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The 32 Best Movies for Toddlers and Preschoolers

And a few that parents will love, too.

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best-movies-for-toddlers-and-preschoolers-universal
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Real talk: If you watch one more episode of Paw Patrol, you’re going to go postal on those cartoon canines. You need a good selection of family movies for toddlers and preschoolers that your kid and you will love. And you need it NOW.

To come up with our list of age-appropriate programming for the under-five set, I used my own experience as a mom of both a toddler and preschooler, as well as tapped my parent network for their opinions—and they had thoughts. “The Land Before Time is *not* a good choice for a 3-year-old,” one mom warned me, detailing how her kid had nightmares about T-Rexes for the next six months after watching it. Because here’s the thing about this particular age group—you may think your kid is super into dinosaurs or sea creatures, but one look at the sharks in Finding Nemo and your toddler is ready to throw his beloved sharkie stuffy into the trash for good.

The fear factor isn't the only consideration worth keeping in mind with this particular cohort—ideally, the movie you put on has some feel-good takeaways, too. You know, nice messages about friendship, teamwork and how to share toys with your sister (OK, that last one may be wishful thinking). And since toddlers and preschoolers don’t exactly have the best attention spans, you need something that will hold their interest long enough for you to put on a load of laundry or start making dinner. Oh, and finally while you want the movie to be engaging, you also don't want it to be overly stimulating. Sounds like a tall order? Keep reading for 32 great flicks that tick all the boxes.

One note about screen time: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends minimizing or eliminating media exposure for children under the age of 18 months. As such, our movie recommendations below start from age 2.

The Best Movies for 2-Year-Olds

A quick note about movies for 2-year-olds—your young toddler probably won’t be able to sit through an entire feature-length film. In fact, in my experience, a 2-year-old can barely sit still for five minutes. Having said that, the picks below are all scare-free, not overly stimulating and pretty darn adorable to boot. (Just don’t expect them to watch the whole thing in one sitting.)

the-snowman-best-movie-for-toddlers-and-preschoolers
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/ TVC London

1. The Snowman (1982)

  • Scary moments: None. (The snowman does melt at the end but the child isn’t upset about it.)
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Run time: 26 minutes

There’s no dialogue in this animated adaptation of the classic children’s book about a young boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve that comes to life and takes him to the North Pole—just beautiful music, a sweet storyline and short run time for more distractible viewers. The film won a BAFTA for best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama) at the 1983 British Academy Television Awards, and has been delighting viewers ever since.

best-movies-for-toddlers-and-preschoolers-play-all-day-with-elmo
Amazon

2. Sesame Street: Play All Day with Elmo (2015)

  • Scary moments: None.
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Run time: 48 minutes

It's time to play with this collection of Elmo segments from previous Sesame Street episodes featuring plenty of preschooler-friendly games like Elmo Says, Red Light Green Light, Freeze Dance and more. Everyone's favorite furry red friend is joined by a handful of celebrity guests including Jack Black, Taye Diggs and Zoe Saldana, plus lots of music and dancing. One thing to keep in mind in case you have a Cookie Monster or Big Bird lover at home is that only Elmo appears in this playful program. Note: The streaming version on Amazon Prime runs 48 minutes long, but there's also the option to purchase a two-hour DVD.

curious george movie for toddlers
Universal Feature Animation    

3. Curious George (2006)

  • Scary moments: There’s nothing scary about this funny tale although impressionable kids may need reminding that some of George’s whacky antics are for monkeys only.
  • Recommended age: 2+
  • Run time: 87 minutes

The man with the yellow hat (voiced by Will Ferrell) travels to Africa in search of a rare artifact but returns with a stowaway. Now back in New York, he must look after his pet monkey while halting plans to demolish the museum where he works. Fans of the Curious George book series know what happens next—lots of shenanigans and plenty of laughs. While this one may not be the most entertaining kids' film out there for parents, children will undoubtedly love it (my 3-year-old certainly did). “George the monkey is easy for any kid to identify with,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film when it was released in 2006. “They have so much in common. George cannot make himself understood, he is driven here and there in mechanical vehicles without his consent, adults talk about things he does not understand, and sometimes it's just not fair how he's treated.”

