Looking for a kids’ show you can feel good about? Llama Llama on Netflix is a hit in our Editor’s house with mama and kiddo alike!
A few months ago I wrote a love letter to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, waxing rhapsodic about its brilliant social-emotional curriculum and uncanny ability to anticipate toddler/preschooler issues big and small. Of course, 4-year-olds are fickle, and my daughter has now moved on to other shows (though I will never stop singing “It’s Almost Time to Stop” before we leave the playground!).
The only time Maggie’s allowed to watch her iPad is when we’re flying, so I was looking for stuff to load up on our recent trip home to the U.S. Our family loves the Llama Llama book series from late author Anna Dewdney, so when I noticed the Llama Llama series on Netflix I immediately downloaded it without a second thought (have I mentioned that I loooove being able to download Netflix shows. They totally get parents! But I digress…)
Though I didn’t do my normal due diligence with the show, I had a feeling that anything in the same vein as the lovely, gentle and RIE-style book series would pass muster. Sure enough, Common Sense Media gives it a perfect 5-star rating, with an A+ for Educational Value and strong ratings for Positive Messages and Positive Role Models and Representations.
That last point is something that particularly stands out to me; Llama Llama is raised by a single mama (Dewdney herself was a single mother of two), who on the show is voiced by A-Lister Jennifer Garner. He also has a close relationship with his grandparents, but there’s no Daddy Llama in the picture. This prompted my daughter to ask me Llama Llama’s where daddy might be, and led to a good conversation about how every family is different, along with the various possibilities as to why Llama Llama’s father wouldn’t be around.
At the same time, Llama Llama has a wonderfully close and supportive relationship with his mother, just as he does in the books, where she patiently soothes his night terrors (“Even if I’m not right here, Mama Llama’s always near…”) or acknowledges his frustrations on a long, boring supermarket trip, for instance. At the same time, one of the books’ most brilliant aspects is how they convey that Mama Llama is her own person with needs and an identity beyond raising her child, and this carries over to the TV show. Besides Mama Llama, Gram and Grandpa Llama, there are plenty of other supportive adults around, too, from the librarian, to the friendly police officer, to the parents of Llama Llama’s friends. Every character is a different animal, which is also a nice way to celebrate diversity.
Read More: Raising Sensitive Sons
Like Daniel Tiger, the show addresses typical childhood issues in a gentle, thoughtful way. In the first episode, Llama Llama learns that it’s ok to lose a scooter race, because he tried his best (and he’s happy for his friend who won). In another, he learns the value of trying new foods that he’s at first dubious about (hilariously this has really stuck with Maggie, who asks on an almost daily basis why Llama Llama likes fish casserole!).
In just 15 episodes, the first season also expands the Llama Llama universe so that we can put names to all his friends and learn more about their families. Naturally, Maggie identifies most with Nelly Gnu, a spunky little girl with a cute baby brother. The episode “Jealous Nelly”, in which Nelly struggles with all the attention her brother gets and starts to act out, really spoke to Maggie, but also modeled good parental behavior for me. I’m truly amazed at how she will quote key lines back to me! I also like how Nelly is brave and bold and never afraid to mix it up with the boys (she won the aforementioned race while zooming on her skateboard).
Read More: The Best Books to Empower Girls
Common Sense Media recommends Llama Llama for ages 4 and up, so Maggie is right in the sweet spot. For context, a number of episodes take place in a school setting, and Llama Llama and his friends are old enough to play without parental supervision, go to the beach, and have sleepovers.
Honestly my biggest complaint about Llama Llama is that there aren’t more episodes, but I’m happy to report that the show was renewed for Season 2 in June. I look forward to more adventures with Llama Llama, Nelly and the gang in the months to come, and I know Maggie does, too. I won’t lie, watching Llama Llama on TV was my rainy day go-to for Maggie during our long trip home when I needed to get some work done.
In the meantime, check out the wonderful books if you haven’t already!
Read More: 55 Shows to Watch/Stream/Download