Happy new week, friends! I’ve got my wool slippers on and an apple cider candle burning this brisk morning, so that must mean temps are dropping and autumn is not too far off, which as you know, makes my soul sing like a spring chicken! Last week I came down with a horrendous cold, which was perfect timing for the kid’s first week of school, seeing as it left me with a foggy head, congested chest, and only a smidgen of energy – which I am still carrying around and trying to shake off. I was pretty much useless at home besides running (and then forgetting) the occasional load of laundry, and making bone broth for noodle soup meals we needed up having four nights in a row. But maybe, I keep telling myself, that because I got sick right off the bat, just maybe I’ll be scot-free for the rest of year and keep a clean bill of health? A mom can certainly hope!
In the midst of not feeling well and needing some extra comfort at home, the kids and I did a lot of cozying up on the couch paired with screen time, something we try our best to limit within these walls. Andrew and I both strongly believe that there are many wonderful alternatives to propping kids in front of screens throughout the day, simple life-giving things like: time spent adventuring outdoors, unstructured free play, digging in the garden, reading books, making crafts, celebrating the season, and then daily chores that keep bellies fed and our home up and running. That being said, we do occasionally watch shows and we do think some are really great. Some weeks we go without hardly watching any shows or movies at all! And then there are time like last week when I just didn’t have it in me to do much else than lay down, rest, and heal – which can be quite a challenge when mothering little ones, too. Although we are a “Waldorf family” (I say that loosely because in all honesty, we are still unpacking what this means for our family, and are very much still learning how to weave those philosophies into the rhythm of life at home) we are are not completely without screens, nor do we want to be.
There is some well-made and more mindful media out there that has not only given our family and life at home heaps of inspiration, but has also drawn us closer together on rainy afternoons or times when one of our kids is under the weather. I asked parents on Instagram to share their calming favorites, and many offered great suggestions, many infused with compassion and are nature-based. Out of 66 (and over 300 suggestions over all!) I came up with a sturdy list of 50 series and films that are perhaps a bit more conscious than many currently streaming. I linked most so you can read more about them, and included where to watch to make things easier on your end. Some of them are nostalgic for me, and take me back to afternoons imagining I lived down the lane from Little Bear and Emily, and we’d go on picnics with our curious animal friends, and others brand new to us and really lovely, like Tumble Leaf and Puffin Rock. If you have some that your family enjoys and you think they’d be a nice fit for this list, be sure to let me know!
50 Calming, Curious, Compassionate Series and Films For Little Ones
- Little Bear | Amazon | Series & Film
- Tumble Leaf | Amazon | Series
- Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood | Amazon | Series
- Puffin Rock | Netflix | Series
- Beatrix Potter | BBC | Series
- Peter Rabbit | BBC | Series
- Dinosaur Train | PBS Kids| Series
- Lily’s Driftwood Bay | Nick Jr. | Series
- Guess How Much I Love You | Amazon | Series
- Come Outside | BBC | Series
- Sarah and Duck | Netflix | Series
- Kipper | Nick Jr. | Series
- Room on the Broom | Netflix | Film
- Stick Man | Netflix | Film
- Gruffalo | Netflix | Film
- The Gruffalo’s Child | Netflix | Film
- Lost and Found | Netflix | Film
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh | Netflix | Film
- Pooh’s Grand Adventure | Netflix | Film
- Franklin | PBS | Series
- Stella and Sam | Netflix | Series
- Charlie and Lola | Disney | Series
- We’re Goin’ On a Bear Hunt | Amazon | Short Film
- Clangers | Sprout | Series
- Song of the Sea | Amazon | Film
- Daniel Tiger | PBS & Netflix | Series
- Magic School Bus Rides Again | Netflix | Series
- The Enchanted World of Brambly Hedge| YouTube | Series
- Wild Kratts | PBS Kids & Netflix | Series
- Snowy Day | Amazon | Film
- Nature Cat | PBS | Series
- Planet Earth I and II | Netflix & BBC Earth | Series
- The Little Prince | Netflix | Film
- Growing Up Wild | Film
- My Neighbor Totoro | Film
- Anne with an E | Netflix | Series
- Little House on the Prairie | Hallmark | Series
- Curious George | PBS Kids | Series
- Classical Baby | HBO | Series
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar | Netflix | Film
- Lost and Found | Amazon | Film
- Reading Rainbow | PBS Kids | Series
- The Secret Garden | Film
- Dragon Tales | Series
- Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom | Nick Jr. | Series
- Ponyo | Film
- Ask the StoryBots | Netflix | Series
- Little Einsteins | Disney & Netflix | Series
- Caillou | PBS Kids & Netflix | Series
- The Red Balloon | French Film
I’d also love to know how your family navigates the screen-time waters, especially if you are a household is who devoted to limiting screen time overall. It’s a tricky balance, and one that requires so much dedication as screens are everywhere. As always, thank you for taking the time to be here. I sure love this community and your ideas and support is always refreshing and encouraging to me as a mother and homemaker. xx Amanda
Emily - This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years, raising two very sensitive littles. So many good ones on this list! I would caution against Anne with an E – it deals pretty explicitly with abuse and suicide. I don’t know that I’d recommend it for kids under 12.
