New kids’ media platform HEIHEI has some great stuff (as well as a few missable overseas imports). Today, with the help of her six-year-old son, Thalia Kehoe Rowden gives us the inside word on the very best shows for your older kids and teens.
The science of poo, tips on how to make a bivvy in your backyard, cooking shows, and windows into the worlds of kids like ours from all over the globe: there’s a lot on HEIHEI your kids will love – and benefit from watching.
Following on from my last piece on the best of HEIHEI for little kids, here are some of the best for older ones. Again, HEIHEI touts itself as a platform for five-to-nine-year-olds, but I think probably a quarter of the best shows fall outside that range.
Many of the shows that are suitable for pre-schoolers will still be engaging for older ones, too. In particular, Fanimals, Kia Mau!, Young Ocean Explorers, Darwin + Newts, and Tamariki Takeover.
As well as those, try these goodies out:
Best for the five-to-ten-year-olds
My son has watched this entire series of shorts five times now.
Wild Eyes is a fun, kid-presented show teaching outdoorsy skills, with a bit of serious science thrown in by the miniaturised Science Guy, who the kids keep in an ice-cream container. Hosts Nova Waretini-Hewison and Christian Dennison are a hilarious team of, I’m guessing, 12-year-olds.
In each four-minute episode, they demonstrate a down-to-earth activity in a big-but-not-flash backyard, sprinkling in one-liners and deadpan deliveries like they’re seasoned pros. Bird-feeders, fire pits (with lots of careful safety advice included), bivouacs – it’s basically Scouts on-screen.
As with much of the content on HEIHEI, these episodes started life elsewhere. Wild Eyes is also an online + outdoors challenge game, and you can head to their website to upload pics of your attempts at all the activities from the series.
This really deserves more funding to expand. It’s got all the right ingredients for a long-lasting, longer-format, winning show.
More fantastic young hosts! Kalani and Bobbie (about intermediate age) are confident, friendly and fun as they demonstrate simple cooking – from smoothie ice-blocks to sushi – in short, engaging clips.
Kai Five is also supported by the Health Promotion Agency, so you can be confident they’re going to take your kids beyond rocky road and fudge. Just today, Kai Five inspired my son to make scones for the first time – he’s really taking the show seriously!
Siouxsie and Eve Investigate
Bless her heart, microbiologist and science communicator Dr Siouxsie Wiles spent her Prime Minister’s Science Award on making science shows with her daughter. And they’re good!
In each six-minute episode, ten-year-old Eve interviews experts, goes on field trips, and even donates her own bodily samples (!) in the name of bringing science to children everywhere.
There have been four episodes so far on fungi, bioluminescence, poo (see above) and cheese. There’s a bit of cool animation thrown in along with the mostly live-action filming. Again, my kid has watched every one, more than once, and wanted me to tweet Siouxsie specifically to tell her how much we loved them.
More please! Someone give her another prize, okay?
Nia’s Extra Ordinary Life
A lovely, simple show about Nia, a kid in the Far North living a normal life with family and friends, but who also has a big imagination. They’re little shorts, featuring almost entirely Māori actors, and they’re super realistic in how the kids interact and the little dilemmas they face.
The story is told entirely in voice over, and it’s been produced both in te reo Māori and English – both versions are available on HEIHEI.
A live-action drama aimed at this age group, Reset is a series of short episodes telling the story of kids figuring out a strange new phenomenon that has the world frightened.
It’s a gentle, kid-centred sci-fi. A bit patchy in quality, but absorbing and entertaining – my son has started telling people he ‘likes sci-fi’ entirely because of this show. Oh, and George Henare is the prime minister! Wearing shorts!
But beware, it ends on a cliffhanger and there isn’t funding (yet?) to continue the story.
199 Little Heroes
The only international show that really earns its place on HEIHEI is this set of documentary shorts, each one following a child from a different country through their morning, from waking up to arriving at school.
See my last review for more detail, and for Thunderbirds are Go, which is the only animated overseas show on HEIHEI we are watching.
Best for 10-14ish year-olds
A high-quality teen drama, Wilde Ride, is the story of Evie, an equestrian champion, whose well-heeled farming parents are killed in an accident in the first episode. She goes to live with her cousins, an urban, mechanically-minded, motorbike racing family, including competitive rider Ryan, where she has to deal with grief, the Family Court, and figuring out life after horse-riding.
Evie is Pākehā and her cousins are Māori, which makes for a wide range of kids and teenagers who might see themselves in the show. I particularly loved that the most talented mechanic is the little sister.
The legal proceedings weren’t very realistic (Evie is much more at the mercy of the court and conniving rellies than would happen in real life) so just be aware of that if it might affect your kids.
Two more assured, magnetic young hosts to meet! There’s really a lot of local talent on display on HEIHEI.
Waioira and Rereahu (in their late teens or early twenties) do a great job, entirely in te reo Māori, of taking us around the country, exploring all sorts of adrenaline-pumping adventures, from sledging to motor-racing.
Lots of fun, with good-natured competitive banter and a bit of selfie-stick filming.
Young Ocean Explorers
See my last review for more detail on this great set of shorts, with 14-year-old Riley and her dad exploring marine life.
It’s not that Legendary Polynesia isn’t appropriate for younger ones, but it moves very fast, has a fair bit of comic-style text to read, and a lot of humour that will sail over the heads of some kids. Using witty, animated storytelling, with lots of extra layers of jokes and references, we hear ancient stories from around Polynesia.
Plenty of adults will become fans of this show, I reckon.
Following the tradition of clowning and mime, Jiwi is a socially awkward genius who has engineered some marvellous Rube Goldberg machines that provide hilarity, slapstick and pathos.
Younger children will enjoy watching, but probably not follow a lot of the detail. The simple storylines are about adults, including topics like dating.
There’s a lot of great extra science stuff on the programme’s website.
Let’s Get Inventin’
This is one of my son’s favourites, but I have mixed feelings about it – I’ll let you decide whether it’s for you.
It’s kind of like Top Gear for kids, in all the good and bad ways. A bunch of quite blokey men coach kids to manufacture machines to their own designs. Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes useful. There’s lots of real engineering, as well as laddishness, like making fun of a guy wearing a floral shirt. There are plenty of girl guest inventors, but I haven’t seen any women coaching.
When it first came out, over a decade ago, it won international awards and was screened all around the world.
The Barefoot Bandits
Similarly, this animated comedy might be aimed at older children, but I suspect teenagers and adults will get the most out of it.
It features lots of clever silliness and adventure – fairly male-centred – and there’s a game app on HEIHEI too, and extras on the BB website.
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Thalia Kehoe Rowden is a former Baptist minister and current mother and development worker. She writes about parenting, social justice and spirituality at Sacraparental.com.
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