Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Television and Movies for Young Children

Although we are no-television idealists, Real Life steps in, so, for this season in our lives, we do let the children watch television and movies. We are fortunate to live at this time when technology can be used easily and inexpensively, so we can watch what we want when we want to, and our children have never seen commercials (and don't know what they are!). There are shows on Netflix Instant Streaming, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and many other online sources.

We are quite particular about the kind of programming we prefer the children to watch. Choosing programming is a very personal matter for families. For example, we dislike cartoons that are frenetic with rapid camera shots, so that's a pet peeve of ours personally.

I know I am discovering shows all the time that are worth adding to our list, so I thought I'd compile a list to start conversation. I'd enjoy hearing from other families what wholesome shows you enjoy, and for what ages of children.

List created February 4, 2014; last updated June 17, 2017


The Adventures of Paddington Bear (1997)

Barney: For all the mocking of the purple dinosaur, I have come to have a lot of affection for him. I like that the show doesn't present anything as magic, but emphasizes that Barney is a character in children's imagination. The children in the show dress simply and modestly and are polite and kind, not giving sass or using hip lingo. And the littlest of children are mesmerized by this show!

Charlotte's Web (1973)

Curious George: We like this calm show very much. There are a few episodes we don't love, such as ones that promote environmentalism to a degree we don't teach.

Jungle Book: This borders on too frenetic for us, but the kids really like it.

Kipper: We really enjoy this slow, calm, British series. Very young tots enjoy this one.

Leapfrog: This series of educational programs is nearly at the line of too frenetic for us, but the children do pick up a lot of facts about phonics, shapes, and colors.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Postman Pat: Claymation always has a nice, slower effect than animation.

Rocky and Bullwinkle: A bit frenetic, but clean and old-fashioned without modern propaganda. Our criticism is that our children enjoy the show so much, they become obsessed and will talk of little else.

Shaun the Sheep: Claymation

Thomas and Friends: We really enjoy this slow, calm, British series. Very young tots enjoy this one.

Timmy Time: Claymation, younger version of Shaun the Sheep.

Up (2009): Be forewarned of some vicious dogs that would scare younger children.

Wallace and Gromit: Claymation


The Alamo (1960)

The Andy Griffith Show: Even the youngest of children recognize the genius of Barney's character! I do read up on each episode subject, as it might include subject matter young children just don't know about (such as domestic violence or drunkenness).

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1979)

Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (1967)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Davey Crockett and the River Pirates (1956)

David Attenborough: Wildlife Specials: These episodes are beautifully crafted. But they are ones I let the children (our oldest being only 7) watch only with my supervision so I can fast-forward particularly bloody animal fight scenes or other things that are just too much. Watch also for environmentalism.

Doctor Dolittle (1967)

The Fighting Sullivans (1944): Particularly charming for Catholic parents and parents of boys!

The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): Good to watch at Easter

Greyfriars Bobby (1961)

Hard Hat Harry series (1990s): My one forewarning is that the premise is that Harry is a genie who appears and takes the children on educational field trips. He looks like a normal man, not like a fairy tale genie.

Heidi (2005): A rare modern movie in which little or nothing was changed from the book. Superior!

How Do They Do It?: This is a show that teaches how stuff works, interesting even for adults. Warning: Check subject matter of each episode because occasionally the "stuff" being taught about isn't age-appropriate for children.

How Stuff Works: This is a show that teaches how stuff works, interesting even for adults. Warning: Check subject matter of each episode because occasionally the "stuff" being taught about isn't age-appropriate for children.

Huckleberry Finn (1974)

In Search of the Castaways (1962)

The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998)

Kidnapped (1960)

The Last of the Mohicans television series (1957)

A Life of Music (2016): Be forewarned about one scene in which a man is beaten to death: fast forward for children.

Lilies of the Field (1963)

Mighty Machines: Such a fantastic boy show!

