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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:

Current Affairs for Children:

Game Shows:

Lifestyle Shows:

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

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

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

Youtube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

Journey to the West 西游记

YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

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

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

Current Affairs for Children in Chinese


YouTube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

Mama Laoshi 媽媽老師 

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

Chinese Game Shows for Children

Brothers on the Run 奔跑吧兄弟

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a learning perspective:

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:  

Youtube link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

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   

Youtube Link:

Why it’s good from a Chinese learning perspective:

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:

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:

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