The Best Movies for 3-Year-Olds

the red balloon movie for toddlers
Films Montsouris

4. The Red Balloon (1956)

  • Scary moments: A little bit of bullying where a group of kids chases the boy to try and steal his balloon.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 34 minutes

This Oscar-winning short about a red balloon following a young French boy named Pascal around Paris is pure magic. With little dialogue and beautiful scenery, this film will captivate little kids (and grown-ups, too). “I remembered loving this one when I was little but kids are used to so much more action these days, so I was pretty sure mine would find it boring. Much to my surprise, they were completely enchanted to by and have asked to watch it multiple times since,” says PureWow contributor and mom-of-two Emma Singer.

the gruffalo todder movie
Magic Light Pictures/ Studio Soi    

5. The Gruffalo (2009)

  • Scary moments: There are a few imaginary scenes where the mouse is being eaten by other animals, but the little creature triumphs in the end.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 27 minutes

This TV short is based on the classic children’s book about a mouse walking through the forest and outwitting predators along the way. A cute animation that will let your mini know that smarts are more important than size. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, and while it didn't win (it lost out to The Lost Thing), it's a winner in my book thanks to its compelling narration, beautiful animation and important lessons about resilience.

the many adventures of winnie the pooh film for toddlers
Walt Disney Productions

6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

  • Scary moments: Rabbit gets lost in the woods by himself, which may upset some sensitive kids.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 74 minutes

Based on the classic tales from A. A. Milne, this movie follows Pooh Bear and his pals on a series of fun-filled shenanigans around the Hundred Acre Wood. There’s some mild danger here (think: Pooh getting chased by a swarm of bees) but no scary monsters or ghouls to speak of. “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is such a favorite of ours and one we watched countless times when my son was 3/4 years old. I think it's one of those where the humor reaches grown-ups, too, and it's just so delightfully nostalgic. It's not scary either, just silly and I think it's quite helpful with talking about emotions, too. (Eeyore is my favorite way to discuss those times where you're just having an off day, for example!),” says PureWow's senior director of special projects and mom-of-one Rachel Bowie.

thomas and friends the adventure beings toddler movie
HiT Entertainment/ Arc Productions

7. Thomas & Friends: The Adventure Begins (2015)

  • Scary moments: There’s nothing scary here, although the bickering amongst the engines may cause adult viewers to require extra vino.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 45 minutes

All aboard this train-filled adventure that follows a fearless young tank engine getting to know his new home, the Island of Sodor. Features lots of great themes about friendship, hard work and cooperation. If your kid enjoys this one, steer him to one of the many other Thomas movie franchises next, such as Thomas & Friends: Marvelous Machinery, Thomas & Friends: The Great Race and Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!

toddler movies blues big musical
Nick Jr.

8. Blue's Big Musical Movie (2000)

  • Scary moments: While each character does face a specific challenge, there’s nothing scary or concerning in the movie.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 78 minutes

Steve and his four-legged friend, Blue, are stepping away from their classic red chair to throw a big musical in their backyard. The movie includes useful lessons about empathy and perseverance while musical segments will teach children about tempo and rhythm, with some positive messaging thrown in for good measure. And while some kids' music can be, well, irritating, the bops in this movie are seriously catchy (just try not to sing along to I Can Be Anything That I Want to Be).

toddler movies lost and found
Contender Entertainment Group

9. Lost and Found (2008)

  • Scary moments: There are two to keep an eye out for. One is a giant, scary storm that happens out at sea, while the other involves a giant octopus that rises out of the ocean to speak with the boy and the penguin.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 24 minutes

In this adaptation of Oliver Jeffers' picture book of the same name, a little boy embarks on an exciting new adventure with a penguin that he finds on his doorstep. The importance of love and having compassion towards others are some takeaways you can expect from the film, as well as gorgeous imagery and the soothing lilt of Jim Broadbent who narrates the film. The movie won multiple awards upon its release.

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Tundra Productions

10. Stellaluna (2003)

  • Scary moments: An owl appears and chases the bats away, causing Stellaluna to fall and lose contact with her mother.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 41 minutes

The movie follows a lost baby bat who’s determined to find and reunite with her family. While the storyline is simple and the animation is nothing to write home about per se, the messaging behind the film is very sweet—the movie not only teaches kids about different types of animals, but it also encourages children to be kind and accepting of other people’s differences. Based on a storybook of the same name.