admin - Emily, thank you so much for noting that – I’ll be sure to update the list and perhaps even go back and add ages to each show! xx Amanda
Sara - I love so many of these shows. Our four year old just started his first year of school at a Waldorf preschool and upon signing him up had to sign an agreement that we would ban all media from our household. I’m in the same boat as you. Durring this past summer I began to rely too hevily on TV and we got into a habit of having it on much too frequently …. having the ban on TV has helped us cut out television watching most weeks but I have a hard time cutting it out 100% of the time and honestly believe some shows actually inspire creativity and can help teach beautiful lessons. I feel guilty at times for going against the signed agreement I made with his school but think that the right television in the right amounts is a beautiful thing and something that I have a lot of fond childhood memories about. Anyway sending love as always <3
admin - Sara, it’s a challenging balance for us as well. We too have been instructed to limit media from our Waldorf school, not a media ban per se, but to be more mindful about both when and what should be viewed – and that help and support from the school is really encouraging for us. However, everything in moderation. Still figuring it out over here, and content to report that we probably never will! But we are trying and are committed to making mindful changes that supports our family, even if when that means we are learning as we go. 🙂 xx Amanda
Julia - Such a great list. I’m sure I’ll come back to it a gazillion times. Thank you so much for sharing with us!
admin - Julia, you’re most welcome! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts here. xx Amanda
Margaret - Love these, thank you!!! We are strong believers in limiting screen time! With a few exceptions, we only allow tv if it is for foreign language enhancement and once a month a movie night. We never watch tv before bed, always before dinner. Then after dinner we go outside to play. The exceptions are long trips or being sick.
raquel - Paddington 1 and 2 were excellent/sweet movies. I highly recommend.
Jade - Sarah and Duck is no longer on Netflix (Our favorite!), but Song of the Sea is. We also enjoy puffin rock and the Miyazaki films.
Amber - We are what people would probably consider to be “screen free”. I restrict my own screen time to 30 minutes per day and avoid having my phone out when my son is around (out of sight, out of mind). Screen time for our son (who is 8) is limited to special occasions: if he isn’t feeling well or we have a particularly long flight or layover he will sometimes watch a downloaded movie on the iPad. He knows how to use an iPad/iPhone so he isn’t “technologically stunted” but he isn’t staring at a screen all the time, either.
Kati - Thank you for the list, saw a few of our favorites on there and now I see some new ones to try. We just recently implemented a new take on screen time for our kids. As a family we budget our finances and the kids (5,4,&2) know that we do that. And we talk about it and what it means. So we now have a budgeted amount of screen time. They get 3 hours a week. We have a chart and as they watch things it gets filled in. If they use it all up they have to wait until the next week. So they talk about what and when they want to watch and if they want to choose something else. So far so good! Not that we watched a ton before but, now they are aware of just how much. It’s also been great for their communication. Not to mention helps me from getting sucked in too. Win win!
Amber - We purchased the Sarah & Duck series from iTunes… it’s not all that costly and allows us access without WiFi (we don’t have internet at home). 🙂
Elizabeth - Wow! Great list! Thank you so much for putting that all together. I agree with Julia, I’m sure I will come back to this many times. This subject has been something my family has spent a lot of time considering over the last few months. We just had our third baby in July and I will fully admit to far too much television over the course of my pregnancy. One of my husband and I’s goals for the summer was to get a handle on our screen time and use it more meaningfully, so at the beginning of August we cut out all screen time and the kids have not watched any since then. My husband and I will occasionally watch something after the kids have gone to bed, and I sometimes will turn on the TV just to keep myself awake when I get up to nurse the baby at 3 AM, but otherwise it’s been amazing. While I don’t think we will be permanently screen free, I think that this is a good “reset” for us especially heading into the colder months when sometimes the weather prevents as much outside time as we’d like.
