My Favorite Films for Children

Maxwell's Finds

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As a former Waldorf class teacher, I've seen firsthand how unchecked screentime from films, tv and computer games can adversely affect young children as they grow, but I also believe in doing what I can as a parent to educate and turn a potential problem into an opportunity - and to meet the modern world. I started this project over two years ago, it's been going really well and here's the latest update.

While my seven-year-old daughter doesn't play with computers or watch television at home, I've been introducing her to a curated collection of films and exposing her to the whole history of moving pictures in a way that mirrors her own growth and understanding a little more closely.

My goal was to watch one of my favorite films, The Sound of Music (1965), with her but not before she'd experienced far older and simpler films - all of which lead up to and inform the newer ones. The Sound of Music is a complex film in both story and effects, but certainly nothing like current films that use digital animation, fast editing and extremely mature dialogue to keep kids entertained (NOTE: we watched this in three sittings during the winter holidays when she was six as it felt like the right time).

She's going to eventually see a lot of stuff on the screen (at friends' houses if not our own) and I'd like to give her a really good background in where all these things come from so that she can navigate it in a really strong way. It's also proving to be an amazing education for me.

So, two years ago we started to watch films together at the rate of about one every two months (we often don't watch the whole thing in one sitting), we often watch them over again (kids are great about this), and we always watch them together. We started with the oldest films I could find, which are silent and are just about to enter the talkies of the 1930's. As I've looked around, I've found some particularly good ones that I wanted to list, and which I'll keep adding to. If you have any recommendations, please add them in the comments. These are our faves so far.

These early films are short and all silent (Modern Times has sound effects and the the first words Chaplin ever spoke on film). One AM is only 20 minutes long, which is perfect for a five-year-old. The longer films we often watched over two or three nights.

DISCLAIMER: If this whole notion seems very antiquated to you or impossible to effect OR too liberal, my apologies in advance. It's certainly not easy to raise children and everyone has different home cultures, but I've just found that this works well for our home.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: You will notice that animated films are left out of the list so far. While they were certainly super popular and attractive to children, I believe that human based films are far better for young children. In other words, the more real, the better, allowing children to put themselves inside the films in a far more empowering way.

Seen at Age 5 - Silent films

Age 6 - Talkies from the 30's

  • 1933-6 The Little Rascals

  • 1933 Duck Soup - The Marx Brothers (I wasn't so fond of this, but she was)
  • 1965 The Sound of Music - Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer (couldn't resist and watched it at the end of the year before Xmas)
Age 7 - Films from the 30's, 40's & 50's

  • 1940 The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin

  • 1958 Mon Oncle - Jacques Tati
  • 1953 Mr. Hulot's Holiday - Jacques Tati
  • 1956 The Red Balloon - Albert Lamorisse
  • 1947 Miracle on 34th Street - George Seaton
  • 1952 Singing In The Rain - Gene Kelly
  • 1939 The Wizard of OZ - Judy Garland (this has scary moments, pause often and keep all the lights on)
  • 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood - Errol Flynn
  • 1937 Heidi - Shirley Temple
  • 1935 Top Hat - Fred Astaire

Coming up...

Age 8 - Films up to the 60's

  • 1946 It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra

  • 1944 National Velvet - Elizabeth Taylor
  • 1960 Swiss Family Robinson
  • 1964 A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles
Age 9 - Films up to the 70's

Woody Allen's Sleeper, The Pink Panther films...