. The man in the yellow hat (Ted) and George have a lovely social relationship and they figure things out together.
posted by w0mbat at 7:33 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oswald! It was one of the only shows that my husband and I really enjoyed along with Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. Maggie's friend Hamilton Pig might be a little too much (he's kind of self centered, but overall a Good Pig), though Ferocious Beast is wonderful.

Oswald is an Octopus that has friends; they live in a nice little town and have adventures. He has a pet dachshund named Weenie. Very gentle, calm with soothing music. What's nice, is that Oswald regularly helps his neighbors - and they help each other. Both my daughters were completely hooked on it.

I know you can find Maggie on YouTube if you hunt. Oswald is a little harder to find, although we found DVDs on eBay for my eldest. It was a gift from her baby sister after I delivered her.
posted by dancinglamb at 8:16 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Miles from Tommorow land possibly? Odd Squad is also popular with our five year old. Wild Kratts is good for science less on relationships. Dino train is good but he may age out of quickly.
posted by typecloud at 9:54 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about Peep and the Big Wide World? Also seconding Oswald. I love that show. Both Peep and Oswald live in calm, self-contained worlds, which my son and I find very comforting. In fact, I'll probably keep watching those shows even after my son outgrows them.
posted by Otis at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I LOVED the Flumps as a toddler but it is very... of its time and location. My husband found it completely baffling as a non-Northern English child in the 80s, I imagine a modern American kid would need subtitles.

Button Moon and The Clangers are also amazing for NT pre-schoolers, but might be a bit too abstract for a child with ASD. How do you explain why a wooden spoon in a hat is landing a rocket on a large button? The focus is more on imaginative play than on interpersonal skills. It’s all on YouTube so you could check out a couple of episodes and see what you think.

Somebody else mentioned Thomas the Tank Engine. I loved Thomas as a child, but on rewatch it is a bit disturbing - trains being bricked up in tunnels, sent for scrap etc. You don’t really question it as a child, but again some children with ASD may take it quite literally.. How does he react to unsanitised fairy tales?.

The Wombles are perfect though. And Paddington. Very kindhearted.
posted by tinkletown at 2:04 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

This might sound a bit strange... but my nephew really enjoyed My Little Pony at his age. The story lines and characters are pretty well developed and are essentially all about friendship.
posted by watrlily at 8:08 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi all -- thanks so much for so many answers! A lot of these sound really promising, and many I had never even heard of. I'm excited to introduce him to some new stuff.

some children with ASD may take it quite literally

He's extremely literal. He has seen parts of Moana, and there's one scene where she hits Maui with an oar and yells "You are NOT my hero!" I can't tell you how many times he's attempted to recreate this scene using a broom on his grandparents. I think he's finally forgotten about it but I try to avoid any shows with any kind of violence -- luckily Daniel Tiger has none. Which reminds me, thanks bonobothegreat for your work on the show! I feel really lucky we stumbled on it because it really is exactly the kind of thing my son needed on so many levels.
posted by JenMarie at 11:42 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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