In the age of streaming and mobile viewing, most American children spend around three hours a day watching TV. Screens can entertain, but the shows children watch also have an impact on development.
According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, seven in ten parents in the U.S.A with a child under the age of 12 say they’re at least somewhat concerned about their child spending too much time on screens, and three in ten say they’re very concerned.
However, a recent study on television watching and child development suggests that the focus should be on the quality or context of what children watch, not the lm quantity.
We know it is particularly important for childcare professionals and businesses to consider the educational value of the most popular television shows for children today, and we believe many of our Childcare Business Name Generator users could benefit from this research.
With this in mind, the team at BusinessNameGenerator.com set out to find out which of the most popular kids’ TV shows are the best for helping children to enrich their vocabulary by analyzing the quantity of varied and unique words in each show.
From modern animations to 90s classics, these shows offer a wealth of vocabulary for children to learn and enjoy.
What We Did
To work out which children’s TV shows had the widest vocabulary, we took a look at some of the most popular TV shows suitable for under 14-year-olds since the 1990s.
We analyzed tens of thousands of words in each show to calculate how many unique words appeared per 1000 words used, giving us the top shows for a diverse vocabulary. Unique words were words that only appeared once in the entire sample of words for that show.
- SpongeBob SquarePants was the show with the richest vocabulary – 21% of the words we analyzed were unique.
- Four of the top ten shows are from the 1990s.
- 50% of the top-ranking TV shows were animated.
Which Children’s TV Shows Have the Widest Vocabulary?
One way to measure the educational value of a TV show is to consider the number of unique words that appear in the show.
The more diverse the vocabulary, the more opportunities children have to learn new words and expand their language skills. With this in mind, here are the television’s top vocabulary-rich children’s shows.
1. SpongeBoB SquarePants
Using unique words as a measure of educational value, SpongeBob SquarePants is the children’s TV show with the biggest vocabulary. The underwater cartoon, known to appeal to adults as well as children, has 213 unique words per 1000 words that appear in the script. The sea sponge and his adventures in Bikini Bottom make for a lively narrative with a diverse use of words – a great choice for engaging children.
2. Stuck in the Middle
This children’s comedy boasts 212 unique words per 1000 words, just behind SpongeBob in the number one spot. Stuck in the Middle follows a middle child named Harley who has to navigate life in a family with seven children. The show’s theme encourages children to try new things and learn new skills that may be outside of their comfort zone, and the varied language of the show itself can help children brush up on their vocabulary.
3. The Dragon Prince
In third place is The Dragon Prince, an animated fantasy show about two princes and an elven assassin who embark on a quest to bring peace to their warring kingdoms. Like the top two shows, 20% of the words analyzed from The Dragon Prince were unique – 204 words per 1000 to be precise. Fans already recognise the show’s high calibre, with a rating of 8.3/10 on IMDb, which may be in part due to rich and varied script.
4. Gudetama: An Eggcellent Adventure
Fourth place goes to a Japanese series. The animated show follows a lazy egg named Gudetama and his misadventures as he seeks out his parents. Gudetama “hatched” in 2013, but the Netflix show Gudetama: An Eggcellent Adventure was released in 2022. Despite the unusual character, the show has a varied script: when translated into English, the show has 192 unique words per 1000 words. Gudetama is part of the Sanrio universe, best-known for the character Hello Kitty.
5. 7th Heaven
Another 90s show has made its way into the top ten shows for unique vocabulary. 7th Heaven, the 1996 family drama, has 189 unique words per 1000 words in the transcript. Following a minister and the drama of having seven children, the show touches on various themes that come with their associated vocabulary.
6. The Middle
This sitcom from the late 2000s follows a semi-dysfunctional family as they live through the daily struggles of family life. Containing 173 unique words per 1000 words, it makes for one of the more enriching TV watches for children. The show is rated TV-PG so may be better suited to older children.
7. Anne with an E
Based on a series of books, it’s no surprise that Anne with an E uses a wide range of vocabulary. Introduce children to this historical adventure and they’ll be exposed to 167 unique words per 1000 words spoken in the show.
Pokémon is often considered the most successful TV adaptation of a video game. It is also one of the children’s shows with the most unique vocabulary, partly owing to the unique concepts and characters involved. With over 1000 episodes and 158 unique words per 1000 words, the Japanese anime TV series offers plenty of opportunities for kids to learn new words.
9. The Owl House
The Owl House is an American animated fantasy television series that premiered on Disney Channel in 2020. With 157 unique words per 1000 words, the quirky fantasy is an engaging watch for children over the age of seven. The show has even won a Peabody Award for its inventive world and inclusivity.
10. The New Addams Family
Rounding off the top ten is The New Addams Family. The 1998 show had 154 unique words per 1000 words, closely following The Owl House. The live-action TV version of this fictional family still has well above the average number of unique words from the shows we analyzed.
The Wordiest 90s Kids’ TV Shows
Three decades on, TV shows from the 90s are still hailed as iconic. Four TV shows from the 90s appear in the list of overall wordiest children’s shows, perhaps a testament to the quality of language being used in shows back then. However, there are some different titles that make the list.
Topping the list as the 90s kids’ series with the most unique vocabulary is SpongeBob SquarePants. The 90s Nickelodeon show has 24 more unique words per 1000 words than the next highest-ranking show from the 90s: 213 per 1000 words.
This is followed by 7th Heaven and The Addams Family. Interestingly, two incarnations of the macabre family show appear in this list with the 1992 animated version having more unique vocabulary than the 1998 version by 10 words per 1000 words.
Methodology & Sources
The list of children’s television shows was defined as the top 30 most popular “Family” shows from IMDb TV, rated TV -14 or below, and the top 90s from the same list. 90s shows were defined as shows that ran for at least one year in the 1990s. The show may have started before or after 1990.
For each of these shows, we analyzed an average sample of 25,000 words per show to find out how many of the words used were only used once in the sample, i.e., were unique.
The transcripts were scraped from Youtube full episodes of the TV shows, this was restricted to English or auto-generated subtitles. Audio descriptors such as “[BANG]” or “[Music]” were removed to ensure only the language used would be counted and analyzed.
Data was collected in December 2022.