Kayleen - What a great resource. I try to limit screen time, but am not as committed as I’d like to be. My 3 year old gets about 30 min each day after preschool/my work while I make dinner. If I’m really exhausted on the weekend I’m definitely guilty of putting something on or letting him play a game on the iPad so I can get an extra 20 minutes of sleep. Not proud, but we try to be conscious and go with a balance that helps us all have balance as a family. We live in France and have found a calming series called Little Brown Bear that’s in French that my son enjoys.
Whitney - What a great resource!! Thank you for compiling such a list! We don’t have a tv provider and stream anything we watch from our phone. Are the shows listed for BBC on the app by chance?
Jen - We absolutely love Little Bear and the original Franklin 🙌🏻 Another one we have been loving is the series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie on Amazon. Beautiful illustrations like the book, and lovely music ❤️ This list is incredibly helpful as we also try to have more balance in this area! Thank you for posting 🙌🏻
Kaitlin Morris - Thank you so much for this! If you haven’t already, an intentional list of series and movies for adults would be wonderful too!!
Taryn - Thank you so much for sharing this list! I struggle with finding wholesome, slower, appropriate shows for my little (age 2.5). We are also a “Waldorf” family & I really try to hold out on giving her screen time, but life happens and I’m trying to be a little less rigid about it. Thanks again <3
Monica - We have a set of the Scolastic book DVDs. They are classic story books narrated and mildly animated, we love them!
I find that screen time affects each of my children differently (3.5 & 6 year old). My younger son often becomes more interested in something else and will get up to play. My older son becomes entranced and it’s a difficult transition to shut it down. We try to limit screen time to once a week (or less), but that hasn’t always been the case.
Natalie - Thank you for this list! I have a 2-year-old and he currently gets zero media. My husband and I have started talking about how and when to introduce it to him, but it’s honestly not much of an issue (yet) due to the fact that he doesn’t ever see us watching TV, using an iPad, and rarely using a phone or computer for long periods of time. However, both my husband and I LOVE watching movies and we can’t wait to share that with our children. I think that viewing (developmentally appropriate) screen content as something to enjoy, just like reading a good book or playing a board game, is something to encourage. So many moms feel guilty about allowing their children to look at a screen, but perhaps it should be framed in a positive light in both the heads of a child and in the parent. We shouldn’t feel guilty about presenting our children with a beautiful, visual story. If we model how to use technology for enjoyment, I don’t think that children are at risk of becoming addicted or developing an unhealthy relationship with media. We’ve decided the we’re going to show our son The Nutcracker ballet at Christmas followed by certain segments in Disney’s Fantasia. Both hold nostalgic sentiments for us which will make it that much more special for our son 🙂
Sara - Zaboomafoo (with the Kratt brothers) is much preferred over Wild Kratts for us. It does not have the animation stories and is calmer and less dramatic.
Ina - We also limit screentime. I’ve found my daughters behavior changes if we watch anything really. I’m not a fan of shows like caillou or Daniel tiger just because the images change too rapidly in my opinion. “Slower” shows are my favorite, my daughter likes “little baby bum” which is basically just different songs. I do love the messages some of the other shows have, maybe when she’s older we can revisit them… we did have absolutely no screentime before age 2.
Thanks for posting!!!
admin - Ina, I know exactly what you mean. Some shows, despite sending good messages, can really increase the energy levels in our home, so we have to be careful when we put them on. Shows like that before bed are a no-no here, because the boys will get really hyper. I have an article somewhere that goes into this more in depth, I’ll have to dig that up! Surprisingly some of our kid’s favorites are ones without dialogue as well, and just use music. I know it’s for babies, but Classical Baby was a hit for our kiddos last winter. Thanks for sharing! xx Amanda
Emily - Creative Galaxy on Amazon is a favorite here & leads to lots of imaginative craft time for my artistic littles.
admin - Emily, thank you for adding this I haven’t heard of it. Stella is really into arts and crafts and I bet she’d appreciate it too 🙂 xx Amanda
Jenn - We’ve been battling some illness over here and I’ve been going OG with my almost 4 year old…Pete’s Dragon, Mary Poppins, E.T., Bed knobs and Broomsticks…Man movies moved at such a lovely, slow pace back in the day. I’m going to really try and not screen anything pre 1990 🙂
Sally - Two more staples in our house are Dino Dana (amazon) and Julie’s Greenroom (Netflix). They’re non-intrusive in content and color and good for a cozy day in.
