What to watch when family time means TV time

In the best of times, navigating, or I should say, negotiating screen time is one of our biggest challenges. Even during what one could say is the worst of times, when screens have taken over our homes with Zoom calls and virtual learning, we have found ourselves loosening our rules around free time spent in front of a screen.

So over course of the pandemic, we have discovered some really good series and movies that let us escape the real world, learn, and laugh together cozied up on the couch as a family.

Here’s our faves. What’s yours?

Disclaimer: At the time of watching these, my kids were around 8 and 11. Every kid is different, so I usually head to Commonsense Media to get the lowdown.

  • The Mitchells vs. The Machines – Speaking of screens taking over our lives, this animated comedy follows a family on a road trip during a robot apocalypse. We were invited to participate (virtually) in a dance party and have a sneak peek viewing of the newest production by the people behind The Lego Movie and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. It is action-packed with funny and feel good. It’s on Netflix as of April 30.
  • YES DAY – also on Netflix is a good one. Starring Jennifer Garner, it’s a story of parents giving their kids 24 hours where they would make the rules. It was hilarious and a lot of relatable mom moments.
  • The Great Canadian Bake Show on CBC Gem – Pandemic meant a lot more time at home – and in the kitchen. My kids really got into the competition factor of baking fancy cakes and yummy pastries. There are 4 seasons of home bakers from across Canada competing to win the title of the Great Canadian Baker.
  • Fridge Wars – also on CBC Gem – It was fun watching some top chefs whip up a meal from the random food in ‘average’ Canadian houses. One season.
  • My Octopus Teacher on Netflix – this docufilm is so incredible and visually stunning. It follows the filmmaker who befriends an octopus, revealing a beautiful underwater world.
  • Mulan on Disney+ – this came out at the beginning of the pandemic. The kids were really inspired by the ninja moves and follow your dream
  • Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix- speaking of Ninjas, if you haven’t already discovered and devoured this series – do it. It’s a global spin on American Ninja Warrior – so good for geography lessons. It’s so inspiring and motivating watching these super athletes tackle crazy obstacles. This series got my youngest into rock climbing.
  • Mighty Ducks: Game Changers series on Disney Plus – okay, more sports, but a great feel good update from the original movie.
  • The Unlisted on Netflix – an Australian sci-fi series that follows the story of 12-year-old twins who work with a group kids to stop powerful governments from imposing global control over the world’s youth.