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10 Kid Competition Shows to Spark Family Fun at Home
Television game shows have been around since the '30s, but more recently kids have started to get in on the action. Kid versions of adult faves such as Chopped, Project Runway, and MasterChef give a youthful spin to the same competition show format, but instead of catty behavior and drama, the focus is on teamwork, mentorship, and positive reinforcement. Family-friendly hits such as Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Design Squad offer an opportunity for families to watch together and challenge themselves at home. If you're looking for TV the whole family can get behind, check out our list below -- and even discover ways you and your kids can play (or compete!) from the sidelines.
Little Big Shots, age 5+, NBC
What's the game? Little Big Shots is a comedy variety series featuring kid prodigies whose accomplishments in music, dance, academics, and downright amazing tricks far exceed their years.
Ways to play at home: Watching kids so young bring down the house is incredibly impressive. Stage a talent show with your family or the neighborhood and harness that inspiration.
Food Network Star Kids, age 6+, Food Network
What's the game? Kid contestants showcase their expertise to chop and plate while racing the clock, all in the hopes of hosting their own cooking show. But beyond braising basics and slicing safety, the kiddie chefs have much to teach about determination, coping with pressure, and overcoming disappointment.
Ways to play at home: Check out the "Kids Menu Makeover" web series on the show's site and see what kinds of meals your own kid could come up with, or try some kid-friendly recipes so even the youngest chef in the family can learn basic meal prep and teamwork.
Kids Baking Championship, age 6+, Food Network
What's the game? In each episode, eight tweens put their dessert skills to the test as they go head-to-head in a series of challenges designed to test their baking skills and ability to perform under pressure.
Ways to play at home: Plan a family or community bake sale, and donate the proceeds to an important cause. Or ask kids to try making one of the creative desserts featured on the show's website, such as "Cream Puff Swans" and "Spaghetti Ice Cream."
Rachael Ray's Kids Cookoff, age 6+, Food Network
What's the game? Chirpy Rachael Ray's kids' show pits junior chefs against each other in a competition to win cash and a web show of their own.
Ways to play at home: Task your kid with trying her own hand at one of the challenges. The kid-friendly recipes (which range from "Toasty Bacon-Berry PB&J" to "Pan-Seared Scallops and Pork Belly with Pomegranate Agrodolce and Buerre Blanc") are posted on the show's website.
Design Squad, age 7+, streaming online on PBSKids.org
What's the game? This tween-oriented reality series follows two teams of high schoolers competing to build a variety of machines. If your kids are prone to thinking outside the box (or if they need a nudge in that direction), this fun, fast-paced series is sure to get their creative juices flowing.
Ways to play at home: The show's website offers plenty of fun ways to get kids in on the engineering action. Games and challenges include designing a flood-proof city and coming up with a way to get emergency supplies to a community after a disaster.
Kids BBQ Championship, age 7+, Food Network
What's the game? Each episode challenges eight young contestants to grill up a meal related to a theme (luau, campfire) under a tight deadline. The winner takes home $20,000, a Food Network magazine feature, and champion bragging rights.
Ways to play at home: If you're not quite ready to hand over the reins to the grill, see what kind of creative barbeque or hot sauce your kids can concoct. Mix in some store-bought stuff and do a blind taste test. Proceed with caution!
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, age 8+, Fox/CMT
What's the game? This show pits adults against elementary school walking textbooks. Each adult contestant faces a class of real fifth-graders and chooses one to be his or her "classmate" for up to two questions. Adult contestants can win up to $1 million.
Ways to play at home: Download the show's app for a seamless transition to the small screen. Kids will love being the "adult" and testing their knowledge. Or ask your kid, no matter what grade they're in, to pull out a school textbook and drill you.
Chopped Junior, age 8+, Food Network
What's the game? Creative, culinary-minded kids will go nuts for the junior version of this clever competition show. Each episode features four kids between the ages of 8 and 13 who are given timed cooking challenges, during which they must make delectable appetizers, entrées, and desserts from a surprise basket of ingredients.
Ways to play at home: See if your kid can rise to the challenge of creating a meal out of the random stuff lying around the house; assign ingredients that really test their creativity. The meal may not be particularly edible, but the whole fam is bound to have fun.
MasterChef Junior, age 10+, Fox
What's the game? Kids between the ages of 8 and 13 are given ingredients, instructions, and time constraints to produce dishes that are tasted and judged by celebrity chefs. You'll be blown away by the caliber of these culinary kids.
Ways to play at home: Turn up the heat on your kid's cooking chops by playing a kid-friendly cooking game such as Toca Kitchen or Cooking Mama. Consult a digital resource such as PBS HealthyKids or ZisBoomBah to get even the youngest budding chef comfortable in the kitchen and familiar with nutrition.
Project Runway: Junior, age 11+, Lifetime
What's the game? This show features teen designers vying for a chance to win some major prizes: a college scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, a home sewing studio, a spread in Seventeen magazine, and $25,000 to launch a clothing line. The show focuses on mentorship and positive reinforcement, making this a super-worthy watch even for kids not into fashion.
Ways to play at home: You don't need a sewing machine to bring the fun to your family. Have kids sketch ideas on paper that stretch their imaginations (a dress made of feathers? One-legged pants?), or create themed outfits from stuff already in the closet.