There’s always going to be a debate about how much screen time is right or wrong for our kids. While I tend to think that I watched a lot of TV and movies as a child of the ’80s, my generation wasn’t tethered to “devices” that traveled with us. Finding balance between screen time and playtime wasn’t a huge issue.

Fast-forward a few decades. Now, I am a father of two. I’m also a writer for the Netflix Stream Team and a member of The Toy Insider Parent Panel, and I realize that “balance” is one of the most important challenges that face us. You can have too much screen time. Yet, you can never have too much playtime. With Netflix Kids, there’s a growing connection between the two. It can help families to experience new adventures with their favorite characters both on-screen and off.

Netflix Viewing Profiles

One of the best features of Netflix is that the kids can have their own unique viewing profile. From there, you can check out the latest in new releases, find what’s trending, or see helpful categories. In addition to genre categories, you can also break down the content by age group or theme (brave characters, science and scientists, princess power, superheroes, etc).

Netflix Original Series

The growing collection of Netflix Original Series is really picking up steam. Some of those shows are either spawning toy lines of their own, or drawing inspiration from existing properties. That’s how it all comes together.

The Emmy-winning Beat Bugs is inspired by the music of The Beatles. A fantastic series (disclosure: I’m also one of their Ambassadors) with a brilliant soundtrack, it features cover songs from artists such as Eddie Vedder, Sia, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and the late Chris Cornell. The show teaches friendship and problem-solving on-screen. Now, Blip Toys has created a full line of toys to go with it. Favorites here at our house include the basic action figures and The Yellow Submarine playset. Our youngest even has a Beat Bugs shirt in her wardrobe!

Voltron: Legendary Defender is a series that I got behind right off the bat. It is inspired by the 1984 series that I enjoyed greatly as a child. The DreamWorks reboot is now in its third season. Now Playmates Toys is putting new versions of the iconic robot lions into the hands of children everywhere. Action figures of the human characters were previewed at New York Toy Fair this past spring. They should start hitting retail in the months ahead.

MGA Entertainment’s Project Mc2 is one of the earliest live-action Netflix Kids series to really take hold. It’s geared toward teaching kids (primarily girls) that “Smart is the New Cool.” This STEAM-based adventure follows members of a secret government organization called NOV8 (pronounced “innovate”).  They use various skills to solve problems. In the toy aisle, Project Mc2 blends traditional fashion doll play with real-life science projects and experiments. It makes learning a ton of (sometimes messy) fun.

Trollhunters was nominated for nine Daytime Emmys. From filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, it took home six awards. It has the most wins for any series (live-action or animated) in 2017. The monster-fueled adventure continues to build a loyal audience of kids and grownups alike. Funko is bringing the characters into the toy department. It has not just the famous Pop! Vinyl line, but also a collection of articulated 3 ¾” action figures.

Based on the Oscar-nominated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, DreamWorks’ Spirit Riding Free follows Lucky, a former “city girl”. She bonds with a horse previously thought to be “untameable.” Together with her friends Pru and Abigail, the trio experience adventure and true friendship alongside their horses. Now, Just Play brings the series to life as a collection of poseable dolls and playsets; perfect for classic equestrian play.

While the toys-to-life category of video gaming has cooled a bit in the past couple of years, Skylanders Academy actually helped pique my girls’ interest in Activision’s long-running franchise. They particularly like the most recent entry, Skylanders Imaginators. If the ultimate goal is to connect families, Skylanders succeeds in being a game that all ages can enjoy on their consoles together.

Other recent series with big toy connections include We’re Lalaloopsy (MGA Entertainment), Dinotrux (Mattel), Popples (Spin Master), Care Bears & Cousins (Just Play) and Ever After High (Mattel).

Other Toy-Inspired Content

Outside of the Netflix Originals realm, there’s a ton of other toy-inspired content. Some include Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Mattel’s Monster High. For some vintage fun: The Real Ghostbusters (Kenner/Hasbro), Mattel’s He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. Plus, check out She-Ra: Princess of Power.

Finally, for those looking for a great device to let kids watch their favorite Netflix programming, see the Kurio Xtreme 2. It’s a big favorite at The Toy Insider). It allows installation of the Netflix app via the Amazon App Store. It’s a great learning tablet for kids that comes at a price (roughly $100) that’s more attractive than handing the youngsters a more expensive option like an iPad!

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.