Looking for movies to keep your little one entertained and support their developmental growth? Look no further! We have hand selected the nine best movies that are sure to captivate your little ones and bring a smile to their face.
From bright, colorful animations to heartwarming lessons, these films offer a world of fun for a family movie night, a long car ride, or when you just need something simple to keep them preoccupied.
How Can Movies Support Children’s Development?
Surprisingly, movies can play a significant role in supporting a child’s development. When planning for screen time, you might as well choose films that enhance behavioral modeling and introduce children to new skills.
Movies are a fun way to enhance language and communication skills, exposing your child to new vocabulary, broader sentence structures, and different storytelling techniques. Movies also provide visual stimulation, promoting visual and spatial intelligence.
Films can spark a child’s imagination, encouraging creativity and imaginative play. Children can begin to learn valuable life lessons, such as empathy, kindness, and problem-solving, through engaging narratives and age-relatable characters.
When a child in a movie is dealing with certain challenges and uncertainties, watching them navigate through these problems can create a toolbox for your child to reference when they face similar challenges.
Movies are an excellent way to introduce diversity, too. Exploring different cultures and places and fostering cultural awareness is one way to bring about knowledge of new customs and traditions without even leaving your living room.
Lastly, movies contribute hugely to emotional development, depicting a wide range of emotions and helping little ones understand and express their big feelings. Carefully selected movies can be a valuable educational and entertainment tool supporting cognitive, social, and cultural growth.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Movies for Toddlers
Understanding the significant impact movies can have on your children only further emphasizes that you need to be choosy when deciding what they can watch. While they can learn wonderful lessons from carefully-selected movies, you also want to be sure to censor what they’re watching so that they don’t pick up negative lessons from watching the wrong show.
First, you’ll want to align the movie with your child’s age and development. Some movies have great lessons that your young child can’t understand yet. Most popular movies will have age recommendations. With a little bit of research, you can determine if a film is appropriate for your toddler-aged child.
At a young age, you want to be sure that the movies your toddler watches send positive messages. They’re likely a little too young to understand lessons taught through heartbreaking tales. Even though sad or difficult movies can greatly impact us as adults, it’s best to stick to upbeat, positive stories when considering your children.
That isn’t to say that these movies won’t have characters facing their own difficulties and challenges. Instead, it’s all about how these challenges are presented and overcome that will determine if your child is ready to receive the message.
Finally, when you carefully select movies, you can use them as catalysts for learning and important discussions with your children. If your child is facing a certain problem or challenge, it’s wise to choose a related film. That way, you can discuss the similarities and help them make connections to the problem-solving they see on-screen.
The same is true about interactive books! Allowing a child to connect to and relate with a character in a book or movie is a great way to show them that they are not alone in their challenges and there are skills they can learn to overcome what they’re facing.
What Are the Best Movies for Toddlers?
Without further ago, here are our choices for the nine best films to show your little ones.
1. My Neighbor Totoro
This beloved animated film follows two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move countryside with their father. They soon encounter magical creatures, including the gentle and forest-dwelling Totoro. The movie beautifully captures the essence of childhood innocence, imagination, and the wonders of nature.
This movie reflects Japanese culture and takes place in a rural Japanese setting, showcasing the cultures’ elements of folklore, traditions, and daily life. It can give your child a glimpse into different cultures and lifestyles while modeling lessons that can resonate anywhere with anyone.
It shows the importance of embracing curiosity, forging friendships, and finding joy in the simplest of things. The film also explores themes of family bonds, resilience, and the power of belief. My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming and enchanting story that reminds children and adults alike to appreciate the beauty in the world around them.
From the same director as My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo revolves around a young goldfish who befriends a young boy named Sosuke. Ponyo longs to become human and embarks on a magical adventure to fulfill her wish. As their bond grows, the balance of nature is disrupted, and the two must navigate challenges to restore harmony.
Based on The Little Mermaid, this film emphasizes the importance of love, friendship, and environmental stewardship. Highlighting the interconnectedness of humans and nature, Ponyo urges children to respect and care for the world around them. With its enchanting visuals and endearing characters, Ponyo tells audiences of all ages about the power of love, the wonders of the ocean, and the need to protect our planet.
3. Inside Out
Inside Out is a popular and captivating animated film that takes viewers on an emotional journey through the mind of a young girl named Riley. The story unfolds within Riley's mind, where personified emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) navigate her experiences and memories. When Riley faces significant life changes, Joy and Sadness get lost, prompting a quest to restore emotional balance.
The film explores the complexity of emotions, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and embracing all feelings. It shows children that it's okay to experience sadness and that it plays a vital role in personal growth and understanding.
Inside Out models important lessons on emotional regulation, encouraging empathy, self-reflection, and the acceptance of our complex emotions. It reminds children and adults that every emotion serves a purpose in shaping our lives.