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IMDB

11. Puffin Rock and the New Friends (2023)

  • Scary moments: None, although kids who are sensitive to storms may find the idea of a looming storm coming to the island distressing.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 80 minutes

I’m a big fan of the Puffin Rock TV series that follows the innocent adventures of Oona and her baby puffin brother on Puffin Island off the coast of Ireland, and so I was thrilled to learn that the show’s creators had released a feature-length movie. And the film did not disappoint, with its signature calming, sweet content, beautiful imagery, and just the right amount of intrigue to keep little ones entertained. This one is truly an enjoyable watch for kids and parents, not least because of Chris O'Dowd's soothing narration. So what is it about? Well, when the last Little Egg disappears, Oona goes on a mission to find it before a storm hits the island, and fortunately, with some help from her friends and a bit of courage, she manages to do exactly that.

toddler movies tiger family trip
9 Story Media Group

12. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip (2017)

  • Scary moments: No scary scenes here, but you'll probably identify with Daniel's parents as they deal with some challenges of traveling with kids along the way.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 51 minutes

Get ready to join Daniel and his family as they go on a journey to visit Grandpere. The movie is as educational as it is entertaining, since it teaches kids important skills like how to ask for help, how to deal with certain social situations, and how to manage their feelings. “There is A LOT of wild content out there, so the fact that my toddler connects with a Mr. Rogers spin-off makes me very happy—and also like I could leave the room for a second and not come back to hear my 3-year-old yelling a new word I didn't want her to hear or a situation I'm not entirely thrilled about,” PureWow executive editor Dara Katz shares.

toddler movies royal monkey
Imagine Entertainment

13. Curious George: Royal Monkey (2019)

  • Scary moments: None—but there are a few moments of mild awkwardness and tension.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 86 minutes

Another enjoyable flick starring everyone's favorite mischievous monkey. Chaos ensues when George accidentally switches places with Phillippe, the Kingdom of Simiana's royal monkey. The movie offers a fun take on how people can understand new perspectives while they're in another person's shoes. “I  appreciate that the creators didn't give Curious George a humanoid voice. He's still a little monkey who makes little monkey sounds. It makes for a quieter, less sensory-intensive show,” says Katz.

one big ocean
PBS Kids

14. Splash and Bubbles: One Big Ocean (2016)

  • Scary moments: None at all, but expect an awkward, funny moment or two.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 52 minutes

If your kid is already a fan of the preschool Splash and Bubbles TV series, then this one is a no-brainer. But even if they’re new to the show, this one is still worth a watch since it's never too early to start teaching your tot about preserving the environment. As Splash and his pals journey across the vast ocean to help a young turtle, they learn about different sea creatures and how they're all connected. Yes, it’s cool to teach your child about various habitats, marine life and migration, but this one is also just plain old fun for littles with sweet characters, musical numbers and bright (but not too bright) imagery.

toddler movies meet the small potatoes
Disney

15. Meet the Small Potatoes (2013)

  • Scary moments: No scary moments, although a few of the characters do have a snarky attitude.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 115 minutes

Done in the style of a mockumentary following the history of The Small Potatoes, a band of anthropomorphic singing potatoes, the premise of this one is undoubtedly ridiculous and likely to go over most kids' heads. But guess what? No one will care! It's generally a silly and humorous film, and kids will love learning about music, interpersonal relationships and how fame can change someone's life (so you know, maybe consider showing this to your wannabe Vlogger).

square pumpkin
Holiday Hill Farm

16. Spookley the Square Pumpkin (2004)

  • Scary moments: The square pumpkin is initially teased and bullied by the round pumpkins, and there's one major storm.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 47 minutes

It may be Halloween-themed, but this is a charming tale with a positive message about accepting yourself. Spookley, a little square pumpkin, feels like he doesn't fit in. But with the help of his friends, he starts to embrace what makes him different (as it turns out, it's cool to be square). Not too long and filled with upbeat musical numbers and fun characters, this one's an obvious choice for fall movie night but I bet your toddler would enjoy watching it year-round.

pinkfong
CJ Entertainment

17. Pinkfong & Baby Shark's Space Adventure (2019)

  • Scary moments: The main characters encounter zombies and ghosts, but these "scary" creatures are soon revealed to be kind.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 65 minutes

If your toddler is already obsessed with the Baby Shark song, you can treat them to this special, which includes plenty of catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head all day long. Seriously. What else happens in the movie? Honestly not much—best friends Pinkfong and Baby Shark travel through outer space in search of a missing star. Is it the most compelling movie on our list? No. But the songs are snappy enough to hold your kid’s attention while you check your emails or fold laundry, and there’s nothing alarming or scary to speak of.

toddler movies miffy the movie
KRO

18. Miffy The Movie (2013)

  • Scary moments: There are no scary moments here, only minor setbacks that the characters learn to overcome during their journey.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 68 minutes

This Dutch motion-stop movie is set in a zoo and follows Miffy and her pals as they go on a fun treasure hunt, using riddles about movement, color, shapes, numbers and sounds to help them find the mysterious prize. Featuring an inclusive group of bunnies, this colorful and calming flick has nice takeaways about teamwork and problem-solving.

