Photo Credit: Classic Media
When you're ready for some quality family time (or just some quality me time!) amid the chaos of the season, there's nothing better than popping in one of these classic holiday movies for kids recommended by Common Sense Media. You'll enjoy watching them and much as your kids will -- whether it's for the first (or fortieth) time.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Ages 3+) Rudolph's story has a great message about nonconformity: Just be yourself, don't worry if you don't fit in, get the support of other "misfits," and you'll find that there's strength in numbers. Kids older than 4 will likely get the message, and for those younger than that, the cute little reindeer and all the musical numbers -- as cheesy and outdated as they might seem now -- will hold their interest. Even the show's "scary" antagonist, the Abominable Snow Monster (or "Bumble"), seems harmless, especially by today's standards.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Ages 3+) This heartwarming classic focuses on the religious aspect of Christmas. At the story's climax, Linus quotes one of the nativity stories from the New Testament and the Peanuts characters join in singing religious carols.
A Muppet Family Christmas (Ages 3+) There's nothing offensive about this movie, but it does miss an important opportunity to explain winter holiday celebrations that fall outside the Christian mainstream of American society. Instead, the Fraggles celebrate their own non-Christmas gift-giving celebration, which seems to be a nameless catch-all placeholder, leaving parents to explain alternatives such as Hanukkah, Kwaanza, and Winter Solstice.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Ages 4+) This classic children's tale -- read line-by-line by Boris Karloff -- contains moments of extremely mild peril. The Grinch's dog is abused -- slammed into snow drifts and run over by the sleigh. And very young or sensitive children may become slightly distraught at the Grinch stealing all the Whos' Christmas presents. But there's far more to recommend in this TV special than there is to worry about. It's a classic that should be required holiday viewing for every family that celebrates Christmas.
Prep & Landing (Ages 5+) This delightful holiday tale blends a unique story with clever humor and kid-friendly content, making it an excellent choice for the entire family. There's very little in the way of iffy stuff, the imaginative concept of elves preparing homes for Santa's arrival will have give kids lots to ponder as Christmas nears, and there are plenty of adult-geared references to keep parents chuckling. In typical Disney fashion, all of this entertaining content is wrapped up in positive messages about perseverance, unselfishness, and self-worth.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Ages 5+) The Ghost of Christmas Future is scarier than the others and may frighten more sensitive children. In one version of the future, Tiny Tim is projected to die. Scrooge has to confront his cruel behavior and learns life lessons because of it.
Miracle on 34th Street (Ages 6+) This classic holiday tale has little objectionable content. The Macy's brand is a big focus, as is Santa over more religious aspects of the holiday.
The Polar Express (Ages 6+) Despite the wonderful messages and warm-hearted story, the film is primarily an adventure, with lots of roller coaster thrills and some scary characters that might be too intense and frightening for the youngest children. The Express roars, speeds, and skids on its perilous journey to the North Pole. Sometimes out of control, sometimes racing against dangers and obstacles in its path, it’s filled with suspense almost from beginning to end. The child heroes are frequently in danger: from falls, getting lost, left alone on a careening train, in dark and shadowy unknown places facing characters who may wish them harm. The story focuses on a boy who doubts whether or not there is a Santa. (According to the movie, yessiree.)
Elf (Ages 7+) Although Elf earned a PG rating for relatively rare potty language and mild swearing ("pissed," "hell," "damn," etc.) and a few references to bodily functions, it's family friendly at its core. Even young kids will appreciate the humor inherent in this fish-out-of-water tale, although some might be upset that Buddy's mother died and that his father never knew about him. The few action sequences (galloping rangers chasing Santa in Central Park, a brief confrontation with a scary raccoon, and some scuffles in a department store) aren't really threatening, and no one is injured. The movie's overall message of the value derived from honesty, acceptance, and affection for all humanity is clear and positive.
White Christmas (Ages 8+) One musical number rhapsodizes nostalgically about minstrel shows. But viewers don't see any blackface makeup or overt racist images; it's just verbal gags, and kids who don't know the history won't realize the degrading black stereotypes that gave rise to the patter.
A Christmas Story (Ages 8+) Both kids and adults use and discuss strong language ("ass," "son of a bitch"), and one famous scene involves young Ralphie using the "F" word (though movie viewers hear the word "fudge"). In one scene, the main character is punished for swearing by having his mouth washed out with soap. He's also bullied and beats up his nemesis, then cries afterward. One child sticks his tongue on a flagpole on a dare and needs the fire department to unstick him.
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