Bathing Babies in Three Cultures

BR Bathing BabiesHere’s some fascinating footage by Margaret Mead, of babies being bathed in 1940s Papua New Guinea, 1930s and 1940s America, and 1940s Bali. It includes a voiceover of Margaret Mead describing the baths, which strives for anthropological neutrality, but doesn’t quite hide the fact that she thinks the 1940s American technique is the most modern and scientific. M. loves this, and has watched it many times, and L. (10 months) is enjoying it too.

My favourite line, from the 1930s America section is “The bath is a long elaborate process, which may take as much as an hour, and dominate the whole life of the household for the day.” We just fit the kids’ baths in when we can, and I’m always a bit mystified by families for whom it’s a major part of the daily routine!

Age: 0+
Child rating: 9/10
Adult rating: 9/10
Running time: 12 minutes
Available for free on Youtube

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride

BR All Aboard! The Sleigh RideIf you are looking for an extremely slow-paced, meditative film for a wintery or Christmasy night, this is it. All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride consists of nothing but two hours of footage of Sami reindeer herders following an ancient postal route through the taiga forest of Northern Norway, beautifully filmed by BBC Four. The soundtrack is simply a recording of the journey, with no music or voiceover. Occasional written texts provide some contextual information. M. was entranced for the first hour, which is really quite a long time for a toddler to watch nothing but a couple people and a couple reindeer moving through the snow. Then he was ready to move on to something else (though he continued to ask questions about reindeer for several days afterwards).

Age: 0+
Child rating: 8/10
Adult rating: 8/10
Running time: 2 hours
Available for free on the BBC Four website

Making a traditional Japanese wooden Kokeshi Doll

BR Japanese DollMany of M.’s favourite videos are of people making things or doing physical labour, and there’s a great wealth of such videos on the website The Kids Should See This. This video, as the title suggests, is of a man making a traditional Japanese wooded Kokeshi doll. The doll is turned on a lathe, and painted with great precision.

Age: 0+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child Rating: 10/10
Running time: 4 minutes
Available free on The Kids Should See This

Microcosmos

BR MicrocosmosThis is a great whole-family film, which consists entirely of stunningly beautiful close-up footage of insects and other invertebrates. We always watch videos on the computer, but this made me wish for a larger screen.

There is nothing scary, and the level of drama is appropriate for a toddler: a dung beetle trying to push a ball of dung which gets caught on a thorn, a crow eating ants, stag beetles fighting, etc. There’s a famous scene of two snails having sex, about which M. asked “are they hugging?” We said yes. (We would have answered more if he had asked more, but that was all he wanted to know). M. was particularly captivated by the moths, the rhinoceros beetle, and of course the dung beetle.

The soundtrack is by French composer Bruno Coulais, and contains a nice balance of recorded insect sounds and insect-inspired instrumental sounds, with occasional more typical movie-style music for the dramatic sections. The film contains very few words, so don’t worry if you can’t find the English version. I’m rating it as age 2+, because I think a younger child wouldn’t appreciate it as much, but there would certainly be no harm in watching it with younger kids around.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 9/10 (M. did get restless at one point, but I think it was because he wanted to eat dessert).
Adult rating: 10/10
Running time: 80 minutes

David Attenborough (various)

Only watch the episodes about smaller gentler animals – avoid the ones about large predators! When M. was a baby, we watched various Attenborough episodes, and they would sooth him to sleep. One of his first words was “A-bu-wa”! We haven’t tried them since he was older, but I’m sure he’d love them now too.

Age: 0+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 10/10
Running time: usually an hour
Some episodes available free on Youtube