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Disney+

19. Bluey: The Sign (2024)

  • Scary moments: None.
  • Recommended age: 3+
  • Run time: 28 minutes

Technically, this one isn't a movie as much as it is an extra-long episode of everyone's favorite kids' show. But considering that other Bluey episodes are only seven minutes long, I think this one qualifies as a film-like experience. And what an experience! You can read my full review here, but all you really need to know is that there's all the usual playfulness and humor present that the beloved Australian show about a family of dogs is known for, in addition to some lovely takeaways (mostly about how things work out the way they're supposed to). There's also lots of Easter eggs for die-hard fans to look out for, as well as some new additions to make 'The Sign' feel like more of a cinematic experience.

The Best Movies for 4-Year-Olds

the peanuts movie best toddler movies
Twentieth Century Fox/ Peanuts Worldwide LLC

20. The Peanuts Movie (2015)

  • Scary moments: No scary moments although Lucy is her usual rude self, so you might want to make sure your kid doesn’t pick up any of her sass.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 93 minutes

The popular comic strip comes to life in this family-friendly flick starring the whole Peanuts gang. While Charlie Brown tries to win over the love of his life, Snoopy is determined to defeat the Red Baron. I didn’t grow up with the Charlie Brown comic strips, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed this to my 4-year-old one afternoon when he was home sick from school. Even in his feverish state, he couldn’t help but laugh at some of Snoopy and gang's silly antics. He has since asked to watch it several more times which is fine by me, since I'm all about the slower pace and feel-good messaging about getting back up when the going gets tough.

my neighbor totoro film for toddlers
Studio Ghibli

21. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

  • Scary moments: The girls’ mother is sick in the hospital, but these scenes aren’t sad or distressing.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 86 minutes

Two sisters move into a new house, where they encounter plenty of weird and wonderful creatures (the soot spirits at the start of the film may be a little frightening for some, but they’re not around for long). My 4-year-old loves the Cat Bus in particular, and I love that he can sit and enjoy a film without any conflict, villains or hints of violence whatsoever. It's a beautifully animated coming-of-age story that serves as the perfect introduction to the magical world of Studio Ghibli films.

toddler movies cars
Walt Disney Pictures

22. Cars (2006)

  • Scary moments: There's some mean behavior and the use of words like "idiot," "fool" and "moron," so copycat toddlers may need some supervision while watching.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 116 minutes

When Lightning McQueen, a famous race car, gets stranded in Radiator Springs, he makes some new friends and discovers that there's a lot more to life than being famous. “We watched Cars no fewer than 1,208 times when my son was between the ages of 2 and 5, and I fully credit it with him liking movies now. With an exciting vehicle-forward plot and a sweet message that's not intolerable for parents to sit-through, it really is an ideal first film experience,” says PureWow editor-in-chief Jillian Quint.

toddler movies adventures of elmo in grouchland
Columbia Pictures/Jim Henson Pictures

23. The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999)

  • Scary moments: There’s a bad guy who wants the blanket for himself…but that’s about it.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 73 minutes

Another smash hit from the Sesame Street crew. When Elmo’s blue blanket accidentally gets thrown away, he embarks on a journey to Grouchland to get it back. Kids will love the catchy songs and parents will love the valuable lessons about sharing and working together. Unlike Sesame Street: Play All Day with Elmo starring Elmo only, this one features many more of the Sesame Street characters kids know and love.

toddler movies veggietales
Big Idea Entertainment

24. VeggieTales: Lord of the Beans (2020)

  • Scary moments: There's some spooky music (that clearly pokes fun at Lord of the Rings) and a few villainous forks (yes, forks) with glowing eyes.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 52 minutes

When a young Flobbit, Toto, inherits a magical bean with great powers, he goes on a quest to discover what his amazing new gift should be used for. A spoof on Lord of the Rings, this one has plenty of jokes for kids and nice messaging about how to do good in the world with your gifts (whatever they may be). Parents should know that the VeggieTales are an American Christian CGI-animated series, although Lord of the Beans isn't overtly religious and only has one religious reference towards the end of the film.

toddler movies lotte from gadgetville
Rija Films

25. Lotte From Gadgetville (2006)

  • Scary moments: Expect a bit of suspense when Lotte's father goes missing for a little while, but aside from that, nothing seriously scary occurs.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 78 minutes

In this delightful movie, we get to see Lotte's hometown of Gadgetville, a place that's filled with inventors and their exciting new creations. The movie addresses friendship, family and the importance of working hard with whimsical animation and engaging characters. Even parents won’t fail to be charmed by the magical world of Gadgetville and funny storylines.

