Chinese kids shows: best non-animated

This posts summarises our favourite non-animated Chinese kids shows and Youtube series for children in Mandarin Chinese, suitable for aged 3 to 10 year olds.

The value of watching kids shows in Chinese

For families like ours without any Chinese speaking adults in the home, television has been a key part in our journey to provide exposure to the spoken language, and serves as a good motivation for them to want to understand the language.  We’ve certainly noticed additional benefits from focussing on non-animated Chinese kids shows (as opposed to cartoons), as the content tends to feature more practical content, Chinese culture, modern conversational lingo, and show real people interacting with the language.

After reading a detailed post at Chinese Speaking Kids about their suggested non-animated shows, we started exploring these recommendations and discovered plenty more for ourselves.  Not every show we tried was a winner, but we’ve found a few series in Mandarin which we’re really enjoying. 

Here are our family favourites, and the matching YouTube. We must have tried >50 series, but these are our top ten finds, which are now on regular rotation, with some notable mentions to other similar shows. As an adult with no knowledge of Mandarin, I’ve also enjoyed watching Chinese kids shows and have picked up little bits here and there too.

The Chinese kids shows covered in this post cover a variety of genres and eras:

Chinese Drama:

  • Magic land 小伶魔法世界
  • Daddy, where are we going? 爸爸去哪
  • Journey to the West 西游记
  • Star of Tomorrow 小戏骨

Current Affairs for Children:

  • 小主播看天下WOW (Little Anchor See the World)
  • Mama Laoshi 媽媽老師

Game Shows:

  • Brothers on the Run 奔跑吧兄弟
  • YOYO Super Story

Lifestyle Shows:

  • Xiaoling Toy 小玲玩具
  • Happy Little Chef momo親子台 | 快樂小廚房
  • Lingco Family Summer: 伶可家族夏天

The content we have viewed is relevant and appropriate for younger children in terms of topics discussed and language used (please let me know if you see something your feel isn’t, and I’ll remove it).  Some of the Youtubers are on the more ‘chatty’ / ‘casual’ side of vocabulary, as they’re conversational reality TV style.

Please note: the links below are to original content by the original content creators.  Youtube may contain advertisements (unless you pay to subscribe to the full Youtube app, or you have a good net nanny app in use).  Not all advertisements on Youtube are family friendly, so I would recommend using them with care, and putting appropriate filters on the access the children have.

Chinese Dramas for Children in Mandarin

Magic land 小伶魔法世: Wizarding School

  • What: Think of it as a cross between Harry Potter and Glee.  Lots of songs and dancing, with storyline relating to young students at a school for magic.
  • Target Age: 4 – 12

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Catchy music and lyrics: My children love the music in Magic land 小伶魔法世界 (both singing and dancing), and I’ve started to overhear them singing these songs to themselves whilst playing or having a meal.   Ms Claudia Lim wrote a great post this week with a list of Mandarin pop songs for children, which has been shown by research to be a highly effective language learning tool.
  • Ongoing dialogue:  the actors never stop talking or singing.  It’s an overload of spoken audio, recorded clearly and professionally.
  • Tonnes of episodes:  my job in finding new Youtube was done once we stumbled upon this series!  I like to find series which have enough content (say 40+ episodes) to last for weeks/months of viewing, and this one ticks those boxes.

I want to point out here for older tweens/teens that enjoy music drama, they may enjoy Produce Camp 创造营 which I discovered recently from the blog Karen’s Chronicles.  It’s a popular trending reality show in mainland China, featuring building a boy band or girl band (they alternate each season), and seems to have a good mix of engaging banter/storyline and singing.

Daddy, where are we going? 爸爸去哪

  • What: A reality drama featuring celebrity dads who go on outings (or just babysit) with their kids, whilst the mothers are away.  Parts of it are a little slow, but after I insisted the children just stick with it for an episode or two, we started to get into it.   The series is based on the original South Korean reality show “Dad! Where are we going?”.
  • Target Age: 4 – 8

Youtube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Features real children:  My kids seem to respond well to shows which feature other children; it’s a way to show them that young children can speak Chinese well. 
  • Builds on from a cartoon show:  There is an animated version of this show (Baba qu nar? 爸爸去哪儿?  ) which might be a better way initially to get the children familiar with the story and key characters, prior to moving to a reality drama.