4. Daniel Visits a New Neighborhood
“Daniel Visits a New Neighborhood” is an episode from the beloved children's series Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. In this episode, Daniel Tiger and his family explore a new neighborhood. As they embark on their adventure, Daniel learns important lessons about adapting to new environments, making new friends, and embracing change.
The episode emphasizes the values of curiosity, open-mindedness, and resilience. It shows little ones about the positive aspects of exploring new places, meeting different people, and finding joy in new experiences. Through Daniel's relatable experiences, children are encouraged to embrace change with optimism and a sense of adventure, fostering their social and emotional development.
While not a movie per se, this shorter-form narrative can be very beneficial for your child. If your family is moving, traveling for a while, or going somewhere new, this is a great way to open the door to conversation and show your children that adventure can be fun.
5. Lilo and Stitch
Lilo and Stitch tells the story of Lilo, a young Hawaiian girl, and Stitch, a mischievous alien creature. Lilo adopts Stitch as her pet, unaware of his extraterrestrial origins. As their bond strengthens, they face various challenges together, including Stitch's struggle to fit into Lilo's community.
The movie explores themes of family, acceptance, and finding one's place in the world. It explains the power of unconditional love, forgiveness, and embracing individuality. Through Lilo's unwavering belief in Stitch's capacity for goodness, the film emphasizes the potential of empathy and understanding.
Lilo and Stitch shows children that you can embrace, accept, and be friends with anyone. It models valuable friendship-making skills and shows the difference a true friend can make.
Ratatouille is a Pixar film that follows an ambitious rat, Remy, who aspires to become a great chef. With his extraordinary sense of taste and love for gourmet food, Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini, a young kitchen worker. Together, they navigate the culinary world, overcoming obstacles and defying societal expectations.
Exploring both the sewers and finest restaurants in France, the movie beautifully explores themes of passion, following one's dreams, and the power of self-belief. It shows viewers that regardless of background or appearance, anyone can achieve greatness with determination and hard work. Ratatouille emphasizes the importance of embracing individuality, fostering creativity, and breaking free from societal norms.
7. Kiki's Delivery Service
This story follows a young witch named Kiki who leaves home at the age of 13 to begin her training as a witch. Settling in a new town, Kiki starts a delivery service using her flying abilities. Throughout her journey, Kiki encounters challenges, self-doubt, and the ups and downs of growing up.
The film magically explores themes of independence, self-discovery, and finding one's purpose in life. It shows children the importance of perseverance, believing in oneself, and embracing one's unique talents.
Kiki's journey showcases the value of hard work and determination, as well as the significance of supportive friendships and the kindness of strangers. The movie also touches on themes of friendship, empathy, and the power of community.
8. Tinker Bell
Exploring the enchanting world of Pixie Hollow, Tinker Bell is a curious and determined fairy. She discovers she has many unique talents, specializing in inventing and fixing things. Yet even so, she aspires to be a nature fairy like her friends, so she sets out to change her talent.
This magical classic film explores the themes of self-acceptance, embracing your own uniqueness, and individuality. It shows young viewers the importance of celebrating diversity, appreciating one's own strengths, and respecting the talents of others. It also highlights the significance of friendship, teamwork, and perseverance in achieving goals.
9. Toy Story
Toy Story takes viewers on a magical adventure through the world of toys. This beloved movie shows children about friendship, loyalty, and embracing change. Through the journey of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and their toy companions, the film emphasizes the importance of teamwork, overcoming jealousy, and accepting others for who they are.
Toy Story explains that true friendship knows no boundaries and that the value of a toy lies not in its physical appearance but in the memories and connections it fosters. With its heartwarming story and memorable characters, Toy Story reminds us to cherish our relationships, value the little things in life, and always be there for the ones we care about.
Ways To Supplement Screen Time
While the benefits of movies and the entertainment they provide are great, as parents, we don’t want to go too overboard on screen time. Other interactive methods of entertainment model valuable lessons and hold a place for quality bonding time.
Interactive books and stories are a great way to keep your child entertained and help them navigate relatable situations. Big Heart Toys offers stories about friendship, manners, facing fears, and big feelings that toddlers may be experiencing for the first time. These stories help children feel seen and give them tools to solve problems like this.
The books even come with a read-along feature, allowing toddlers to read and enjoy these stories independently if you need them to be preoccupied. With the touch of a button, they can hear the story read to them and follow along on each page. This encourages early literacy skills, too!
The Bottom Line
We all have times when we need to keep our children entertained, and what better way than through a meaningful, well-thought-out learning experience? The guilt of screen time goes away when you know they are watching for a purpose that will help their developmental growth.
Whether through movies, TV shows, books, or conversations, we want to provide our children with the best possible tools for achievement. They are encountering many situations for the first time and often struggle to understand and express their feelings. Making connections helps their cognitive growth and gives them something to go by in these situations.
Check out one of these great picks, or visit our library of interactive books to provide your little one with meaningful, engaging content that will help them thrive.