toddler movies maya the bee
Studio 100 Film

26. Maya The Bee Movie (2015)

  • Scary moments: The hornets might appear intimidating, and there are moments when it seems like a character is hurt. But these scary moments are pretty mild and they're resolved quickly.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 79 minutes

Maya, a freshly hatched bee, wants to travel beyond the hive and make friends with other bugs, something she is repeatedly told bees simply do not do. To make matters worse, she then must prove her innocence when she’s accused of stealing the Royal Jelly. There are some educational takeaways here, such as learning about bee colonies, as well as life lessons about the importance of friendship, trust and teamwork. Maya stands up for her new friends (ants, dung beetles and hornets) and teaches all the bugs in the meadow about empathy and why we shouldn't discriminate against others.

litttle bear
Nelvana Limited

27. The Little Bear Movie (2001)

  • Scary moments: A mountain lion tries to pursue and eat the animals, and there's one dangerous storm.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 75 minutes

While Little Bear and Father Bear are out on a camping trip, Little Bear makes a new friend named Cub. After learning that he's been separated from his parents, Little Bear and his friends make it their mission to help. Parents will like the gentle, slow pace of this preschooler-friendly movie, while kids will enjoy the many creatures of the forest (especially the silly foxes) and outdoor adventures (a post-movie romp in the woods might be in order!).

pixie hollow
DisneyToon Studios

28. Pixie Hollow Games (2012)

  • Scary moments: Just the introduction of the storm fairies who resemble a big, dark cloud with lots of lightning and thunder.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 23 minutes

Based loosely on the Peter Pan stories, Disney’s animated adaptation focuses on the fairies of Pixie Hollow in Neverland. Want to teach your kid about the power of teamwork? Here’s your chance. In Pixie Hollow Games, Tinker Bell teams up with her friends to compete in a major gaming event. Starring Zendaya, Mae Whitman, Lucy Liu and more, this animated short boasts a seriously impressive cast. Fun fact: Zendaya also sings the movie's theme song called "Dig Down Deeper."

animal train
TVC London

29. The Animal Train (2014)

  • Scary moments: None, but worth noting that there are animals and humans in danger, which could upset sensitive kids.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 29 minutes

After staying up late to watch a documentary, Ben falls asleep and dreams about boarding a special train where he befriends several endangered animals. The lesson here is obvious—we have to preserve the habitats where endangered animals live—but despite the serious topic, each animal's journey is explained in a gentle, age-appropriate way.

Sesame Street The Magical Wand Chase 1
Sesame Workshop

30. Sesame Street: The Magical Wand Chase (2017)

  • Scary moments: There's a brief moment of panic when Abby suddenly drops her wand, but no super scary scenes here.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 43 minutes

When a mysterious bird (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) grabs Abby's magic wand during a hot-air balloon ride, she and her pals embark on an adventure to retrieve it, visiting new places along the way. In these new neighborhoods, Abby and the gang discover new foods, music and languages, plus make new friends of course. The usual feel-good learnings from the Sesame Street franchise are present here, including lessons about kindness and finding new friends wherever you go.

jungle book
Walt Disney Studios

31. The Jungle Book (1967)

  • Scary moments: The plot involves an evil tiger named Shere Khan, so there are a few—including an intense final battle between Shere and the bear, Baloo.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 80 minutes

This musical classic follows Mowgli, an abandoned boy who's raised in the Indian jungle by wolves. His animal friends advise him to leave the jungle before the evil tiger comes—but Mowgli isn't quite ready to part ways. I wasn't sure how this movie would hold up (and it's worth noting that Disney has added a "outdated cultural depictions" disclaimer at the start of the film, largely due to the portrayal of King Louie), but I was surprised to see that the animation was still very captivating, the songs incredibly catchy and the plot engaging enough to keep my 4-year-old entertained.

blues clues
Nickelodeon Movies

32. Blue's Big-City Adventure (2022)

  • Scary moments: None, but Josh does experience a bit of nervousness and anxiety as he tries to make his audition.
  • Recommended age: 4+
  • Run time: 74 minutes

When Josh lands an audition for a big Broadway musical, he loses his handy notebook, which leaves him confused about where to go. Fortunately, he enlists the help of a few friends to make it to the audition in time. “Blue's Big City Adventure is a movie aimed at preschoolers that's also enjoyable for adults, with exciting musical numbers that help break the simple story and explore the street art history of New York City,” writes Marco Vito Oddo in Collider.


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