Pleasant toddler movies: update

So I’ve taken your suggestions from an earlier post. And I’ve watched a billion movies for small people in an effort to find sweet, non-violent, non-scary, non-gender-stereotyped movies for small people. Here’s what I’ve found (spoiler: most are shorter shows, not movies):

We still love Signing Time. The pace is great, the tons of kids that come in thirty-one flavors makes us feel good, and the language skills built by children who learn sign language are all reason enough to watch these half hour segments. The best, though, is watching real parents and kids talk, with sign language, about feelings and activities. Captivating. It’s a very simple series, where you learn one word at a time, and build to a song that uses five or six of the key words you’ve learned. Catchy, catchy tunes. Check your local PBS station…they may play it weekly. If not, the videos are available though the Signing Time Foundation and the regular DVD sources.

Kipper is the sweetest, more unassuming, thoughtful animated show I’ve seen. He engages in all manner of roles, defying conventional gender and species stereotypes. He’s caring, has lovable friends who each have their own quirks. The gently drawn cartoons are 10-15 minutes each, which is perfect for limiting tv time. I love Kipper. He was clearly a sling puppy.

Maisie is pretty sweet, too. Another loving character who has endearing friends. Longer episodes than Kipper.

Planet Earth: watched with a finger on fast forward for the carnivore scenes, this is a gorgeous, sweepingly breathtaking tour around the planet. My favorite, though not Peanut’s. And since we only watch once a week or every other week, he never chooses it. But I’ll pop it in on movie day when I want to row, so he knows I get to choose some things, and he doesn’t have to watch Office Space, which I think is a little much for the preschool crowd.

Charlie and Lola. A bit tough for some American kids to get used to the accent, but once they do it’s a funny and loving pair of siblings. Probably best for ages 4 and up or the humor is lost on them. For ages 2 and up it’s good to see how gently Charlie treats his little sister, and to see how to creatively handle age appropriate behavior. As with all our other favorites, nothing sinister lurking in the shadows, no gender stereotypes, and no violence. The Christmas one leans pretty heavy on the fantastic and on Santa Claus as real dude, but maybe that’s your family’s thing, too.

Bob the Builder: surprisingly good…characters who are generally nice (some mocking, and really requires parental supervision to explain some of the poor choices the characters make). Interesting stories, anthropomorphized trucks. Exactly what most kids want. (I try to limit Bob movies because the episodes each involve me way more than I want out of a video, but especially because he’s one of those characters who appears on everything from toothpaste to shoes, and just don’t want to fight the character-marketed crap battles. But the videos themselves are quite nice.)

Backyardigans: some nice music and lovely focus on imagination, but very gender stereotyped, and often not ideal behavior (refusing to share, sarcasm, mocking others, vanity, etc). Peanut loves them. I spend way too much time discussing why there are better ways to treat people.

The Snowman: Of all the 1970s book adaptations, this is the most gorgeous, sweepingly epic and wonderful. Many of the old Westwood Woods book adaptations are fun, but some have of namecalling, violence, and menaces.

Boobah: Why do I love this show so much? Seriously? It’s goofy and nonsensical and musical and dancy, but I still tolerate it. It’s as though Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Twyla Tharp had a lovechild and raised it, frustratingly, on Teletubbies. Once grown and on her own, she responds with Boobah–the way lumpy, brilliantly colored characters ought to be.

Little Hard Hats: great for when you don’t want animation, or when you miss the garbage trucks on garbage day and are jonesing for some heavy lifting. Real people and live action of trucks. Descriptive but not over the head of a two year old, eco-focused without being preachy.

Didn’t cut it:

Winnie the Pooh: the films and the show have scary elements, and the older pieces have guns. But no name-calling. Thanks goodness for small favors.

My Neighbor Totoro: I adored this film, but Peanut was terrified when the little girl went missing and the authorities dredged the pond. Gross fear of death not his favorite in filmic entertainment.

Disney films: dead mothers, animal cruelty, princesses who can’t do anything without a price, menacing evil around every corner. After I previewed a few, I gave up on Disney. update: Even Frozen, which finally embraces the power of girls to find their own way in the world without male rescuing, has the snow monster and witch hunt. Too scary.

The Muppet Show: I didn’t remember it being so sarcastic and violent. But the love I have for those puppets stems from watching in my tween and teen years, when all that is less sinister. Not for littles.

Veggie Tales: seriously? really? the first episode we saw (at a friend’s house) was about being selfish. We’re trying to parent without labeling and name calling. We talk about behavior in positive terms and this series is just too heavy handed with the “proper way to act” stuff. Reminiscent of some of the least appealing Richard Scarry “pest” narratives that moralize in annoying 1950s ways.

Curious George (the series not the film). Like the science projects and the monkey. Don’t love marketing crap or the absentee parenting of old Mr. Worst Parent Ever.

So. Signing Time and Kipper and Little Hard Hats and The Snowman and Maisie. Then Charlie and Lola and Boobah and Planet Earth. Then Bob the Builder and Curious George. Not a big fan of the other stuff.

What about at your house?

9 thoughts on “Pleasant toddler movies: update

  1. I’m glad you like Kipper. I think he’s pretty adorable myself. It’s one of the cartoons that I’m using for my thesis. Sorry about the Bakyardagins, but in my defense I hadn’t seen it – just heard some reasonably good reviews. I just had another thought on cartoons (mind you I have to present on my prospectus tomorrow, so I’m musing on everything but my thesis). What about Magic School Bus? It might be a little old for him, but nonetheless, I remember it being sort of fun.

  2. Hahaha. Because I know you won’t agree with our choices. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is on for shower time because my husband turned it on ONCE and Evan was hooked, but they try to be educational. I have a soft spot for Charlie and Lola, though Lola can be a pain. I’m starting to really like Nai-Ho Ki Lan. Diego is for when I need them out of the kitchen to cook. We have DVD time in the evenings because originally it was meant to give me time to clean so I could go to sleep as soon as Evan was done when I was pregnant. We are into Kung Fu Panda, Wall*e, Shreks, Peter Pan (that I don’t like), Robin Hood, and few others. We have one Veggie Tale that I like, and my husband is already spoon feeding them Star Wars with the animated series. I refuse Sponge-Bob and Batman.

  3. Thanks for a rundown on the toddler programming. I am a TV nazi. We haven’t allowed any TV at all until Anna turned 2 years. Now it’s max of 30 min a day – either TV or computer. Usually she prefers computer. The only series that we watched (from DVDs) is Blue Clues. I am thinking of expanding to Arthur, since Anna enjoys Arthur books so much.

    • @tyc…we’re pretty tough here, too. Half an hour once a week started at one year (still the current limit), because he was learning to sign and Signing time is so great. But we need DVD options, and like what we found. Thanks for the Blues Clues and Arthur ideas. Zaboomafoo has gotten a few votes, as well.

  4. Hello there,

    Just visiting from NDM’s site and enjoying my time here.

    As the primary carer for my wee boy over the last four years I’ve become very familiar with children’s TV. It’s a minefield trying to regulate TV time against non- sedentary play time (the boy’s speech therapist says not to feel guilty about it too much) but there are some worthwhile shows out there.

    I fell in love with Bear in the Big Blue House and its charm and warmth. It sometimes skims the meniscus of sentimentality but it’s all heart. There was a lullaby sung by Shadow that actually (don’t tell anyone over at NDM) made me cry. I’m getting the shakes thinking about it now.

    Yo Gabba Gabba on the other hand is pure joyous insanity. I’m a big fan of the weird in kid’s TV (Boobah is like a dose of psychedelic candy with an Orb soundtrack).

    And I’m with you on the whole apostrophe thing. Drives me nuts. Or is that “nut’s”?

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  7. This is the thought I would have liked put in my daughter’s watching. Full of discussion. But my husband doesn’t agree. He watches many Disney movies. With no explanations.

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