Taylor - Being sick is definitely a good time to be thankful for easy screen entertainment. And I’m especially thankful for calm and pretty shows for my babies.
Personally, I used to avoid TV with my daughter and only turn it on a couple times a week. But the lack of routine made it harder on both of us. Now, she watches one show a day, always after nap. It gives me extra time to prep dinner and extend the quiet time in the afternoon. And it gives her a routine to expect so she isn’t asking to watch it all the time. I’m so glad I found what works for us.
We limit it to one show a day so that on other times (like when we’re sick) I don’t feel so bad watching more. I love Pixar movies for really sick days when we can hardly get off the couch.
I’m sure you’ll get lots of discussion on here about screen time. Ah, it’s so charged with feelings all around!
Sana - We watch a lot of these, despite restricting screen time. I have a list on my phone of shows/movies that are ok for my son to watch, and I just keep adding to it. Berenstain Bears is amongst our favourites!
Sana - ‘Dinosaur Train’ and ‘Humf’ (on youtube) are also very good ones. ‘Humf’ is sweet and calm and each episode is around 10mins. ‘Wild Thornberrys’ are also good. As for movies, we enjoy
‘The Wilderness Family’ (1,2 and 3).
‘Baby’s day out’
‘Mr magorium’s wonder emporium’
‘James and the giant peach’
‘The odd life of timothy green’
Emily - just remembered our best loved shows for sensitive kids and just for increasing beauty and intentionality in our viewing generally – HBO’s Poetry shows for kids (there are 2), with poems animated by various artists and read by different actors (John Lithgow, Susan Sarandon, etc) – they’re wonderful! Also a documentary called All the Time in the World about a Canadian family that decided to live off the grid in the Yukon for 9 months, just to have more intentional time together. The mom is a doctor and filmmaker, and made the documentary.
Makaya - I’d have to agree about Anne with an E. Not appropriate for children and completely different than the book. I’d stick to the PBS version.
Sana - ‘Humf’ is a very cute, calm one too!
Anna - These are all wonderful suggestions, some my family and I currently enjoy and others I will certainly save in my memory bank for when they are older. I, as well, try to limit screen time and only offer meaningful or educational choices without commercials. And while this is a bit late to the post, I thought I would add that Treehouse Detectives on Amazon is quite cute and a bit more calm than other cartoons. Also, tonight, my family and I watched a movie titled Miniscule for the first time and it was absolutely lovely. I have a 2, 4 and 6 year and they were captivated. There is little narration with no dialogue, mostly music playing along with insect “voices”. Not too scary (my 4 year can be a bit sensitive) and without dialogue, it allows our family to discuss the scenes and sequences of events, motives, moods, etc. together. I saw this post a while back and after watching this movie, I wanted to return to it and share my finding!
(Also, while we are not huge Disney fans, I must add that the Disney Nature movies are absolutely fascinating to me as an adult and my children as well. I love nature shows but have a hard time watching any animals in danger or that die However, these seem to be a healthy depiction of the circle of life while opening little eyes up to the wonderful natural world that exists.)
Tanaya - Love a lot of the shows and movies on this list, however I’d remove The Secret Garden. I see it all over lists like this but after watching it with fresh eyes as an adult… It is not for kids, beyond that the film is unsettling, depressing and dark in so many ways. The short scenes of wonder are terribly outweighed by the many uncomfortable scenes. It has such a dark, depressing tone to it that I struggle to understand why parents are recommending it.
I think Bridge to Terabithia and Because of Winn Dixie are much more appropriate and meaningful films for older children. Secret garden needs to be evaluated by many parents.
Alison - Thank you for this list! I’d add Eleanor Wonders Why. Best best ever for my 3 year old.
Jeanne - Thank you for this! I actually find some of these still too stimulating. Some of these are definitely loud, fast-paced, and too dense in words and sounds. I would definitely avoid Nature Cat and Storybots for example. I agree with another commenter that Daniel Tiger is not as calm. I also feel like it gives children ideas for how to misbehave. (LOL) Wild Kratts we LOVE but it’s definitely not chill. It’s not annoying though.
And even Ben and Holly is a little too much in my opinion. (It’s also a bit sassy and better for past the toddler years.)
I know I sound like a super strict mom, but I’m really not. Just finding so much overstimulation.
I’m on a quest for super chill!