Movie recommendations for 3 yo, not scary
September 5, 2017 6:15 AM   Subscribe

My three year old gets screen time occasionally. She loves Mary Poppins, but has a very low tolerance for scary stuff, or really any oppositional behavior. We have some travel planned (including her first air travel) and I'd like to bring some media she will enjoy.

As I said, loves the Poppins. Loves the soundtrack to Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but could do without the Nazis and the knights Eglantine bewitches to scare them off. Didn't enjoy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, because people were trying to steal the car. Was a bit cool on Tati's Playtime, but loves the idea of Monsieur Hulot. She has March of the Penguins, but it's a little slow.

Frozen (wolves, snow monster) and Finding Dory (sharks) are largely too scary for her.

Gentle "classics" are my soft preference, but I'd go for a new movie if not too zany and stimulating. Not interested in media with people getting hit or hurt, or sassy talk.

posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Home was a big winner for us. There is a "bad" guy with not a lot of scenes, the Gorg, but my nervous 3yo was calmed when we reassured him that [spoiler] the Gorg was just a daddy starfish in a big suit. (On preview, there's banter between Tip and Oh that might qualify as "sassy talk".)

Additionally, if you have US Netflix, the app now allows you to download some videos to your device. The Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest movie is really quite good and funny even for adults the billionth time. Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas and Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle (aka "Space Monkey George" in our house) are also good. You can download other young kid shows from the Netflix app, too.
posted by jillithd at 6:27 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might find something in a previous AskMe.
posted by gakiko at 6:29 AM on September 5, 2017

Also, Minuscule: Valley of the lost ants might be ok.
posted by gakiko at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Curious George is always getting into trouble, and deeply disturbed my very-rules-oriented kid.

How about My Neighbor Totoro? Or episodes of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood? Shaun the Sheep? Those were all winners in our house at that age.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2017 [11 favorites]

Some of Hayao Miyazaki's movies are more obviously targeted at younger children; My Neighbor Totoro is the most obvious one, but Kiki's Delivery Service and Ponyo are probably worth investigating as well.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Although not movies, both Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom seems like they might fit the bill.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:47 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by jferg at 6:51 AM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
posted by devinemissk at 6:52 AM on September 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

Puffin Rock and Daniel Tiger are big hits with my preschooler.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:53 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Octonauts! You can get 4 or so seasons on Netflix, it is awesome. My three year old has loved it for a long time, it's never scary (though there are scenes where the characters must solve problems), and it's educational.
posted by lydhre at 6:57 AM on September 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

WonderPets is sweet, but the whole premise is (usually baby) animals in mild peril. Also, the song is annoying and stuck in my head all day that is to this thread.

What about (again, not movies, but) Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood?
posted by Night_owl at 7:04 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Just not the ones with evil Heffalumps.
posted by Jahaza at 7:05 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The documentary Babies from a few years back is perfect.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:06 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding Totoro.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

What about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Cinderella with Lesley Anne Warren is loved by my 5 year old and there's nothing too scary in it.
posted by zizzle at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2017

My 2.5 year old son (also a Mary Poppins fan) loves some of the Pixar short films. Several of them are wordless and designed to appeal to everyone.

His favorites are: La Luna, Presto, Day & Night, and Partly Cloudy - all of these are available on the Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 2. 'Presto' does include slapstick pranking similar to classic Looney Tunes, but everyone recovers immediately and they reconcile at the end. It got genuine belly laughs out of my kid when most humor is still over his head.

There's a few other shorts in there that he will watch but doesn't really 'get' yet (more dialogue), but your daughter might also like the Toy Story shorts in there.

Other media we've had good luck with:

-Like others have said, Daniel Tiger is a biiiiig win
-Raffi has a live concert from the 1980s on DVD, my toddler loves it
-You can see Julie Andrews as another singing nanny in Sound of Music, but like us, you may need to just skip to the songs ("Do Re Mi" "My Favorite Things" and "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" are his favorites)
posted by castlebravo at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Our kids loved the "Kipper" tv series at that age. It's gentle and funny.
posted by belladonna at 7:52 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding Kipper. It is extremely gentle and kind. But a big NO to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. When I introduced it to my young daughter, in my memory it was all songs and candy whistles. But there is a horrifying child catching chapter that really scared her.

What about the original Winnie the Pooh movie? It is extremely wistful and sad at the end, but I think only for grown ups who know that things change and people go away. That was lost on my young daughter.
posted by bluespark25 at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry--Winnie the Pooh was already mentioned.

My daughter loved this Classical Baby series. It is quite lovely, even for grownups.
posted by bluespark25 at 8:01 AM on September 5, 2017

Pocoyo! But that's shorts rather than a movie. Both my boys preferred shorts though.

Backyardigans and Imagination Movers were also huge hits around here

I believe Cars was their first movie
posted by Ftsqg at 8:07 AM on September 5, 2017

Tumble Leaf on Amazon is great for this. So is Clifford.

