Was that title specific enough for you? There are fortunately tons of cartoons on Netflix with Mandarin audio now. Among my kids’ list of favorites includes Kazoops, Word Party, The Magic Schoolbus Rides Again, Carmen Sandiego, YooHoo, Motown Magic, True and the Magic Kingdom, Charlie’s Colorform City, just to name a few off the top of my head. But as my daughter is getting a little bit older, I wanted to be able to watch some non-cartoon shows with her. (Get my Chinese practice in too.) BUT, then I realized that most non-animated shows are simply not age-appropriate. The vast majority are centered on romance and teen drama. I really do not want to introduce that at age 8. That’s right, that means no soapy Asian dramas for us for quite yet.
Besides looking for conservative content that is rated TV-G, TV-Y/Y7, or TV-PG, my criteria for a good show was that it was: 1) not focused on (as it is unfortunately difficult to completely eliminate) teen drama with the who-likes-who and premature relationships (reason why Project MC2 and Bella and the Bulldogs got cut from this list although I really wanted to be able to include them) 2) not overusing stereotypes (like the shows on Nickelodeon that are just too obnoxious to watch （a main reason why Richie Rich did not make this list) 3) not disrespecting adults (often shows meant for kids will make the adults to not just be aloof, but downright incompetent).
The InBESTigators is a detective comedy for kids. My daughter is really into mysteries now so this is the perfect show for her. The characters are endearing and the storylines present clever, positive messages and encourage good conflict-resolution skills.
The Healing Powers of Dude is a heartwarming show about a kid named Noah who has social anxiety disorder and has an emotional support dog named Dude that he takes with him everywhere. Cheesy? Yes, but it works. For kids.
Free Rein is a drama mystery centered around Zoe, a confident 15 year old girl, who casts asides pretentiousness and embraces real friendships. But before I say any more, I think the rating is at least a TV-Y because, spoiler alert, our protagonist has a flame.
Ponysitter’s Club follows a diverse group of friends who volunteer at a rescue ranch. They help rehabilitate animals while supporting each other as they overcome challenges in their own lives. The writing and acting is really not great, but the life experiences of loyalty, friendship, empathy, compassion, and kindness shine through in each episode. It is last on the list though, because unfortunately my kids have no interest in watching it.
Brainchild is a nerdy, funny series that teaches modern, kid-friendly science concepts. I could definitely do without some of the pre-teen social references used to present the science, but all in all this is a good family show. It is engaging, refreshing, and entertaining. But, know that there are a couple of episodes, such as Dreams and Motivation, that you may consider censoring or skipping. I recommend pre-watching the episodes so you know which ones will be most appropriate for your child.
The New Legends of Monkey is the fantasy adventure reboot of the Chinese classical tale of 孫悟空, The Monkey King, and his heroic quest to the West. This show is entertaining for the entire family, with some intense/dark parts with the bad guys that may be a little scary if your child is sensitive to that. As a family, we are going to hold off on watching this show for just a tad longer, but I wanted to go ahead and include it on this list because it is a great find for a Chinese dubbed family show on Netflix.
J-Style Trip stars Taiwanese actor-singer Jay Chou as he takes “impromptu” trips around the world with his friends. So far there are only two episodes and they have been more like a TV-Y rating in my opinion. This is a very interesting addition to this list since it is reality TV and the content has been pretty mellow so far.
You vs. Wild is such a cool show. It is an interactive survival adventure show in which viewers travel on missions with Bear Grylls and make decisions that affect the outcome. If your kids ever liked the PBS show Wild Krattz, this is totally their kinda show.
The Prince of Tennis is adapted from the popular manga series. A headstrong tennis prodigy returns to China as a high school freshman with the aim of beating his tennis genius father. Through his new teammates, he learns the true meaning of teamwork, friendship, and a greater purpose to his life.
Away from Home is a drama set on a small Malaysian island where children from low socio-economic backgrounds are brought together at a local school. To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about including this one on the list because this is a drama and the themes get real. In other words, there’s drama for sure and the mood can get a little heavy, but it eventually gets resolved and the kids learn some solid life lessons. The Malaysian Mandarin accent is very prominent. The culture may also not be something our Western-cultured children are used to, so for all intents and purposes this is a PG show where parental guidance is very much needed to navigate the drama, cultural differences and mannerisms of the characters. Let me put it this way, have you ever had an Asian relative that said something your Westernized ears are literally appalled at?–well, be forewarned.