Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-11-47-25-pmThough I had the book, I somehow never saw this animated, musical version from 1966 when I was a kid. I’ve enjoyed discovering this classic with M. The animations are bright, lively, and true to Dr. Seuss’s illustrations, and the music is good. There’s a nice anti-consumerist message, in a format that is easy to discuss with a 4 year old. M. was scared the first time through (worried that the Grinch would prevent Christmas from coming), but has since requested to watch it many times.

Age: 4+
Child rating: 9/10
Adult rating: 9/10
Running time: 22 minutes
Available: for purchase on Google Play, or, in sections, for free on Youtube

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

The Old Mill

Old Mill

We’re trying to keep Disney characters out of the house for as long as possible, but we were curious to see this short, non-character-driven Disney film from the 1930’s. The Old Mill tells the simple story of some animals hiding out from a storm in an old mill. Some kids might find the storm a bit scary – the mill is almost blown apart – but the animals do all survive. It could actually be helpful for young children to watch this in preparation for a big storm, or as a way of processing it afterwards. Although Disney-style animation has never been my favourite, I do find these earlier, hand-drawn films much livelier and more appealing than the more recent films.

Age: 3+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child rating: 8/10
Running time: 8 minutes
Available free on Youtube

Frog and Toad are Friends; Frog and Toad Together

BR Frog ad ToadWe’ve been postponing watching the film versions of many of the books we like (such as the Moomintrolls and the Gruffalo) so that M. has the book version in his mind first, but we’ve already been reading Frog and Toad to him for two years, and since this movie version is voiced by the author, Arnold Lobel, we figured it wouldn’t stray too far from the original spirit or aesthetic of the books. Each of these movies consists of several short, gently humorous vignettes, reenacted in claymation. The humour is often on several levels – some silliness (eg. Frog pouring water on his head) that appeals to toddlers, and some subtler, more philosophical humour that only older children and adults would get. The claymation is generally lovely, though occasionally falls into a bit of an “uncanny valley” (if one can call it that for frogs and toads).

Age: 2+
Adult rating: 8/10
Child rating: 8/10
Running time: each movie 18 minutes
Available free on Youtube

Daniel Tiger

Daniel Tiger is produced by the Fred Rogers company (after Fred Rogers passed away in 2003). Each episode deals with a very specific problem (separation anxiety, safety, going to school, etc.) in a way that toddlers really relate to. And each episode has a little song about the issue, which can be helpful to sing to your kid. M. loves it, but unfortunately I find the cartooning overly cutesy and lacking in artistic merit, the pacing unnecessarily frenetic, and the music annoying. (I suspect Mr. Rogers would have felt the same thing). We only watch it when there is a particular issue we want to address, and it has been very helpful for that. For example, when M. was about 28 months, he suddenly started feeling really upset when we went out to work (after 2 years of having no problem with it.) We watched the episode about “Grown-ups Come Back” about 8 times, and within two days he was back to not feeling upset when we went out.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 10/10
Adult rating: 10/10 for helping your kid deal with specific issues, 3/10 for aesthetics
Running time: Each topic has two 15-minute back-to-back episodes

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

This is a great US show: 895 episodes were made from the late 1960’s through 2000. I think most American and Canadian kids who grew up in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s watched it, but we’ve just moved to Scotland, and we’ve been surprised to find that no one here has heard of it! Most episodes consist of some very honest, gentle discussion of things young children might be thinking about, a visit somewhere (a fire station, an orange grove, a string quartet, etc.), and the Land of Make Believe, where characters work through more complex emotions and story lines. It’s a bit slow-paced for parents, but provides lots of good material for discussion with your kid afterwards. Mr. Rogers has a real gift talking to children about things that matter to them, but without talking down to them. M. found the Land of Make-Believe a bit intense at first, so we used to have to skip that part. Fred Rogers was also trained as a musician, and wrote all the music. In addition to the regular episodes, there are 8 mini-operas, with well-composed, serious music, and storylines that young kids find very engaging.

Age: 2+
Child rating: 10/10
Parent rating: 7/10 for watching enjoyment, 10/10 for values imparted and post-show discussion with kids
Running time: 30-minute episodes
Some episodes available free on Youtube