Toddler movies and TV shows that aren't scary
October 30, 2021 8:47 PM   Subscribe

My 3-year-old loves TV and movies, but almost everything is too scary for him. We are ok with some screen time, but are struggling with what to show him. Sunny Bunnies are scary because there is a scary wolf, Winnie the Pooh is scary because he gets a loose thread and loses stuffing, Shaun the sheep is too scary because there are evil animals. More below the fold.

Here is a list of movies and TV shows that aren't scary, and not boring to him (also important):
The Peanuts Movie (but nothing else Peanuts or Snoopy - too scary)
Purple and Brown
Coyote and Roadrunner I think this one isn't scary because you are on the side of the Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner.
Barney Lord, help me.

I'd love a full-length movie - and even a "family-oriented" one that we could all watch. Everything full-length Disney and Pixar is too scary, except for this one. Can you suggest something?
posted by Toddles to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My kids were big into Yo Gabba Gabba! at that age. The visuals are pretty fun and I don't think it's too scary.
posted by disconnect at 8:56 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Consider Make Way For Ducklings.
posted by parmanparman at 8:59 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sarah & Duck is BELOVED by my almost three year old. British cartoon about a young girl and her duck living their life with reality based whimsical adventures.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:03 PM on October 30, 2021 [8 favorites]

My 3.5 year old is really sensitive to scary stuff and we found that the first Cars movie was really good for this. There are no villains (the plot is the the main car character is a pompous ass and gets stranded in a small car town and then becomes a nicer car) and it's a very relaxing chill movie. The second cars movie is terrible and does have villains, so i would stay away from that one. The third is slightly more scary than the first but doesn't really have villains either, but a couple startling parts.

We also are big bluey fans in this house, a really lovely show that is never scary and just overall a delight for parents and kid. (it's only on disney+ though).
posted by ruhroh at 9:06 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Puffin Rock is super gentle and beautiful. There's a couple episodes that feature confrontation with seagulls but they are easy to spot and avoid.
Pocoyo is silly and fun, nothing scary at all.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:07 PM on October 30, 2021 [8 favorites]

The Australian cartoon 'Bluey' is a delight.
posted by h00py at 9:23 PM on October 30, 2021 [13 favorites]

Mary Poppins was one of the only movies our similarly easily-frightened child could watch at that age.
posted by contrapositive at 9:45 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding SaltySalticid's suggestion of Puffin Rock. My 8 year old still occasionally requests to watch Puffin Rock when he's feeling either mentally overwhelmed or physically ill.

Tumble Leaf is another one. Kiddo requests those (especially the winter holiday ones) when he's feeling like he needs to bundle up on the couch and pet our dogs.

We watched these as a family when kiddo was 3 or so, and honestly, we all still enjoy them. They are calming, interesting, and fun to look at.
posted by erst at 9:46 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oooooh also seconding Sarah and Duck.
posted by erst at 10:06 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I hate to even suggest Teletubbies but that is exactly what our kids of that age thought was the cat's meow.

It looks like you can find it in bulk online these days.
posted by flug at 11:13 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

My easily terrified 3yo nephew enjoyed a British show called "In the Night Garden". He also turned out to loooooove audio books. He had some collection of short stories as mp3s, each one a different track, and once he figured out how to go back and repeat he could just sit for hours listening to the same one over and over.
posted by bashing rocks together at 11:18 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Too Cute was a series on Animal Planet all about baby animals (usually puppies and kittens but not always) growing up. It was heavily edited and paternally narrated but gosh darn it it really was too cute.

I love Puffin Rock as an adult who appreciates beautiful illustrations and cuteness but it doesn’t shy away from the characters being wild animals and all that entails. Maybe it could be a show to work up to and help overcome some scared feelings?

I don’t have specific recommendations for this but a genre suggestion is dance videos. All kinds of wonderful jazz, tap, hiphop, ballet, traditional Asian style dancing, hula exhibitions, and latin dances make for arresting viewing without any violence or language that can be misconstrued.
posted by Mizu at 11:33 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I remember from when my son your age that I always found Oswald (now streaming on Paramount+) very sweet.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:28 AM on October 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood
Super Simple Songs
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:28 AM on October 31, 2021

Peppa Pig tends to be very gentle and good natured, while still being charming enough that I never got tired of watching it with my kids. I guess the one possibly scary thing is that Peppa's little brother sometimes cries, so a very sensitive child might worry about him being sad. But he cheers up quickly, and the overall thrust of the series is extremely cheerful.

