The best TV shows for tweens

Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel.
Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel. (Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Welcome to our pick of the best TV shows for tweens. Finding programmes that 11 and 12-year-olds will love can be quite a challenge. On the cusp of becoming teens, these youngsters are discovering new tastes and interests – ditching kiddie cartoons in favour of shows with a more mature vibe. They know what they like, and luckily we've got them covered.

From medieval fantasy dramas to sci-fi adventures and laugh-out-loud family sitcoms, we've chosen a diverse selection of small-screen action guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest tween.

Here are the best TV shows for tweens...

Ms. Marvel

Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

Kamala gets to grips with her new powers.  (Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

What’s it about? Kamala Khan (played by newcomer Iman Vellani) is a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City with a pretty ordinary life. Until that is, she discovers a bracelet sent from her grandmother in Pakistan that gives her extraordinary powers and life is pretty much never the same again as she battles against a mysterious group called the Clandestines, a sinister group from another dimension. 

Why it’s a must-see: Iman and her young co-stars are great, but also putting Kamala's Muslim and Pakistani family and heritage front and centre makes this series stand out in the crowded superhero genre. The legacy of the trauma caused by the Partition of India in 1947 runs deep throughout the series, adding a whole new layer of historical relevance and emotional impact that elevates this show to a place many superheroes can only dream of. 

Our tween's verdict: "Kamala isn't like other superheroes and this is full of great action and fight scenes."

Where to watch: Disney Plus

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

Average episode length: 48 minutes

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor is back as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan. (Image credit: Disney Plus)

What’s it about? Ewan McGregor reprises his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in this thrilling series, a must-see for any Star Wars fan. Set 10 years after the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, where Obi-Wan defeated his former friend and apprentice Anakin Skywalker in a dramatic final battle, leaving him for dead. But that, of course, wasn't the end for Anakin, who was picked up by the evil Emperor Palpatine and transformed into the legendary Darth Vader, the iconic villain who is then set on getting his revenge on Obi-Wan.  

Why it’s a must-see: The cast is amazing, Hayden Christensen returns as Darth Vader and watch out for a scene-stealing performance by Vivien Lyra Blair as a young Princess Leia. It’s also action packed and full of twists and turns that will delight Star Wars fans. 

Our tween's verdict: "We've been watching all the Star Wars films and this is a brilliant addition. There are some great fight scenes and Darth Vader is really menacing."

Where to watch: Disney Plus

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

Average Episode Length: 50

Surviving Summer

Summer (middle) and the gang.

Summer (middle) and the gang hit the waves. (Image credit: Netflix)

What’s it about? Rebellious teen Summer Torres has been expelled from two elite private schools in America, leaving her mum at a loss of what to do next. So she sends her to the small town of Shorehaven in Australia, where life revolves around surfing, surfing and more surfing. At first she’s a fish out of water but soon she discovers that life in Oz isn’t all that bad.

Why it’s a must-see: Actor Sky Katz is great as the attitude-filled Summer, who puts on a good show of being a stroppy teen but viewers see early on she’s also a little lost and upset about being sent to the other side of the world. Summer isn’t the only character with depth and interesting back stories that unravel as the series goes on, watch out for Ari (Kai Lewins) as he returns to surfing after an injury that nearly killed him. There are also positive messages about following your dreams and being brave enough to just be yourself.

Our tween's verdict: "Summer isn't happy at first but she soon makes friends and we love the surfing, it looks amazing."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 10

Average episode length: 28 minutes

History 101

What’s it about? This bite-sized series gives a comprehensive guide to a whole range of significant cultural, scientific and technological breakthroughs. In fast-paced but insightful episodes tweens can access huge amounts of information about everything from fast food to nuclear power, the space race to feminism. Not every episode will be of interest or suitable for younger tweens, but it’s a great starting place for inquiring minds wanting reliable and accurate information about a wide range of subjects.

Why it’s a must-see: A perfect snapshot of big topics that imparts a lot of information in a short amount of time – perfect for a tween with a thirst for knowledge but not hours to wade through the internet. 

Our tween's verdict: "If you want to learn a lot of information quickly this is really useful and you can just pick out the episodes that interest you."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 20

Average episode length: 20 minutes

The Letter for the King

The Letter for the King

The Letter for the King has been dubbed as a Game of Thrones for kids. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? Loosely based on the fantasy novel by Dutch author Tonke Dragt, the series follows teenage knight-in-training Tiuri, who's sent on a mission to deliver a secret letter to King Favian. Warned, "There's a darkness coming. A darkness that will take everything", the young squire has just 14 days to complete his quest as he embarks on a perilous journey across the Great Mountains with his horse, Ardanwen. Along the way, Tiuri encounters opinionated outcast Lavinia, and together the duo combine their skills to defeat the evil forces working against them.

Why it's a must-see: Dubbed as a Game of Thrones for kids, this high-budget production will delight young fans of medieval fantasy. Tiuri, Lavinia and Ardanwen are a force to be reckoned with.

