Way back in the early days of television, academic experts used to debate about how “dangerous” the medium was for children. Things have changed a lot, for the better. Nowadays, no one questions the fact that television can be a worthwhile, highly educational way for children to learn all sorts of things.
If you’re a music teacher, parent or anyone who cares about the state of music education in the U.S., the good news is that TV offers some of the most fun, interesting and educational ways for children to encounter music. Whether that means sing-along shows, musical drama, humorous music programs or on-air lessons for kids who want to learn music basics, TV is the place to be.
Our team at Prodigies Music checked out the listings and came up with seven of the best programs for teaching kids about music. You might have some favorites too, so feel free to add them to this list and come up with your list of TV shows that help kids fall in love with, and learn about, music in all its wonderful variations.
Here’s our list of the best seven, along with seven more in the “honorable mention” category:
The 7 Best TV Shows for Teaching Kids About Music
These programs aren’t listed in any particular order because they are so different. Some kids gravitate to one particular show while others will enjoy them all.
- Fraggle Rock: This show, called “FR” by its fans, is a joint production of Canadian, U.S. and British programmers. The series is live-action and is centered around puppet characters, all of whom are a special type of Muppet called “fraggles.” The show features lots of fun musical numbers and is a good way for youngsters to get a taste of singing along with the characters. The original creator was Jim Henson of Muppet fame.
- Schoolhouse Rock: Featuring some of the very best music education, Schoolhouse Rock is primarily made up of interesting short pieces that focus on one or another aspect of music. There’s plenty of other helpful information added into the mix, like lessons on civics, math, science, history and other subjects. A favorite of teachers everywhere, the show has music in its DNA and is one that kids always end up singing to.
- The Mickey Mouse Club: One of the oldest kid-oriented music shows on the air, TMMC is infused with music from start to finish. There are a few drama and humor skits thrown in for good measure, but most kids wait for the fun songs, dances and documentary-style segments on singers, professional musicians and more. It’s geared for older children but even the youngest will enjoy singing and dancing.
- Phineas and Ferb: This musical sit-com is animated and follows the hilarious adventures of step-brothers Ferb and Phineas as they get into all sorts of wild situations while enjoying their summer vacation. Children are mesmerized by the music, singing, jokes and wacky hi-jinks of the two boys, who always seem to be at odds with their sister. Music is a huge part of the program and kids everywhere have been loving Phineas and Ferb for more than 12 years.
- Animaniacs: Children not only enjoy the music in this slapstick animated series but seem to love the random nature of the format. Set up as a kind of variety program, there’s a lot of humor aimed at adults, who make up a big part of the show’s viewing demographic. If you want a show that both you and your child can enjoy, tune into Animaniacs. The musical numbers are funny, interesting and professionally done.
- The Muppet Show: One of the most popular children’s show of all time, TMS is the ultimate family-centered TV show in the “variety/comedy” genre, so kids, of course, love it to death. There’s a little bit of everything on TMS, including sing-alongs, dancing, segments about musical instruments, music-hall fun and short comedy skits. If you want your kids to begin their musical education with a fun, positive program, TMS is the one to watch.
- Sesame Street: Here’s another classic kids show that makes music a huge part of the mix. Adults like it too, so it’s in the “both can enjoy” category like Animaniacs. Sesame Street’s charm comes from its regular characters, all of whom sing and dance at times. There’s a good mix of serious and humorous on the show, with frequent visits from famous musicians, singers and Broadway stars. Many children get their first look at the world of professional music by watching Sesame Street.
Honorable Mention: 7 More Shows For Musical Kids
Here are seven more shows to round out the full listing, which means you now have a full menu of 14 TV shows from which to choose.
- BabyFirstTV: Not a show but a specialty channel, BFTV does have an excellent regular series called Rainbow Dreams that offers up lullabies and other soothing songs for little ones. It’s a high-quality channel with a lot of interesting musical programming for babies, toddlers and their parents.
- Blue’s Clues: Songs and interesting adventures abound in this beloved show for pre-school and elementary students. Every episode has a “solve this mystery” challenge that involves the dog, Blue, leaving simple clues, many of which are centered on singing songs. For years, Blues’ Clues has been a standard hit with children in the 3-7 year-old age group and is an excellent way to introduce kids to music.
- Dora the Explorer: One of the highest-rated of all children’s programs, lead characters Dora and Boots do a lot of traveling, singing, and exploring. Adults who grew up with this show when they were young say that it helped them learn Spanish and the rudiments of singing.
- Jack’s Big Music Show: If you want a kids show that is 100 percent focused on singing, musical instruments, and all other aspects of music education, this is the one to watch. It’s interesting for adults too, so consider making it a regular thing to do with your children. You’ll both learn something from every episode. Plus, there are frequent professional musicians who appear as guests.
- Johnny and the Sprites: This clever show uses Broadway music styles and songs to help children understand important life lessons. It’s also quite entertaining for adults and makes a good one to view with your young ones.
- Little Einsteins: Many parents regularly vote this show as the best one for teaching kids about music. There are segments about classical composers, lessons about all types of music, episodes centered on specific musical instruments, pieces about voice training, and much, much more. This is another program that is perfectly appropriate for parents, who tend to get hooked on the documentary-style production.
- The Backyardigans: This a wonderful choice for younger children. The show follows the musical adventures of five pals who “travel” via their imaginations. Every episode features songs, dancing and music of various kinds. Preschool kids absolutely become entranced by this show and can’t seem to get enough of it. The best part is that all the musical fun is an integral part of the plot in every episode.
How To Watch
Try to watch the shows with your children the first time they view them. That’s a good way for you to get a preview of what each program is about and how it teaches. Knowing what your child is watching is smart policy, especially when it comes to educational programming. See how your child responds to the teaching method on the programs and try to discover which approaches they enjoy most.
A few shows, like Little Einsteins, Jack’s Big Music Show and Sesame Street are partly designed to be interesting for adults. Little Einsteins, especially, is produced as a sort of documentary-style show about music and could probably pass as adult programming in prime time.
For example, some kids love to sing along and watch instructional pieces about musical instruments. This is a prime opportunity for you to discuss instruments with them and see what their core interests are. Try to skip around between all the TV shows so you can expose the youngsters to a variety of different learning situations. Some shows do nothing but sing-alongs while others explain the different genres of music, get into the way instruments work and more.