The holidays will feel a bit different this year, but some traditions cannot be thwarted – like our annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Though your gatherings might be smaller than usual, there are a ton of family-friendly viewing options on streaming and a growing number of ways to make them a virtual group experience. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite kid-friendly TV and film picks below.
“A Christmas Story” (1983): Consider this a triple dog dare. (Hulu+ Live TV/TBS)
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (2020): A toymaker who lost everything when his apprentice betrayed him is inspired by his granddaughter to return to the trade in this fantastical musical. It boasts an all-star cast – Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, Hugh Bonneville and Phylicia Rashad – to boot. (Netflix)
“Hair Love” (2019): Matthew A. Cherry’s Oscar-winning short, about a little girl who helps her dad figure out how to do her hair, clocks in at just under seven minutes but will stay with you for much longer than that – especially if you’ve ever struggled to love your own hair. (YouTube)
“Ratatouille” (2007): We wouldn’t let Remy, the rat chef at the center of this Oscar-winning animated film, cook our Thanksgiving dinner, but we’ll gladly take his culinary tips while we wait for the musical conceived by TikTok users to materialize. (Disney+)
“Coco” (2017): This tender and vivid Pixar/Disney film is rooted in the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, the annual time when families honor their departed loved ones, so it’s a great preamble to discussing grief with younger kids (or processing it at any age). The story revolves around a young aspiring musician who – in a quest to reverse his family’s long-standing rule against music – finds himself among his ancestors in the Land of the Dead. (Disney+)
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (2008): Force-sensitive families will enjoy this animated “Star Wars” series, which takes place between Episodes II and III of the “Star Wars” prequel saga and lets an intriguing heroine shine. (Disney+)
“The NeverEnding Story” (1984): This is familiar territory for ’80s kids, but why not let the younger generations see what movie magic looked like in the pre-CGI days? (HBO Max)
“Paddington 2” (2017): The marmalade-loving bear has a run-in with the law in this fun sequel, which features one of Hugh Grant’s finest performances as villain Phoenix Buchanan. The first film isn’t bad, either. (Hulu+ Live TV/TBS)
“The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo” (2020): The lovable Sesame Street resident interviews celebrities and hosts musical guests in a typical but truncated late-night format: Each episode is just 15 minutes. (HBO Max)
“Molly of Denali” (2019): This animated PBS Kids show revolves around a young Alaska Native girl. The series won a Peabody Award this year for “helping to shift the ways that the next generation will think about Indigenous people and for giving Native media-makers a central role in shaping their own representation.” (PBS Kids)
“PBS Kids Talk About: Race & Racism” (2020): This PBS special tackles a tough and timely subject through conversations with real kids and their parents, along with some good example-setting from fan-favorite characters including Arthur and Daniel Tiger. The broadcaster also offers some helpful resources for starting your own conversations at home. (PBS and YouTube)
“Izzy’s Koala World” (2020): Animal lovers of all ages will get into this docuseries following tween “Koala Whisperer” Izzy Bee, who takes care of cuddly marsupials with some help from her mother, a wildlife veterinarian, on Australia’s Magnetic Island. (Netflix)
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018): Miles Morales goes from Brooklyn teenager to superhero in this Oscar-winning animated film featuring an ensemble cast of voices (Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld and Mahershala Ali among them) and, for what it’s worth, a song that toddlers seem to love. (Netflix)
“Home Alone” (1990): Is it even the holiday season if you don’t watch Macaulay Culkin (and Catherine O’Hara!) in this blockbuster and its 1992 sequel? (Disney+)
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973): The Peanuts gang has an eventful Thanksgiving feast in this holiday classic. (Apple TV+)
“Julie and the Phantoms” (2020): A teenager grieving the loss of her mom starts a band with three ghosts in this Netflix dramedy, which is far less morbid than it sounds – and perfect for musically inclined tweens/teens. (Netflix)
“The Baby-Sitters Club” (2020): Ann M. Martin’s treasured teen series gets a decidedly Gen Z update featuring several charismatic new talents. (Netflix)
“Toy Story 4” (2019): Andy’s toys are back for another beautiful and emotional adventure in this Oscar winner. (Disney+)
“Hamilton” (2020): Lin-Manuel Miranda cut coarse language from his Tony-winning musical, so even the kids can learn about the ill-fated Founding Father and his American Dream. (Disney+)
“Anne With an E” (2017): This Canadian series, an adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s children’s novel, finds Anne of Green Gables at her pluckiest – and has a passionate fan base that bristled over the show’s cancellation this year. (Netflix)
“Black Panther” (2018): The late Chadwick Boseman is the heart of this breathtaking and culturally significant Marvel blockbuster with an all-star cast. (Disney+)
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946): Every year – but especially this one – we can benefit from the life lessons in Frank Capra’s beloved Christmas classic. (Hulu+ Live TV/USA)
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