To piggyback off Mizu's suggestion of dance videos, if you want a full length movie, I might recommend That's Entertainment, which is just a feature-length compilation of great moments from musicals. But two caveats. First, it's been many years since I've seen it, so I can't remember if the excerpt from Wizard of Oz includes any scary footage of the witch. Second, the dance numbers are interspersed with talky introductions that might bore a three-year-old. But in either case, you could just skip forward to the next dance number.
posted by yankeefog at 2:51 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Timmy Time? The main character is the lamb from Shaun the Sheep, but there's nothing scary/evil about this show.

Nthing Sarah & Duck!
posted by gakiko at 3:13 AM on October 31, 2021

Last year, when our daughter was 3, we couldn’t find anything feature-length that would hold her attention, it always petered out after 45 minutes or so. We watched Mr. Rogers, POV roller coaster videos (thrilling but not scary), and there is a 60 minute compilation of classic Sesame Street animated interstitials that she loved. Oh, and she would watch How It’s Made all day, if we’d let her.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 4:57 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

My toddler and I both enjoy Moon and Me very much. It's by the makers of Teletubbies and In the Night Garden .

It is soothing, caring and sweet.
posted by pipstar at 5:28 AM on October 31, 2021

On PBS Kids, there’s a couple shows on there I would wholeheartedly recommend. They’re available through the PBS kids app on our TV or online or there’s probably other ways like actual TV. The app does have a quirky interface that rotates through only a certain number of episodes at a time.

Elinor Wonders Why is a really calm show where the main characters ask questions about the world and try to figure things out through observation and some experimentation. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Other good shows that we’ve watched are Super Why, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Clifford the Big Red Dog. All are shows where the characters typically learn a lesson over the course of the episode.
posted by cali59 at 5:51 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing Sarah and Duck and the first Cars movie.

Also Pocoyo is a cute TV series, nothing scary.

Octonauts has some individually scary episodes but most are fine for my easily-scared kids. They have many seasons of tv episodes and a couple of movies on Netflix. Bonus: truly educational and interesting.

All of these were shows I could sit through as well.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:58 AM on October 31, 2021

I had to help my child through some of the plot climaxes in various Daniel Tiger episodes on the first couple viewings, but the lovely thing about them is that the plot/characters themselves then do a ton of calming work for you as long as you can make it past the initial oh no the ball popped!
posted by teremala at 6:13 AM on October 31, 2021

My Little Pony: A New Generation. Trailer.
posted by SPrintF at 6:53 AM on October 31, 2021

The Australian cartoon 'Bluey' is a delight.

Yes! My three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter loves Bluey. It’s very sweet and low-key but really solid. And, it comes in thankfully short-ish episodes.

For other down-under kiddie fare, you might want to check out the Wiggles.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:58 AM on October 31, 2021

Totoro is great for little kids - you probably just want to fast forward through the climax, where a little girl is lost, which can be scary for a little kid. The rest will be perfect.
posted by MythMaker at 7:13 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

+1 for Totoro. I'm really into watching Studio Ghibli films with my 4-year-old (via HBO Max). There's a subset of Ghibli films that are emotionally complex or sad but where very little happens that is scary. This turns out to be a good fit for my kid who can cope with "the kids are sad because their mom is sick" but not action scenes, and it's also great for me because they're satisfying adult films/artworks.

Totoro is maybe the gentlest, but we've survived the action parts in Arrietty, Ponyo, The Cat Returns, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle were too scary.

