Kid-friendly films: What movies are fun and appropriate for young children?

Michael RichMedia expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston answers your questions about media use. Last week, Rich tackled the issue of what to say to your children when their favorite sports stars and celebrities act poorly.

Here’s this week’s Ask the Mediatrician query:

Q: They don’t seem to make enough good kids’ movies that don’t feature in-your-face dialog, terrifying characters, fast cuts, or just over-the-top crazy stuff designed mainly for adult audiences (that I have to spend half the movie explaining to my 5 year old). As a Mediatrician and film buff, can you recommend a few of your favorites, either classic or contemporary?
Frustrated by Films in Framingham, MA

A: Dear Frustrated by Films,

In addition to being the Mediatrician and a film buff, I also have a 5 year old! Some of my kids’ favorites are short films featuring Kipper, and classics I’ve introduced them to like Singing in the Rain, and The Music Man. But I think the important bit of guidance I can give you is not a list of my favorite movies but rather advice on how to find what may become your daughter’s favorites!

The trick to choosing good movies for your child lies in combining your knowledge of the movie with your understanding of your child: What are her likes and dislikes? What scares her? What does she enjoy? One approach is to find a movie you loved when you were her age and then watch it together. In addition to giving you an opportunity to share something that was important to you, it can also help you remember how children of her age see and process movies. For example, I remember seeing Snow White when I was 5 and being terrified not by the witch but by the forest coming to life, and tree branches tearing at Snow White as she runs. But I also remember the wonderful experience of seeing The Incredible Journey, where 3 pets who were left behind find their way, through natural and man-made obstacles, back to their people.

Such memories can remind you of the sorts of things that a child might find frightening (which are not always the things you might expect) and the sorts of things they might enjoy (which don’t have to be masterpieces and don’t have to be new and flashy). The two things a 5 year old wants are a good story and something to share with you. For ideas of classic movies that can provide both, I recommend Ty Burr’s The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together.

I also suggest that whether or not you know the film you are about to share, pay attention to your daughter’s reactions to it. That way, you can respond immediately to her needs (whether for comfort, explanation, or a change of activity) and learn more about what will work for her in the future.
>>See my answer to a question about being scared by Disney movies

Dr. Rich has listed a few of his favorite childhood movies. Leave some of your suggestions for kid-friendly films in the Comments section.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

Do you have a question about your child’s media use? Ask the Mediatrician today!

4 thoughts on “Kid-friendly films: What movies are fun and appropriate for young children?

  1. On the Center on Media and Child Health Facebook page ( we received a bunch of comments about other people’s favorite movies when they were 5 years old. Here are a few that were mentioned: The Apple Dumpling Gang, Neverending Story, Peter Pan with Mary Martin, Swiss Family Robinson, Pete’s Dragon, The Muppet Movies, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Charlotte’s Web.

    What are other people’s favorites? Comment here!

  2. Musicals were always big in our house. Annie, The Sound of Music, and Mary Poppins were watched over and over. I will definitely have these movies for my children, as well as some Disney animated classics.

Comments are closed.