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: We love the slow rhythm of this show: the cadence of the voices, the long camera shots. Warning: Watch for show subject matter, such as the six-show series on divorce: one may want to discuss such subjects with children, but a parent wants to make that choice purposefully.

Peter Pan (with Cathy Rigby) (2000): This is a filmed theatrical version.

Rascal (1967): A coming-of-age movie about a young man who adopts a baby raccoon for a summer

Robin Hood (1938)

Seabiscuit (1949): My only forewarning is to be ware that there is a live horse birthing scene that really shows every tidbit!

The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)

Signing Time and Baby Signing Time: Our children have learned so much American Sign Language through this series. All my toddlers have used signing, generally knowing around 50 signs by age one-and-a-half, which I find reduces tantrums and makes life easier.

The Sound of Music: Warning: The ending of the movie with the Nazis and escape scenes is too much for young children, so many parents just end the movie a few minutes early.

Tales of Beatrix Potter (1970): This is a live-action version!

Treasure Island (with Jack Palance) (1999)

Where the Red Fern Grows (1963): Forewarning of one vicious fight scene with boys and dogs.

Wild America: Cuddly and Cool Creatures: This nature show is old-fashioned and set within a real family. The camera shots are long and still. (We prefer nature shows that don't overly promote environmentalism to the extreme that we are here to serve animals and nature.)

The Winslow Boy (1999)

Zooboomafoo: Live action nature show with the Kratt brothers--but we do not watch The Wild Kratts, which is the cartoon nature show the brothers produced later. We don't like the modern and saucy talk among the characters.


  1. Great list! I too have grown rather fond of Barney (despite my declarations years ago in my 20s that NO CHILD OF MINE would EVER watch the purple dinosaur), and Jamie adores him. We've also started watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. It's produced by the Fred Rogers Co, and it takes place in the Land of Make-Believe. I find it rather sweet.

    I am so grateful for services such at Netflix streaming...we cut off the cable and satellite about 3 years ago and haven't looked back.

  2. We are big fans of Shaun the Sheep in this house!

    We also like:
    Little House on the Prairie
    Mary Poppins
    Wizard of Oz (scary for very young ones)

    Fun but also educational age 6+:
    Liberty Kids
    Carmen Sandiego
    Magic School Bus (again some environmentalism to watch out for)

    EWTN's kids shows are excellent too (although the animation is hilariously bad!)

  3. We currently allow NO screen time, but a year or so ago we did let the older two sample Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Did you fast forward through the scene with the baron and baroness attempting to "do away" with each other (and the lady is rather scantily clad)? I was pretty surprised by it, as I didn't remember it from my viewing as a child.

  4. We like several of those and you also have listed some we've never watched. We like Mr Bean episodes for clean humor that appeals to all ages. He has a unique brand of slapstick that makes us all laugh.

  5. A movie my kids enjoy is called Misty. It is wholesome and at no point do I wonder if my kids should be watching it.
    They also like the Black Stallion and the Black Stallion returns.


  6. We love Signing Times! Especially as we are picking up on more signs for our autistic daughter. I've tried Leap Frog and it is just too loud and chaotic. We watch Daniel Tiger which is a nod to Mister Rogers. I've started doing as you do and most of the programs the kids watch are from Netflix streaming and we have a large collection of Curious George DVDs to choose from. Thanks for introducing some new ones that I haven't seen.

  7. A comment via email from my friend J.:

    Your list is helpful- thank you! We are also super picky about what our kids watch, and try to reserve it only for certain "seasons" when it's needed and most helpful:).

    Zooboomafoo- entertaining nature shows for kiddies.
    also: Kratz Creatures

    For older kid or family movie night, we like the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". Had to explain the poor behavior decision of the 7 brothers to kidnap the 7 girls- but they learn their lesson. It's a super fun movie with lots of song and dance (like the 7 brother's acrobatic tricks).

    We also like "National Velvet"- an old movie for horse loving children. We skip the bar scene.

    Thanks for all the great suggestions!