Most entertainment for children is a challenge for both the creatives behind it and the parents trying to enjoy appropriate moving images with their kids. Age restrictions can only do so much. Only parents can assess how ready their children are for any given exposures.
So we tried to put together a selection of TV and movies that you can definitely watch with your kids. Here, we try to separate the content that is really accessible even for our youngest from the more challenging content while giving you enough information about each production before pressing play.
This marmelade-loving, Peruvian-born bear has somehow managed to get the best movie adaptation in children’s literature. 2014’s Paddington is an incredible feat of filmmaking. Juggling a light tone, serious stakes and a story palatable to even the smallest of audiences. Paddington’s own philosophy and demeanor play an important part in why this movie works as well as it does for the young ones.
His unwavering kindness and gentle attitude are universal values anyone will want to impart on their kids.
Additionally, his new family in London is heart-warmingly kind and relatable as well. The whole movie is an extremely British affair with lots of cultural markers and oddities that might also encourage children to learn about our recently departed neighbors and their globally important language.
There is a villain in the movie which might intimate parents from showing it to their kids. However, thanks to the film’s deliberately light tone and Nicole Kidman’s very broad and goofy performance, there is never any real feeling of danger. The central themes, as with any good childerns’ entertainment are the importance of family, kindness and an open mind.
You can stream or buy Paddington from all major streaming outlets, it is also on Amazon Prime
Steven Universe is the brainchild of Rebecca Sugar, one of the key creatives behind another animation masterpiece, Adventure Time. In a similarly open and creative vein, Sugar created Steven on the basis of her younger brother and brought in a magical element in the Crystal Gems. They are three alien life forms who function as ersatz-parents for Steven since her mother, also an alien, sacrificed herself to bear Steven into the world. As you can see, it is perhaps a bit challenging for the youngest of us to comprehend.
However, the key ingredients to what makes Steven Universe such a wholesome and universal experience is its emphasis on the importance of family and a radically modern interpretation of it.
There are same-sex relationships and fluid gender identities but also special powers and fighting for your friends and to save redeemable villains. And so much great music.
Sugar has a huge amount of empathy for all of her characters, even the ones with problematic traits. In my mind, it is the children’s entertainment for our era. As inclusive and challenging as it can be without sacrificing the bright colors and entertaining storylines we need to keep the young ones engaged. Also, each episode is just ten minutes long!
You can stream Steven Universe on Netflix
My Neighbor Totoro
I know, by now I must have mentioned nearly all of Studio Ghibli’s films in one of these columns. However, no article on childern’s entertainment would be complete without this one special movie that truly managed to capture the feeling and point of view of a young child in an authentic way. My Neighbor Totoro is a marvel.
Its main character imbues the narrative with innocence and openness, its fantastical elements are rooted in the natural world and feel tangible despite their outlandishness and it is just the absolutely perfect film to introduce children to the magic of cinema.
There is no major conflict, no great action or stakes, just kids exploring the forest and its many nice and fluffy spirits.
No other attempt at getting towards the magic of a kid’s view of the world comes even close to the beauty of Totoro. It is the ideal film for kids. So don’t wait until Netflix pulls this gem from its streaming catalogue (in the US, Disney Plus now hosts the Ghibli films) and watch it now!