Our tween's verdict: "It's exciting to watch Tiuri's mission unfold and there's loads of action to enjoy, sprinkled with magic. Ardanwen might be the best character in it."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

Average episode length: 50 minutes

Team Kaylie 

Team Kaylin

Team Kaylin is a must-see on Netflix.  (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? After getting on the wrong side of the law, teen reality star Kaylie Konrad is sentenced to a year of community service, running the wilderness club in a Los Angeles middle school. Kaylie's got her work cut out mentoring the Pico Porcupines – made up of sassy leader Amber, gothic girl Valeria, joker Chewy, drama queen Ray Ray and straight A-student Jackie – as well as taking on the group's loathsome rivals, the Lumberjacks. But she didn't bank on falling head over heels for the Lumberjack's leader, Colt Axelrod.

Why it's a must-see: Billionaire Kaylie proves she's got a heart of gold by taking the Porcupines under her wing and rescuing them from various scrapes. In turn the gang of tweens love having a social media star on their side, and every episode delivers a positive message to the viewer.

Our tween's verdict: "Each member of the Porcupine club has their own image and quirky personality, which makes it more interesting."

 Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 20

Average episode length: 30 minutes

Kid Cosmic

Kid Cosmic

Kid Cosmic is about nine-year-old boy who fantasises about becoming a super hero. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? Out of this world animation about a nine-year-old lad called Kid, who fantasises about becoming a superhero. Turns out dreams do come true when Kid finds five Cosmic Stones of Power on board a crashed spaceship and discovers they can be used to protect Planet Earth from alien invasions. But even heroes need help sometimes, so Kid recruits his grandpa Papa G, four-year-old Rosa, teenage waitress Jo, and local cat Tuna Sandwich, giving them each a stone to create their own magic supernatural power. Together will they be able to save the day?

Why it's a must-see: It's a clever twist on a classic sci-fi cartoon. The plot is fast-paced, and the wonderful animation is brought to life by talented voiceover actors.

Our tween's verdict: "Kid and his gang make the best team, it would be so cool to be able to travel into space."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 24

Average episode length: 25 minutes

 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a must-see classic.  (Image credit: Amazon Prime)

What's it about? Teen heroine Buffy Summers is the latest in a long line of women chosen to be the "Vampire Slayer", whose job it is to use their mystical superpowers to fight evil demons threatening humanity. But unlike the Slayers before her, Buffy doesn't work alone. Guided by her 'Watcher' and mentor, Sunnydale High's librarian Giles, she's also helped by fellow school friends Willow and Xander. The foursome form The Scooby Gang, known as the Scoobies, and receive help from mysterious vampire Angel, who ends up becoming Buffy's boyfriend.

Why it's a must-see: Almost 25 years on from hitting our screens, this cult classic has stood the test of time. Slick, sassy with just the right amount of scary, the writers of Buffy created a masterpiece and brought it to life with an outstanding cast, lead by the amazing Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Our tween's verdict: "Buffy is epic – I can see why it's rated one of the best shows of all time."

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Number of seasons: 7

Episodes: 144

Average episode length: 42 minutes

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Family Reunion is now showing on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? The McKellan family – mum Cocoa, dad Moz, and their four children, Jade, Shaka, Mazzi, and Ami – decide to leave their home in big-city Seattle to move closer to their family in Columbus, Georgia. But life in the slower-paced Deep South soon proves to be quite a culture shock for the clan, not made easier by Moz's religious parents and their old-fashioned views. However, the younger members of the family soon realise the older generation may be able to teach them a thing or two about life.

Why it's a must-see: It's a heart-warming sitcom that provides big entertainment, but is also not afraid to tackle important topical issues, such as racism, and touches on the civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter.

Our tween's verdict: "This family are hilarious and have proper banter together. I couldn't stop giggling." 

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 2 (in 4 parts)

Episodes: 35

Average episode length: 28 minutes

The Big Family Cooking Showdown

The Big Family Cooking Showdown

The Big Family Cooking Showdown is a cooking show with a twist. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? The recipe for success in this cookery show is all about working together as a family. Each week, two teams made up of three family members are put through their culinary paces in a series of challenges. But which brood will come up with the winning dish to make it through to the next round of the competition and be in with a chance of winning the big prize? On hosting duties in series one are Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and Zoe Ball.

Why it's a must-see: A playful show that proves cooking can be fun and rewarding if you get stuck in. Hopefully inspiring budding young chefs to get into the kitchen with their families and have a go at creating something delicious.

Our tween's verdict: "Team work makes the dream work – this show has made me want to have a go at cooking with my family"

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 26

Average episode length: 59 minutes

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time is a 21st century take on fairytales. (Image credit: Disney PLus)

What's it about? The residents of fictional Maine seaside town Storybrooke are actually fairytale characters, transported to the real world and stripped of their past memories by the Evil Queen Regina. There they have remained for 28 years with no hope of the curse being broken, that is until Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming arrives. Reunited with her son Henry Mills, who she gave up at birth – and was subsequently adopted by Regina – the pair must work together, using the lad's Once Upon A Time book of fairytales to break the dark spell cast over the folk of Storybrooke.