Journey to the West 西游记

  • What:  This one is included more for me than the kids.  It’s a dramatization of the classic novel about a shape-shifting monkey on a kung-fu quest for eternal life    As a child, I grew up watching Monkey Magic, and thinking the special effects are amazing.  My children have put up with me, as we’ve re-watched this again together.    
  • Target Age: 7+ (unless a child is really familiar with the story)

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Give rich Chinese cultural context: Journey to the West is a classic of Chinese literature, and in fact, it’s said to be one of the world’s greatest fantasy novel. It’s alluded to in so many aspects of the Chinese culture, that it makes sense for a child to know this story.
  • Possible to reinforce other off-screen learning:  this story is accessible in many forms of simplified books for children, and there are also many animated version of this show (one we especially like is here 华语大动漫频道 -童真趣味 奇异冒险.)  It’s possible to use this video to encourage book reading (or vice versa) and the cartoon version might be a better way to get the children familiar with the story, prior to moving to the non-animated version.

It’s worth noting that this does (very subtly) cover large elements of Buddhism and the religion’s history, with the plot focussed around a search for precious Buddhist sutras that will bring enlightenment to the Chinese empire.  It’s helpful to be aware of this, and it may not be relevant for all families.

Star of Tomorrow 小戏骨

  • What: Star of Tomorrow 小戏骨 is a series started in 2015 by Hunan TV, using child actors (aged between 6 to 12) to remake successful Chinese TV series. These include Mulan, The Red Chamber, Legend of White Snake, etc.
  • Target age: 6 upwards (adults will enjoy it too)

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • The child actors and the things they get up to are most inspiring:  For sure your child would want to appear on this series too, which means practising their Chinese!
  • Classical Chinese stories in an engaging format:   Whilst the story and setting are true to the original versions, the Star of Tomorrow includes upbeat music and many familiar Western songs too, which a child may be familiar with (for example, the Mulan remake includes songs from Frozen and Aladdin too).    

Current Affairs for Children in Chinese


  • What: A Taiwanese current affairs shows for kids.  It’s a similar concept to the English show ‘Behind the News’ if you’re familiar with that.  Usually there are a few stories about world issues and topical events. 
  • Target Age: 7 – 12

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Focuses on current affairs: Admittedly, this show is not a favourite at our place, but it’s tolerable, and a good way to get some focus on current world events.
  • Always has new content, purposefully researched for children:  New episodes are put out multiple times a week, and I can be sure that they’re all curated by experts and safe for children’s viewing

Mama Laoshi 媽媽老師 

  • What: Mama Laoshi Nancy uploads great short videos (~10 minutes) made with her daughter, about fun topics, usually with a real-world learning element, like picking apples, the snow season, science of germs, science of poop, biology of giraffes etc.  My younger children really enjoy this. 
  • Target Age: 2 – 7

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Clear engaging dialogue, without interruptions, and fully visible faces:   There’s no background noise, no talking over each other, no visual distractions.  It’s a thoughtfully recorded dialogue between a mother and child, and especially great for younger viewers and beginning language learners.
  • Sound educational focus in each video:   Mama Laoshi really has gone to large extremes to put sound pedagogy behind her videos – it’s really wholesome content.   Blogger Craig Watts wrote a great post about how he uses Mama Laoshi videos in his homeschooling approach .  He shares how a ten-minute Mama Laoshi video can be turned into a 20-minute lesson with his children.  The downside if that there aren’t many of these videos.

Chinese Game Shows for Children

Brothers on the Run 奔跑吧兄弟

  • What:  We learnt of this interesting game show concept from Singaporean blogger GrowingHearts123 .  It’s a family variety show, with lots of physical outdoor challenges and missions, with lots of mud, slide, underground tunnels, etc.   This is a spinoff of a popular Korean show “Running Man” from South Korea’s SBS TV .
  • Target Age: 7+ (adults may enjoy it too!)

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a learning perspective:

  • It’s both educational and entertaining:  So much so, that we forget we’re watching something in Mandarin!
  • It features the outdoors:  I’m always hoping my kids will spend more time outside, in the sunshine, and getting dirty.  This game show is shot in the great outdoors, in various settings around the world, including China, Australia,  Czech Republic, South Korea, Austria, United States, etc).

Another gameshow we tried watching is YOYO Super Story  which is a studio-based game show for younger children.  I was won over when I saw it featured classic cartoons like Astro Boy, however my children we less enamoured with it.  I suggest it’s worth a try through for a child who enjoys quiz style game shows. 

