These movies for toddlers offer up life lessons and lots of fun
Kids, including toddlers, love to be entertained, but when it comes to plopping them in front of the television, the parent guilt can be real. However, not all movies are created equally, so we came up with a list of the best movies for toddlers that provide valuable and simple lessons about friendship, teamwork, and kindness. The plots are straightforward, and the visuals, dialogue, and songs are all engaging enough to hold a toddler’s limited attention span. The movies on this list are family-friendly, many of them offer educational lessons, and all of them offer a chance to cuddle up with your budding cinephiles. (Curious about which films to watch when they get a bit older? We’ve got those, too.)
When clownfish Marlin’s young son Nemo gets captured, he goes on an animated adventure across the ocean to find him. Marlin gets some help from absent-minded fish Dory, meets some laid-back turtles, and escapes the clutches of hungry seagulls in this well-loved film that debuted 20 years ago.
Where it's streaming: Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: Toddlers can learn about ocean life in a fun and colorful way, while also picking up positive lessons on friendship and the importance of family. Parents should note that some of the predator fish may frighten very young viewers.
Blue’s Big City Adventure
Canine Blue gets her first feature-film musical adventure complete with song and dance numbers. Instead of placing Blue in an animated world, as the television series does, the film finds Blue and her human companion Josh in a very real and vibrant New York City. They are heading to an audition for a Broadway show and need help from passersby and viewers when they get lost.
Where it's streaming: Paramount +
Why it’s great for toddlers: The songs are engaging, and toddlers will want to dance and sing along. With the same format as the television show, young viewers can follow the paw print clues right along with Blue and Josh, involving toddlers in the journey. Parents will also enjoy the message that dreams can come true and may find seeing previous hosts Steve and Joe a nostalgic bonus.
The Daniel Tiger Movie: Won't You Be Our Neighbor
Daniel and the whole Tiger clan welcome a new family to the neighborhood with the hopes of making them feel welcome. Daniel hopes to find a new friend. If kids like this movie, they can also watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip
Where it's streaming: Amazon Prime
Why it’s great for toddlers: Based on the characters from the PBS television series, Daniel Tiger is a positive role model who provides kids with a fun way to learn some valuable lessons surrounding friendship and kindness. He also teaches young kids basic social skills and problem-solving with simple language in terms they can understand. Daniel also speaks directly to kids.
When koala Buster Moon is faced with the deterioration of a theater he runs, he comes up with an ingenious idea, a singing competition. The competitors are all animals, each with their own personality and unique voice (think a stay-at-home pig who desperately needs something for herself, a stage-shy elephant with an incredible voice, and a gorilla hoping to make his own way in the world). The film’s characters are voiced by Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Seth MacFarlane, among others.
Where is it streaming: Amazon Prime, Hulu (with Live TV)
Why it’s great for toddlers: Parents and kids will notice popular songs that are featured on playlists and the radio, and many toddlers may even be able to sing along with the adorable animal characters. Lessons on believing in yourself, the importance of friendly competition, and supporting others will please parents who can help younger viewers pick up on these themes throughout the film.
A flashy new toy space ranger named Buzz threatens old-school cowboy action figure Woody, who fears the young boy whose bedroom he shares no longer wants him. This film, the first in the iconic franchise, features several toys like Mr. Potato Head, toy soldiers, and a piggy bank coming to life when the child who owns them isn’t around.
Where is it streaming: Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: Parents can share some of their own childhood memories through the cast of classic toy characters they may have played with growing up, including a toy tape recorder, an Etch A Sketch, a barrel of monkeys, a troll doll, and the Magic 8Ball. Toddlers will also delight in the idea of toys magically coming to life. Parents should know that some words may not be suitable for toddlers, including ‘shut up’ and ‘idiot.’ There are also some darker moments where toys get hurt or do mildly scary things to protect themselves.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Things get interesting at Mossy Bottom Farm when a space alien shows up, but she isn’t there to take over the world. Will Shaun and the gang be able to get her back to her own planet before she is captured by a nefarious organization?
Where is it streaming: Netflix
Why it’s great for toddlers: Young viewers will delight at the simplicity of the dialogue, which is just a series of expressive sounds. Parents will appreciate the lessons surrounding inclusion and friendship that they can share with their kids as they watch.
Young bee Barry B. Benson, who just graduated college, wants to do more than become a part of the hive in this comedy starring Jerry Seinfeld. He befriends a human and realizes he may have a great purpose other than honey-making. Some A-list stars lend their voices to the film including Oprah Winfrey, Chris Rock, and Kathy Bates.
Where it's streaming: Netflix
Why it’s great for toddlers: This family friendly movie lets parents enjoy the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld while their toddlers can easily follow the story. The movie also has great lessons about teamwork and unique relationships, like the one between Barry and Vanessa. After watching the film, parents can follow up with an educational lesson on how bees really make honey.
