“I can’t live like this anymore!” – said my two-year-old from her crib.

It was one of those moments when my eyes got wide and my mouth literally fell open like a cartoon. My mind raced back through the past three minutes. What had I done to make my toddler suddenly feel the emotions of a thirteen-year-old ready to run away from home? Then it clicked. She was smiling and looking at me like this was a game. She was pretending. . . and that was a line from Frozen.

Just how she remembered exact lines from a movie she had seen only once, maybe twice, at the time is beyond me. Today she is three and reenacts full scenes from her favorite movie with everything from plastic alligators to stuffed bears taking on the role of Elsa and frequently unclothed dolls playing the role of Anna. Don’t get me wrong, she has a wild imagination and frequently creates her own stories as well, but from time to time she rehearses this familiar story.

Some stories we make-up when we play together.
Some stories we read together.
Some stories we watch when we sit down together.

When my oldest son was around two, or sometime before his third birthday, we started a family tradition of Friday night movie night. As they get older we may change this tradition up, but for now, it’s something we all look forward to. Dinner is simple. It’s easy. And honestly, the story we watch together becomes part of our conversations throughout the week.

“Mama, is Sara a bad dinosaur?” – Land Before Time
“Remember when Fred says . . .” – Big Hero Six
“When can we live in a tree house?” – Swiss Family Robinson

After our first year of movie nights, when we had watched Toy Story 1 roughly 50 times I decided we needed a selection system other than “what should we watch tonight?” So I made a list of all the movies we might watch with our toddlers, wrote the movies on slips of paper, and put them in a bowl. Honestly, the first week we implemented the bowl system my son drew Toy Story 1 from a pile of about 30 options – Murphy’s Law. Now, each week we rotate who draws from the bowl and there’s an added element of variety. This also allows me to be intentional about adding new movies to the bowl as the kids get older so there’s a balance of new stories and stories revisited.

Whether you are a Friday night movie night kind of family, or maybe just looking for some ideas on how to wind down after a day of sunshine and hard outdoor summer play, I thought I would share our movie lists.


I chose the movies on our preschool list because they aren’t too intense or too scary. Even kid-movies with positive messages can sometimes be a little much for many preschoolers.


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The movies in these lists have more intensity than the preschool movies and also tackle some more advanced themes. Some of them can really be great conversation starters. SummerMovies_Kand1JPG

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Oh, and a few disclaimers, just in case you take lists a little more seriously than I do.

These lists are not . . .
an endorsement of every word spoken
support for every choice made
or an intentional stance against movies not mentioned

These lists are not . . .
a judgment on you if you have introduced some of these movies sooner
a manipulative agenda to corrupt the minds of children by introducing corrosive and offensive behavior before kids are ready.

I would recommend doing a couple minutes of research on a movie before showing it to your kids – that way you know what to expect and you can determine whether you feel like it will be a good fit for your child. Two of my favorite sites for parent movie reviews are “Kid’s in Mind” or “Common Sense Media“.

What are your favorite family movies? What age did you watch them with your kids? What would you add to this list?