There's also a set of Ghibli films about early teenagers having emotional conflicts that have worked for us and have very few scary parts, although my kid can't really follow what's going on -- Whisper of the Heart, From Up on Poppy Hill, When Marnie Was There, in order from least to most intense IIRC.
posted by john hadron collider at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2021

If your kid likes Alphablocks, Numberblocks is similar but even better, with a lot more episodes. It’s been a staple for my also very sensitive kid along with Puffin Rock and recently Clifford the Big Red Dog.
posted by bananacabana at 8:04 AM on October 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Totoro is great but in my experience with my child the climax is not the scariest part, the dust sprites are. Also parents may find the basics of the story (ill mother, child wandering in woods) more traumatizing than kids do.
posted by vunder at 8:08 AM on October 31, 2021

Perhaps your 3-year-old would like Go Go Cory Carson, on Netflix. It's created by a group of writers who used to work for Pixar. You'll enjoy it, too.
posted by cleverevans at 8:31 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Kipper the Dog
posted by LoveHam at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Back in the day, the Wiggles definitely filled this slot for us. And honestly it's way less irritating than most kid music is.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:08 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

In the same vein as Cocomelon (oh lord, I hate them) is Super Simple Songs, Pink Fong (of Baby Shark fame) and The Learning Station. I recently discovered Mother Goose Club.

There are a lot of animated books on YouTube. My kids at school have been enjoying Eric Carle.

Like the person above who mentioned dance videos, college half time band shows might work. I highly recommend Ohio State (The Best Damn Band in the Land).
posted by kathrynm at 9:16 AM on October 31, 2021

The Curious George movies are pretty mild! My kids like the Christmas one a lot! They watch it all year :)
posted by rglass at 9:47 AM on October 31, 2021

Daniel Tiger and Curious George
Both on PBS Kids website.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2021

Bagpuss (or anything by Oliver Postgate, really)
Postman Pat (original, not reboot)
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:24 AM on October 31, 2021

Compilations of Tractors Doing Things were a big hit with my kid at that age, and there are tons of them out there.
posted by emjaybee at 10:35 AM on October 31, 2021

We loved a Canadian show called "Mighty Machines" - but if animation's your thing, try Charlie & Lola (charming), Little Einsteins (strangely fascinating) and Dora the Explorer (survivable). Also seconding Tumble Leaf , Peppa Pig, Yo Gabba Gabba, and the Octonauts. But don't forget about vintage Reading Rainbow and Mr Rogers episodes!

Just don't "try" Caillou. As an adult, you will regret it.
posted by nkknkk at 11:08 AM on October 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yep, Daniel Tiger was a mainstay in our house, but lately Peppa Pig has been the big show.

Daniel has great lessons that our daughter really internalized. Peppa is a bit amoral, but not scary at all.

Someone above mentioned Elinor, which I can't say enough good things about.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:20 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Kiri and Lou is a lovely stop-motion animated show from New Zealand. In the Night Garden and Blues Clues were both gentle for all of us. For my kids, the word "scary" covered a lot of deep empathy, incomprehensible emotions and second-hand embarrassment, as well as mild peril.
posted by slightlybewildered at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2021

Came here to say Kipper. TBH my kids didn't super get into it, but I loved that show. Zen in cartoon form.
posted by libraryhead at 5:51 PM on October 31, 2021

My kids are older but also very scared, and they have been watching cat in the hat, which I think does have a longer movie as well as short episodes. I had no idea that it was basically teaching kids the scientific method, but that seems to be the focus. Fairly fun. The cartoon, not the movie with actors.
posted by lab.beetle at 7:43 AM on November 1, 2021

My daughter (3) is like this so I’m watching this thread closely.

She loves Hey Duggie! It’s also not torture for parents!
posted by like_neon at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2021

My three year old nephew finds Cars *terrifying* because one of the cars gets lost, so YMMV re: that suggestion.

One idea might be Zenimation on Disney+. This isn't a TV show or movie per say, but little 5-minute shorts that they describe as a "mindfulness soundscape experience." I watched the first season and they're really lovely -- clips from classic Disney films strung together around a theme (like adventure or laughter), with just the ambient sounds of the scene (like running water or birds chirping) as the soundtrack. Something to check out!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2021

I was a very sensitive child (I got upset at a Mr. Rogers episode) and I watched Mary Poppins quite a bit at that age.
posted by radioamy at 5:57 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
posted by Pockets at 8:24 PM on November 3, 2021

« Older Vitamix Conversion Factor   |   Help me identify this long-forgotten YA novel... Newer »

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