Lifestyle Shows for Children

小玲玩具 Xiaoling Toy:  

  • What: Short fun videos (5 – 15 minutes) featuring two dramatic sisters opening new toys, or getting dressed up, and trying new foods (mainly junk food).  My kids find is hilarious.  It’s an instant hit.
  • Target Age: 5 – 12

Youtube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Non-stop Chinese dialogue:  The two main characters converse constantly in Mandarin, at quite a fast pace, with large doses of slang and laughter
  • Uses situations and words highly relevant to a child:   The content is so perfect for children, especially girls aged 4 – 10.   Jie Jie Xiaoling is doing things which many children would be excited about, such as ballet, craft, dressups, opening up new toys, putting on makeup,  etc.    

For children who like ‘toy unboxing’ shows, there’s a similar concept also called ShuShu Toy Review 乖宝奇趣秀 .

Happy Little Chef momo親子台 | 快樂小廚房   

  • What: A parent-child cooking show, and the contents are mainly healthy!
  • Target Age: 3 – 10

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Features children in very familiar scenes:  the children are cooking with their parents, and buying fresh produce from the markets, etc.  There is always an educational component, like the show a picture of the cooking ingredients and talk about what it is, why it is healthy, where is grows, etc.
  • Promotes healthy lifestyle and values:  These families cook to create delicious and healthy dishes, and also use good manners at the shops, etc. 

If you children enjoy cooking, another similar concept is also a Taiwanese show Let’s Cook 料理甜甜圈  

Lingco Family Summer: 伶可家族夏天

What:  This show features may of the same actors as Xiaoling Toy above (which is also a Lingco Family production).  Lingco Family Summer has the concept of designing healthy and positive fun content for children, including some craft (like how to tie die shirts, etc)

Target Age: 5 – 12

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

  • Designed to be educational: with intentional content to display health lifestyles, the series features simple science experiments, magic tricks and craft. The shows have been purposefully designed with children as the target audience.
  • Shows a modern Chinese childhood: The settings and concepts give a good glimpse into Chinese lifestyle. For example, the magic tricks use hong pows, or the pets studied included hermit crabs, etc.

For children who like this style of reality lifestyle show, another alternative is  Walker Dad  which is a famous Taiwanese Youtubing family.  Some of their older videos relate to daily life in a Taiwanese home with young children, and their holidays.  But these do need to be vetted carefully, and some of the newer content is not so appealing (eg some of the audio is drowned out by music, and in other ones, the family do some weird things, like ransacking a toy store)

Other places to find great Chinese kids shows and television content?

China’s a big country, so obviously they have a lot of excellent shows and official content. The list above are all independent Youtubers. However, you can find great content from CCTV Kids …. otherwise called CCTV Channel 14, which is a Mainland Chinese official media channel. They have tonnes of great programming to stream, including great non-animated children’s shows (like the equivalent of Sesame Street, Fat Cat, Teletubbies, Cooking shows, Wiggles, etc). One tip which a reader gave me is to put CCTV少儿 and 巧虎 on YouTube Kids and restrict it to only those channels.

Additionally the little red dot Singapore has some good Chinese kids shows and series too, with local on-Demand TV series made freely available for anyone in Singapore. Check out the Kids > Language > Chinese section. There are quiz shows, cooking shows, art, etc. Some favourite of ours are “Little Achievers” about children who overcome bad habits, and “Little Food Hunter” about favourite foods in South East Asia.

Which is your favourite?

These are our favourite discoveries from YouTube for non-animated Chinese children’s content (and with this, we have fully migrated away from all cartoons!). I would love to know your family’s favourite Chinese kids shows too.  Please share! 

One benefit I’ve noticed from our transition into Chinese kids shows which are non-animated, and feature real people, is that all of my three children have also become more interested in speaking Chinese and even making videos with themselves speaking the language too.  It’s like a light switched in their brains, and they realised they can be Youtubers too! However, we’ve also enjoyed our fair share of cartoons in our household – if you’re looking for more educational cartoons and animated series, which originate from China or Chinese speaking countries (as opposed to US shows with language dubbing) I wrote a separate post which our family’s favourite Chinese cartoons.

If you arrived at the end and have found this helpful, maybe there are some other posts on my blog you might also enjoy. As a parent who doesn’t speak any Chinese, we’ve relied heavily on online tools, clever robots and recommendations of others in our Chinese learning journey. Some of my earlier posts are:

2 thoughts on “Chinese kids shows: best non-animated

  1. This post is again, a gem! Thank you so much for compiling the list! I will test these out with my 10 and 11 yo. The 10-yo really cannot make it with Mandarin, haiz.

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