The tinker bell movies might work, except the one with beast in the title.

My younger daughter loved the parent trap (old one and new one) at that age because her sister did.

Chicken run. Babe (the pig movie).

My younger daughter loved a cartoon version of Andy Pandy at that age. It was on our Time Warner on-demand and I've never seen it anywhere else, but if you can find it, it's a perfect series for kids that age. I find that, tumble leave, and Clifford to be among the least annoying screen time for that age.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:40 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh hi my 4 1/2 year old has a similar low tolerance for "scary" movies. In addition to the great suggestions already posted, he also likes Little Bear (based on the Maurice Sendak books), Sarah & Duck (on Netflix), selections from Fantasia, Robbin Hood (although that might be too scary), and Shaun the Sheep (from Wallace & Gromit)

Disney is also releasing Mickey Mouse Shorts -- new cartoons that are way better than they need to be. The animation is good, the stories are fun for kids and have enough adult jokes to keep us engaged as well.
posted by FamilyBand at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of good conventional kids' media recs above. For something a bit different, I've seen many young children really turn on to the Qatsi trilogy. No dialogue or plot, just sort of an arty long-form music video. Time lapse, slow motion, fast motion. Panoramic shots of people, places, nature etc, all set to a Philip Glass score. She may also be bored by it, but you can test out some clips on Youtube and see what the reception is.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:59 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thirding Totoro. My son for a long time would not watch anything with much conflict or stuff breaking. We watched Totoro, the Red Balloon, a Richard Scarry video, and a lot of Rube Goldberg devices on YouTube.
posted by rikschell at 9:13 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

My kids really liked Dora the Explorer at that age, and were (are!!) similarly tension-averse. And Diego the animal rescue dude also was a hit.

(Also, we really liked Moana, but it's too scary for your kiddo.)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:16 AM on September 5, 2017

I'd like to kindly say Chicken Run is not what you are looking for. It involves a big chicken-processing machine and the chickens being (rightly!) afraid of getting killed and eaten, along with the mean lady who wants to kill them and make pies. (We just watched it this weekend with my 4 year old and it immediately brought up the question on if people really *do* eat chickens, which we are in the process of going vegan-ish/plant-based, but it still makes for an uncomfortable conversation.)
posted by jillithd at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone above mentioned "Babe." It's a great movie for older kids, but I think it has some parts that would be scary for a 3-year-old.
posted by belladonna at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Wiggles, the kids' music group from Australia, have DVDs that are cheap and easy to find used, and while most kids' music is cloying and annoying, the Wiggles does not annoy me or my musician husband.
I specifically recommend the specials produced since 2012, when the New Wiggles came on board. Nothing against the Old Wiggles, but it's a different group now. The musicianship and songwriting has improved exponentially- multi-part harmonies are pretty standard, Simon has great range, and the videos are not over-produced. They're totally watchable and classic.
They have changed up distribution in the US so it's hard to find their newest stuff, but the 2012-2016 DVDs are great and you should be able to find them used. Here are the ones I recommend: Wiggle House, Furry Tales, Taking Off, or Apples & Bananas.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly, which is amusing enough in a gentle way for adults not to be bored, and absolutely wonderful for a small child's vocabulary. Our toddler was full of words and thoughtful responses and we couldn't work out what she was modelling till we had a good look at Peppa Pig. The 5 year old is still interested in it as well.
posted by glasseyes at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2017

What about something in the Madeline canon? I only know of the books so I can't recommend specific titles, but I don't think they're scary.

If animals or animal mothers in peril are too scary then avoid Dumbo. I even found Charlotte's Web upsetting.

What about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

OP said she didn't like it because someone kept trying to steal the car, which is beautiful and adorable considering there's literally a character called The Child Catcher, who steals children.

posted by Room 641-A at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you seen what Common Sense Media recommends? Also Pocoyo.
posted by oceano at 10:56 AM on September 5, 2017

I really highly recommend the documentary Babies for kids this age. Zero conflict, and seriously perspective widening.
posted by 256 at 11:03 AM on September 5, 2017

Weston woods has tons of picture book adaptations.
posted by brujita at 11:14 AM on September 5, 2017

Panda Go Panda was beloved in our household. For TV - Yo Gabba Gabba, Charlie and Lola, Sarah and Duck, Dip Dap, old Sesame Street and Peppa Pig were all loved.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2017

What about classic PBS shows like Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street?
posted by radioamy at 11:40 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I apologize to you for this one in advance, because if your daughter is anything like my son (or my brother and sister and I when we were kids), she will love Dunderklumpen - it is a great movie for young kids, gentle and sweet and shows adventure while always showing safe parameters. And the dialogue is badly translated from Swedish and will make you want to be anywhere but where it's playing. But there's something about it that's enchanting for kids, and the message is good, and I'm sorry.
posted by Mchelly at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2017

My Neighbor Totoro for sure.

