Best free programming for kids on OTA TV

While there are many good reasons to start watching television for free with over-the-air TV, your kids might be giving you the best reason of all.

When you invest in an antenna and start watching OTA TV, you’ll have access to some of the best award-winning programming for kids — and not just the many popular shows that air on PBS Kids.

In addition to made-for-kids shows, you’ll also find tons of free family-friendly programming that you can all watch together for free on OTA television.

Keep reading for some of the best kids shows you can watch with nothing more than an OTA antenna.

‘Let’s Go, Luna!’ (PBS)

First airing in 2018, “Let’s Go, Luna!” follows a group of traveling circus performers: Leo the wombat, Carmen the butterfly and Andy the frog. Kids will follow along with these buddies as they travel the world and learn about the food, art and architecture that make each place in the world so special.

Judy Greer voices Luna, the moon, who helps teach kids about different cultures. The show airs in the PBS Kids block and can be seen on local PBS stations, as well as on the digital-only 24/7 PBS Kids stations that can be picked up with OTA antennas in most markets. After watching an episode, you can look up the dishes that appear on the show and find printable recipe cards from PBS that let you recreate them as a family.

‘Martha Speaks’ (PBS)

Also airing as part of the acclaimed PBS Kids block, “Martha Speaks” is an animated children’s show based on the 1992 book by Susan Meddaugh. Martha is a spunky and adorable dog who gained the power of speech when her owner Helen fed her alphabet soup.

“Martha Speaks” is a warm, funny, educational program that teaches kids about synonyms, phonics and vocabulary, but since these lessons are coming from Martha, they won’t even notice how much they are learning because they will be laughing so hard at her silly adventures.

‘Bugs Bunny and Friends’ (MeTV)

If you want to relive the nostalgia of waking up to watch cartoons on Saturday morning with your kids, you are in luck. You can watch classic Warner Bros. cartoons in the “Bugs Bunny and Friends” block airing every Saturday at 9 a.m. on MeTV. This channel can be reached with just an OTA antenna and it airs classic programming around the clock, most of which is appropriate for kids.

Give your little ones the experience of switching on the television and sitting down with a bowl of cereal on Saturday morning just like you did when you were a kid!

‘Scribbes & Ink’ (PBS)

“Scribbles & Ink” is an interactive animated show that will get your kids laughing and even teach them how to draw. It airs on PBS and you can also access free content that goes with the show on the PBS Kids website (a great site for parents and kids in general). You can download drawing sheets ahead of watching episodes or after the show is over, so your kids can have fun drawing and creating with Scribbles the cat and Ink the mouse.

‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ (PBS)

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is a long-running series inspired by characters from the iconic “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” This gentle, comforting program is appropriate for toddlers and pre-k students. In it, Daniel Tiger teaches kids about everything from sharing to forgiveness to getting over your fears. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” also has the interactive component of Daniel talking directly to the kids in the audience, much like Mister Rogers did.

‘Elinor Wonders Why’ (PBS)

“Elinor Wonders Why” follows a curious bunny and her woodland friends as they explore their neighborhood. This beautifully animated show teaches lessons about kindness, respect and diversity, and it also offers important messages about taking care of our environment. “Elinor Wonders Why” airs regularly on PBS and PBS Kids, and you can access full episodes of it anytime on the PBS Kids app without any kind of subscription or account.

‘Wild Kratts’ (PBS)

“Wild Kratts” is an exciting and educational program that will teach your kids about zoology, biology and the importance of nature conservation. It has been nominated for a Peabody Award and a Television Critics Association Award. On this show, which uses a mixture of live action and flash animation, real-life brothers Martin and Chris Kratt take viewers into the world of a different species of animal in each episode.

Kids learn about the special ‘creature powers’ of mammals, reptiles and insects, and you will be surprised at how much info they retain about the amazing life forms on Mother Earth after just one episode. If you’re looking for a more educational version of shows like “Paw Patrol” and “PJ Masks,” this is it.

‘Odd Squad’ (PBS)

“Odd Squad” is another great show for kids that airs on PBS and PBS Kids. This live-action series is aimed at older kids and follows agents of the Odd Squad as they use their math skills to solve problems and investigate weird happenings. “Odd Squad” has won numerous awards for its writing and its content including Daytime Emmy Awards and Parents’ Choice Awards, so you can feel comfortable letting your kids binge a few episodes.

It’s also pretty funny for adults to watch, so you might find yourself getting sucked in!

‘Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum’ (PBS)

“Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” gives kids a time machine to the past. Kids will follow along with Xavier, his sister, Yadina and best friend, Brad, as they go back in time to meet great artists, thinkers, composers, scientists and more. But the twist is that these legendary people are depicted as children, helping kids to connect and learn about what shaped these important historical characters early in their lives.

The show was created by Brad Melzter, who is known for creating the “I Am…” children’s book series which depicts historical figures as adorable children.

‘Lucky Dog’ (CBS, Dabl)

If your kids love dogs, you have to check out this show that airs weekly on CBS and on Dabl, both of which are available OTA. “Lucky Dog” is a documentary show that follows animal trainer Brandon McMillan’s quest to make even the most troubled dogs into rescue success stories.

McMillan travels around the country to find dogs at shelters who struggle with behavioral issues that have made it tough for them to find a forever home and he gently trains them at his Lucky Dog Ranch before finding a home for them. This is a family-friendly show with plenty of happy endings but it can also be a tear-jerker at times, so watch alongside sensitive little ones to make sure they understand what’s happening.

‘Dinosaur Train’ (PBS)

If you have littles who love dinosaurs, then “Dinosaur Train” is another must-watch on PBS. This animated children’s show comes from Jim Henson’s production company and follows a unique family of dinos who ride a train to different eras of the prehistoric age to meet various species. It teaches kids all about dinosaurs, but it also features lots of social-emotional learning like teaching kids about sharing, empathy, forgiveness and more.

‘Super Why!’ (PBS)

“Super Why!” is an educational program that aims to help improve children’s literary skills as they follow the fun adventures of Whyatt, Princess Presto, Woofster and others who act as a gang of reading-powered superheroes. The animated series follows characters from classic fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” as they learn how to solve problems using the alphabet and other literacy tools. “Super Why!” airs on PBS and PBS Kids and can be accessed for free with your antenna.

‘Curious George’ (PBS, Hulu)

“Curious George” is a wildly popular animated program that follows the lovable monkey and his friend, the Man in the Big Yellow Hat, as George gets himself into (and out of) scrapes all over town. This fun, easygoing show also has seasonal movies like “Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest” and “Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas,” which you can look out for throughout the year.

Look for “Curious George” on PBS Kids and PBS, as well as streaming on Hulu. Cuddle up with your own little monkeys for a viewing party.

‘The Masked Singer’ (Fox)

Looking for a show that your middle schoolers and tweens might enjoy? “The Masked Singer” is not the least bit educational but is a fun celebrity singing competition that’s family-friendly but still feels “adult” enough for older kiddos to enjoy. You can watch it live on Fox with your antenna on Wednesday nights.

‘Nature Cat’ (PBS)

“Nature Cat” is another lovely children’s show from PBS that will make your kids laugh, but, more importantly, will teach them the impacts of our choices on the world and how we can all do our part to help Mother Earth. It’s a serious topic but “Nature Cat” is a lighthearted, gentle show featuring the adventurous Nature Cat and his band of merry animal buddies as they enjoy all the beauty and mystery of the outdoors while their humans are away at work.

Voiced by “Saturday Night Live” actors like Kate McKinnon, Chris Parnell, Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson, this Daytime Emmy-nominated show will engage kids and adults alike.

‘Work It Out Wombats!’ (PBS)

“Work It Out Wombats!” won’t start airing until early 2023, but you will be able to watch it on PBS and PBS Kids, as well as stream it for free on the PBS Kids app with no subscription required. The new show will follow wombats Malik, Zadie and Zeke as they use computational thinking to solve problems they come across in their neighborhood of trees. The show will educate kids about how to apply the concepts of computer science to their lives and how to work together as a team.

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