Why it's a must-see:  Everyone needs a dose of Disney, and this 21st-century take on fairytales cleverly explores the magical backstories of each of the iconic characters. 

Our tween's verdict: "This is a grown-up fairytale and has loads of episodes to keep you going."

Where to watch: Disney Plus

Number of seasons: 7

Episodes: A whopping 156

Average episode length: 44 minutes

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been adapted from a collection of books with the same name.  (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? When a fire burns down their home, killing their parents, the Baudelaire children – Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny – are placed in the care of their distant relative, the villainous Count Olaf, who hatches a plot to steal their inheritance. When his plan fails, the orphaned siblings are shipped off to a series of mean-spirited guardians and try to unearth buried family secrets, but Count Olaf is never far behind. The mysterious Lemony Snicket narrates the trio's extraordinary misadventures.

Why it's a must-see: Fans of the famous book series will be delighted by this adaptation that remains very faithful to the original. Actor Neil Patrick Harris makes a scarily good Count Olaf, stealing every scene he's in.

Our tween's verdict: "I laughed out loud at some of Count Olaf's stupid disguises, he's almost too funny to be frightening."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 25

Average episode length: 45 minutes

Anne with an E

Anne with an E

Anne with an E is based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's popular 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? Spirited 13-year-old orphan Anne is mistakenly sent to live with elderly brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert at their family farm of Green Gables in Avonlea. Marilla, who's been expecting to receive a boy, is disappointed by Anne's arrival and wants her to return to the orphanage. However, the plucky young feminist is determined to prove Marilla wrong, and using her imagination and intelligence, she tries to find a way to make Green Gables her home.

Why it's a must-see: Based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's popular 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables this faithful adaptation is full of heart. Anne's appetite for adventure and sparky character makes her an infectious lead, and she's supported by an equally strong cast. The drama is set in 1896, meaning viewers will get a little visual history lesson as to how life was back then.

Our tween's verdict: "Anne's so likeable, energetic, and brave, she makes you want to be her mate."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 27

Average episode length: 44 minutes

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin has been hugely popular on BBC iPlayer.  (Image credit: BBC)

What's it about? The young and talented sorcerer Merlin is sent to live in Camelot by his mother, where he learns magic was outlawed 20 years ago by the cold-hearted King Uther. Having discovered Uther also imprisoned the last dragon Kilgharrah in the caves beneath his castle, Merlin begins hearing the voice of the creature. He finds Kilgharrah, who issues him with an important mission- to use his powers to protect Uther's only son Prince Arthur, in the hope that one day magic will return to the kingdom of Camelot. 

Why it's a must-see: Knights in shining armour, dungeons, dragons, sorcery and spells - Merlin's got all that and more. Merlin himself is smart, with a wicked sense of humour, and not afraid to stand up to arrogant Prince Arthur.

Our tween's verdict: "The special effects are out of this world. Merlin is so easy to binge watch."

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer and Netflix

Number of Seasons: 5

Episodes: 65

Average Episode Length: 44 minutes

Diary of a Future President

Diary of a Future President

Diary of a Future President is on Disney Plus. (Image credit: Disney Plus )

What's it about? Cuban-American Elena's your average 12-year old middle-schooler, experiencing all the trials and tribulations of adolescence. She lives with her mum Gabi and older brother Bobby and documents her daily life in her trusty journal. Elena also thinks a lot about the future and harbours a burning desire to one day become president of the United States. Flash forward 28 years and a grown-up Elena has realised her big dream, swapping her chaotic childhood home for The White House. Told through voiceovers, Elena explains to the audience how her younger years prepared her to take on the biggest job in the world.

Why it's a must-see: This feel-good series deals with teen-based issues, but manages to feel fun with it. Hard-working and confident Elena's a positive role model for young viewers, and her close-knit family are supportive and sweet.

Our tween's verdict: "Elena's story makes me believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it." 

Where to watch: Disney Plus

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 20

Average episode length: 34 minutes

The Babysitters Club

The Babysitters Club

The Babysitters Club follows the adventures of five best friends. (Image credit: Netflix)

What's it about? The adventures of five best friends from suburban Stoneybrook, Connecticut, who decide to start up their own babysitting business. So who's in the club? Proud feminist Kristy Thomas takes on the role of president, and second in command is talented artist Claudia. Diabetic Stacey is the treasurer and hails from Manhattan, while shy Mary Anne acts as secretary, and last but not least is Stoneybrook newcomer Dawn. Together this group of tweens is ready to take on the world!

Why it's a must-see: What starts as a way of making a few dollars leads the girls to discover things about themselves and grown-ups they never knew. 

Our tween's verdict: "My besties make school much more fun, and these girls are total friendship goals."

Where to watch: Netflix

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 18

Average episode length: 27 minutes

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.

With contributions from