The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new appreciation for streaming platforms while families are “together at home.” Variety recently reported that the streaming competition depends on strong children’s content. Kids have always needed creative, educational and inclusive stories. But during this time of self-isolation, the streamers have become a conduit to the outside and a way to stay connected to a world that is full of diversity. Today’s most innovative storytellers are cultivating children’s stories diverse as real life by amplifying worlds inclusive of all gender identities told by immigrants, the disabled, LGBTQ, Muslims, Latinx, indigenous, black, Asian and all people of color.
Follow the lead of everyone’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, to use “television for the broadcasting of grace” with these eight children’s series that respect the imagination, creativity, and intelligence of all children. Compiled by Martine McDonald of Practice Wonder and Sue Obeidi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, this curated list highlights inclusive content that can have a positive impact on youth audiences while being fun and entertaining.
Animated worlds offer endless expressions of freedom. Netflix’s neon joy Glitch Techs breaks boundaries and stereotypes in gaming with diverse heroes of color charged with keeping video game monsters at bay from the real world. With Muslim, Indian-American and British leads of color, breaking down patterns of code to save the world shines bright with humor, teamwork, and joy.
Mira, Royal Detective
The first preschool series centered around a South Asian cast and crew, including Freida Pinto, Jameela Jamil, Rizwan Manji and Kal Penn, has a magnetic soundtrack that will entertain and inspire curious kids to problem-solve and serve the “royal court” friendships in their own community.
Diary of a Future President
Gina Rodriguez leads the way into Ilana Peña’s equal parts origin story and coming-of-age adventure that peeks inside the childhood diary of a present and future leader, Elena, a 12-year old Cuban-American girl beaming in every scene. Parents and children alike will be cheering as she navigates family issues — balancing new dynamics at home alongside middle school desires to lead, belong and connect.
Molly of Denali
Warm and adventurous, each episode highlights Molly’s energetic spirit, love of learning, her culture and community. Fueled by a majority Native American writing team and advised by Alaska Native elders, it is the first childrens’ series with a Native American lead, 10-year-old Sovereign Bill, of Tlingit and Muckleshoot descent. Rich in heart, every episode leaves you appreciative for windows into another family’s cultural traditions with the universal childhood humor and creative mix-ups that enliven our world.
We would all do well to have Odd Squad agents use math to transform our community. With a feature film already under their coats, the playful, clever scripts brought to life by a diverse cast make investigations of abnormal events a must-do after-homework activity that your children will jump right into for creative and academic inspiration.
What began as an exploration of mystical Crystal Gems that take care of the universe became a beautiful exploration of chosen family, healthy communication, love, consent and gender non-conforming magic in the animation space for audiences of all ages. Across five seasons, Rebecca Sugar created a colorful world where every being belongs — and that’s a timeless, universal lesson we all need right now.
Expanding from Emmy Award-winning series “The Loud House,” the Casagrandes’ home skates to the pace of 11-year-old Ronnie Anne and her brother Bobby who live with their extended Mexican-American family, and is a character-driven dream. Energetic, funny, and rich with intergenerational adventure, it’s a delight for families.
Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story
Karyn Parsons founded Sweet Blackberry to bring black history to every child. Each episode shines with craft and care. The story of Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina, is amplified with the narration of Chris Rock and brightened with the gifted rhythms of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy youth dancers. Kanopy Kids offers children’s media for free with most library cards.
In 2019, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that while gender parity was reached for the first time in children’s television with 52% female leads, white characters still account for 74% of leading roles. Watching these shows and making inclusive, creative choices in the children’s space will lead the way to a brighter landscape for all kids. Even better? Use the inspiration above to create. Earlier this year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC) Hollywood Bureau joined Practice Wonder and Fanshen Cox, Head of Strategic Outreach at Pearl Street Films, in collaborating on the inaugural episodic children’s media screenwriting lab for Muslim writers.
Exploring diverse stories featuring underrepresented children while “Together at Home” contributes to a future where all kids can imagine themselves as the everyday superheroes we need.
Martine McDonald is the founder of Practice Wonder, an initiative to celebrate and advocate for the freedom of wonder in untold childhoods across film and television. She also serves as the director of programming with Journeys in Film. Sue Obeidi is the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Hollywood Bureau, which consults on TV and film projects and connects American Muslim talent to decision-makers — both on the creative and business sides of the entertainment industry.