At that age my oldest had very low tolerance for suspense or anything even a little scary, so we didn't watch too many movies because the longer format and need for a real plot makes it hard to avoid any tension at all. Even Winnie the Pooh was too scary due to the Backson. However, there are a lot of 20-30 minute shows that fulfil those criteria, many of which are available for download or streaming.

Shows we liked: Pocoyo, Sid the Science Kid, Daniel Tiger.

He also really liked BBC nature documentaries (Earth and the like) despite the "nature red in tooth and claw" aspects of some of them. Apparently watching a real wildebeest being attacked by a crocodile or a hapless fly being caught by a spider is not nearly as scary as, say, the terrifying bull-truck in Cars.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 1:48 PM on September 5, 2017

My kids were (and to some extent still are) just like this. I'll put in another vote for Totoro and Kiki's delivery service. The big hits at our house though were the Astaire & Rogers musicals from the 30s, and anything with Gene Kelly from the late 40s/50s. There's no conflict in them above the level of extremely mild accidental misunderstanding. I'd be careful of Swing Time - there's a blackface sequence, which I used as a teachable moment but not everyone's up for tackling that - and there's general background mid-century gender politics, which again, teachable moments. The big plus is you end up with a tiny walking showtune jukebox.
posted by threecheesetrees at 3:25 PM on September 5, 2017

My absolutely favorite movie at that age was The Wizard of Oz. I was Dorothy for Halloween for, like, four straight years -- my mother patiently made ever larger blue gingham pinafores but I never could convince her to get me a Scottie dog... I don't know if the Wicked Witch of the West might be too scary for your daughter, but if you can fast-forward bits like this sequence you can get past the scary without losing much in the way of plot.
posted by basalganglia at 3:36 PM on September 5, 2017

Nthing Pocoyo, Sarah and Duck, Octonauts and Daniel Tiger. For movies, the only thing my kids would watch for years was Cars. They didn't seem to get the tension of the race and it was the only thing that didn't have a part that was scary to them. My husband also had some success with Wreck It Ralph with one of our kids.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:22 PM on September 5, 2017

My Neighbor Totoro is the 110% answer to this question. There's no enemy, there's nothing oppositional; the girls' mother is sick so they're with their father full-time and he's a good and involved dad. They worry about their mother, who turns out to be okay; and the younger daughter is briefly lost (but found safely). IT IS PRESCHOOLER CRACK BTW. Super gentle and sweet.

Daniel Tiger, Pocoyo, and (first suggester!) Oswald the Octopus, which is like someone really high decided to make a no-conflict preschool-appropriate cartoon starring Fred Savage, it is so delightfully weird and very soothing.

Slightly different tack, my kids ADORED Mighty Machines at this age, which is a Canadian children's show that teaches about different things with engines in each episode, where the machines are given voices and talk about what they do. There is no conflict and there are a lot of machines. I think it's streaming on Netflix right now (but if not, Amazon, it pops back and forth -- and you can get the DVDs). You can learn about airplanes or ferry boats or tomato pickers or printing presses or tow trucks or snow removal in Toronto ... good stuff.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:44 PM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Our two year old has a very low tolerance for scary. Her favorite show is Masha and the Bear, which is cute and gentle. She also loves Lady and the Tramp, Winnie the Pooh, and Robin Hood, as far as movies go. Our four year old loves Mr. Rogers, Sara and Duck, and Puffin Rock. I like Kipper a lot, but my kids seem to lose interest fairly quickly (although it's incredibly gentle and the stories are sweet).
posted by Happydaz at 11:29 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our daughter's first movie, at age almost-3, was Moana. She watched it while running around a theater, so there were certainly parts she wasn't sure about, but she had the ability to be close to us, not look, etc. It starts with the grandma telling the origin story over some stylized animation in a way that is clearly SUPPOSED to be scary, but my daughter was okay with it. Te Ka (fire monster) is scary, but everything works out in the end, even for Te Ka! Here is the end part so you can see. So I think once she understood that Te Ka isn't really a villain, it worked well. The whole thing is mostly about Moana fighting perceptions of her abilities, and it's a very warm, positive movie. I should know, because I've seen it approximately 28 times.

I don't think there are any real "jump out at you" scary parts, unlike Finding Nemo et. al.

Oddly enough, my daughter is obsessed with Inside Out. I thought it would be way too abstract for her, especially since we started it in the middle, but Bing Bong came along and she loved the whole thing and started referring to me as "Sadness." Hmm...

She also loves Minions – but NOT the Despicable Me movies, as there are not enough Minion-centric scenes to satisfy her discerning tastes.

Masha and the Bear is good, but Masha is so naughty!

Zootopia is right out. There are a ton of very scary parts when the animals' behavior changes, etc.

For shows mentioned above, Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly and Sarah and Duck are very low-key and cheery. Sarah and Duck is just so gentle. Another good show, in addition to the usual suspects, is Bubble Guppies. My daughter *adores* them.
posted by St. Hubbins at 2:33 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Can I refuse to be paid by cheque?   |   Does this explanation of a website malware fix... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments