Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Six Good Movies for Kids Under 8

I’m not sure when it exactly happens, but at some point, kids develop enough of an attention span to sit through an 80-minute movie. This allows parents some reprieve from the early-childhood diet of 20-minute cartoons and even shorter YouTube videos. Fortunately, some movies geared for kids manage to be pleasing to parental palates while also engaging, entertaining and even inspiring young viewers.

Here are several films that are entertaining for parents, appropriate for young grade-schoolers, and which also offer positive portrayals of adoption issues. I’ve reviewed each of these films in full; click the hyperlinked titles for the full review.

Why not pick one or two of these to watch together this weekend!
      Big Hero 6 – This Disney/Marvel superhero origin story is fun and fast. When the young protagonist, Hiro Hamada, is faced with the traumatic loss of his brother, he processes it realistically and healthily. He keeps his brother’s memory alive through honorable work. Big Hero 6 will keep kids and adults engrossed, while encouraging creativity, acceptance of loss, forgiveness, honor, and perseverance. Adoptive and foster families can also notice how Hiro honestly addresses his feelings regarding the losses he’s experienced, and how he manages to move forward. ****

2.       Ernest and Celestine – This French film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (Frozen ended up winning the award that year). It’s the story of a bear and a mouse – two creatures from cultures that fear each other. They overcome a rough start to become friends, and then a sort of family. Watching this movie feels like reading a favorite children’s book. It encourages friendship and understanding. It has a fairy-tale feel without being scary very often. Adoptive and foster families can also notice how Celestine the mouse enjoys hearing the story of how she and Ernest became a family. ***1/2

3.      Frozen – OK, your kids might have seen this one already once or twice. Let it go. In Frozen, two sisters who have lost their parents demonstrate how powerful sisterly love can be. The film cautions young girls from being swept off their feet by charming but manipulative boys, and also encourages people to embrace who they are and acknowledge their feelings, rather than keeping them packed away. Adoptive families may resonate with the bond between the sisters which is threatened and then strengthened by the difficult circumstances they’ve experienced. Adoptive families may also resonate with the film’s depiction of secrecy as something which causes rather than prevents pain. ****

         Despicable Me 2 – Former super-villain Gru is now a doting, caring, and nurturing adoptive father to Margo, Agnes, and Edith. He has found new employment – as a super-villain-stopper. In one of the funniest scenes, Gru has dressed up as a fairy princess for one of his daughter’s party. She knows that it is him, and thanks him. Agnes, Gru’s youngest daughter, wishes for a mother. A school project requires her to recite an ode to her mother, which she finds difficult, being the daughter of a single dad, with no knowledge of her birthmother. What I like most about this one – other than the fact that it is entertaining – is how adoption is just a normal part of life. The Gru family is a healthy, functional, close family that just happens to have been formed by adoption. Sometimes, life goes like that. Adoptive families can also notice how hard it is when school projects don’t quite fit the experiences of their children (family trees come to mind), and can prepare to address these issues with sensitivity. ****

5.       The Tigger Movie – Winnie the Pooh’s bouncy friend Tigger has often sung that the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is… “I’m the only one.” In his own movie, though, Tigger wonders why he is the only one, and where the other Tiggers might be. His friends try to cheer him up, and have some good ideas (supporting him), and a disastrous one (tricking him), and ultimately Tigger runs away. He doesn’t find the other Tiggers, but is able to grasp how dearly his friends love him, and he ultimately accepts them as his new family. Adoptive families can notice how Tigger’s feelings of loss and longing are real and valid, and can encourage their young viewers to be honest about their feelings, too. **1/2

6.       Kung Fu Panda 2 – This excellently entertaining film features Po, a Panda, who learns at long last that he was adopted by his father, a goose named Mr. Ping. Amidst the work of defending his community, Po embraces his heritage as a Panda while also embracing his identity as the son of a goose. Adoptive families can also notice how hard it was for Mr. Ping to share Po’s story with Po, but also notice that the story was helpful to Po’s understanding of himself. ****

Those are my six picks for kids under 8. Please weigh in below with your thoughts.


  1. Is there any chance you have an updated post for this category? More recent movies?!!! We continue to hit hard places when the ages are so much older! Thank you for doing this work - it's so so helpful!

    1. Hi Adi!

      Thanks so much for the kind words, and for the suggestion to update this list. I'll work on that -- in the meantime, Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia, and the Doc Mcstuffins Baby McStuffins storyline (for even younger kids) are 3 fairly recent ones that come to mind as very positive...


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