The Peanuts Movie
With a modern look, the Peanuts gang gets its very own film. Parents will enjoy seeing the loveable characters from their youth embark on new adventures as Charlie Brown tries to go from a loveable loser to someone who can impress the new girl.
Where it's streaming: Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: The movie clocks in with a runtime of just 93 minutes, making it short enough to sustain young viewers' attention. It also touches on important themes like friendship and self-esteem, and almost all of the characters are voiced by actual child actors instead of adult Hollywood stars.
In what feels like a magical mashup of Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid, a five-year-old boy rescues Ponyo, a goldfish princess. Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, and Betty White lend their voices to this animated fantasy film helmed by master filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki.
Where it's streaming: HBO Max
Why it’s great for toddlers: The colorful and simplistic animation in the film will draw toddlers in and keep them captivated for the nearly two-hour runtime. Ecofriendly messages will also appeal to parents.
This '90s film will bring many parents back to childhood. Babe, the title character, proves he is more than just an average pig (His talents include the ability to herd sheep.). This children’s classic won an Academy Award and garnered multiple nominations, including one for Best Picture.
Where is it streaming: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
Why it’s great for toddlers: Young viewers will enjoy the various farm animal characters, especially the tiny mouse chorus, which adds a musical element to the film. It also gives kids a chance to see farm life from the perspective of the animals.
PAW Patrol: The Movie
Ryder and his crew must step up when infamous cat-lover and troublemaker Mayor Humdinger causes chaos in Adventure City. The rescue pups even have a new friend, Liberty, a delightful dachshund.
Where is it streaming: Paramount +
Why it’s great for toddlers: Toddlers will be excited to see their favorite pups from the television series in this animated feature-length adventure. The engaging storyline and introduction of new vehicles and rescues will keep them on the edge of their seats.
In this 2006 film, race car superstar Lightning McQueen gets sidelined in the small community of Radiator Springs while on his way to a big event. While not happy about it at first, Lightning begins to realize that there is more to life than racing and stardom, and he may have found it in the small town with its eclectic cast of characters. Young viewers can catch Cars 2 and Cars 3 if they love the first film.
Where it's streaming: Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: The lessons surrounding winning and the value of friendship are important ones that parents can explore with their kids as they watch the film. The colorful animation and cast of characters will keep even the youngest viewers entertained. Parents should note that there is some mild language in the film such as hell.
Winnie the Pooh
The famous and timeless bear goes on an unexpected adventure with his friends. They must rescue his human friend, Christopher Robin whom they believe has been taken by a horrible monster called the Backson.
Where it's streaming: Disney +, Amazon Prime
Why it’s great for toddlers: This timeless classic focuses on some of the sweetest and most caring bonds of friendship, and the Pooh gang are examples of positive role models who are selfless and kind. Young viewers will also delight in the songs and the simplicity of the story.
One Big Ocean
Based on the educational PBS preschool series, the film features characters Splash and Bubbles leaving their home and heading out into the vast ocean. They meet many types of ocean creatures and explore a variety of topics.
Where is it streaming: Amazon Prime
Why it’s great for toddlers: Educational concepts such as biodiversity and migration are presented in a way that young viewers can understand. The colorful characters, ocean environment, and fun songs will keep toddlers entertained as they learn valuable lessons about unity and the importance of caring for our undersea world.
A rare macaw named Blu decides to leave behind the comfort of his Minnesota home and head to Rio de Janeiro after meeting Jewel. Jewel, another rare macaw, is different than the domesticated Blu. Their differences lead to adventures neither of them ever imagined. The film features the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Where it's streaming: Hulu, Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: Rio is filled with vibrant colors, positive messages, and role models, including the independent female Jewel. The catchy music in the film will also hold the attention of toddlers. There is some mild language like ‘idiot’ and ‘shut up,’ a few scary characters, and some scantily-clad people at Carnival.
Remy, a rat, wants nothing more than to become a great chef. When he finds himself living under a fancy Parisian restaurant, the culinary scene will be forever changed. The characters are voiced by some of the funniest names in comedy including Patton Oswalt, Will Arnett, Brad Garrett, and Janeane Garofalo.
Where it's streaming: Disney +
Why it’s great for toddlers: With an interesting plot, plenty of humor, and colorful animation, the film will appeal to toddlers and parents. Parents should be aware that some scenes may be a bit intense for younger viewers, especially one featuring a gun-wielding granny.
The Muppets Take Manhattan
In this classic 1980s film featuring Jim Henson’s muppets, Kermit the Frog and his friends graduate from college and head to Manhattan to take Broadway by storm with their new show. Once they get to the Big Apple, they realize things aren’t so simple and showbiz is tougher than they could have imagined.
Where is it streaming: Paramount +, Amazon Prime
Why it’s great for toddlers: Young viewers will enjoy the cute and funny muppets, each with a unique personality. They will also love the musical dance numbers peppered throughout the film. Parents should know that the film does feature some adult humor and smoking.