These entertaining feature-length cartoons don’t just amuse, they are full of important values for junior!

The days when adults would scoff at animated films are long gone. These days, the moral and educational value in compelling movies like Finding Nemo and Up resonate with grown-ups as much as they appeal to kids.

If you’re looking for a flick to amuse the entire family, pick a movie with plots aimed at strengthening desirable character traits, even as they teach valuable life lessons. When making your movie selection, keep these tips in mind:

1. A simple story line Ideas get lost when the plot gets too complicated.
2. Focus on the positives A story with a happy ending, or one that simply looks on the bright side of life, will leave a longer lasting impression on junior.
3. Read the reviews These alert you of anything you need to take note of, such as a violet scene or unsavoury language.
4. Limit the length Keeping it short will hold your child’s attention longer.

Keeping it short will hold your child’s attention longer.

Instead of heading out to the theatre, you could always turn to Netflix, or pop a movie into your Blu-ray player at home. Besides the sheer variety of options, you won’t have to worry that your munchkins are making a din or whining about needing the toilet.

So, turn down the lights, get the popcorn ready and get comfy because it’s…movie night!


1. Inside Out [2015]
What: Told from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old girl’s feelings, the movie is about how she learns to handle her emotions as she grows up. Moving from the Midwest to San Francisco, Riley is facing a major upheaval in her life. All her emotions ― Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness ― assume individual characters, working with each other to make sense of her new experiences.
Lessons to learn: The movie helps little ones understand that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. In the beginning, when none of the other emotions realise what Sadness’ purpose is, Sadness remarks, “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” It’s also a teaching moment when Riley’s parents realise that while they can’t take away her sorrow, they can show her that it’s all right and even necessary to feel sad, so that she can move on. Inside Out also makes the point that other negative emotions like fear aren’t bad: They play a role in protecting you. The takeaway for junior is that it’s okay to be emotional, since all your emotions play a role in your growth and development.


2. Finding Nemo [2003]
What: When a timid clownfish Marlin finds out that his son, Nemo, has been captured and taken to Sydney, he sets out on a journey to bring him home. As Marlin makes his way through the Great Barrier Reef, he meets Dory, a well-meaning fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. Besides bringing to vivid life the beauty of marine life and the underwater world, the simple storyline of a father’s desperate search to locate his lost son will surely tug at your heartstrings. The sequel, Finding Dory, was released this year (2016).
Lessons to learn: What will impress you and your brood is Marlin’s determination to find his son. It’ll show your mini-me that nothing is impossible, as long as you are willing to venture out and take risks ― as you’ll be stronger and braver than you ever knew. Next, he’ll cotton on that he has helpful friends who can make his journey easier. By the way, since Nemo was born with a small fin, this also teaches your little one that small setbacks shouldn’t hold you back from achieving great things. Last but not least, your peewee will learn all about the wonderful marine life out there and that it’s important to respect all living creatures.

The Lego Movie, Up and more, next!


3. The Lego Movie [2014]
What: Ordinary Lego construction worker Emmet is your average Joe whose whole world is built around the idea that it’s crucial to follow directions. However, following the rules zaps the creativity out of him. He is then chosen as the “Special” and tasked to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the entire Lego universe together. Through his adventures, he appreciates that he doesn’t have to follow the herd in order to be an asset.
Lessons to learn: Being creative and learning to think out of the box are this film’s key messages. Junior will learn that there isn’t always the “right” way to do things, and that a little creativity can make all the difference. Teamwork is also important: There is a point in the film where four separate builders, each with a unique skill and ability, try to build something but only succeed when they work together. The movie also takes a closer look at each character’s strengths. Though Emmet isn’t the most creative person in town, he makes up for it with his kind and compassionate qualities.


4. Up [2009]
What: The film’s touching beginning sets up the plot ― we see childhood sweethearts Carl and Ellie grow up and old together. When Ellie dies, Carl, who is now 87 years, decides to move to Paradise Falls, as he had promised Ellie years ago. To lift his house like a giant airship, he attaches thousands of helium-filled balloons to his dwelling. But he accidentally takes along a young stowaway, Russell, who had simply wanted to earn his final Boy Scout merit badge for assisting the elderly.
Lessons to learn: This funny and touching tale is all about how elderly Carl achieves his lifelong dream. Through him, we learn that it’s never too late to chase your dreams and that we should never give up. Along the way, we may meet people we deem a burden ― in Carl’s case, he meets Russell. However, these are the same individuals who are instrumental in helping us achieve our goals, the way Russell did for Carl eventually. In fact, the lesson here is that reaching the goal may not be the be-all and end-all ― Carl learns that he has earned something even more precious along the way, and that is his friendship with Russell.


5. Toy Story [1995]
What: Your munchkins will adore this film as it’s about, yes, toys. In this tale, a cowboy doll, Woody, feels profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure, Buzz Lightyear, replaces him as Andy’s top toy. When they slug it out and fall out of a window, the pair risk getting left behind when Andy’s family moves to a new home. Toy Story garnered such a huge following that two sequels have been made to date ― Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. Toy Story 4 is slated to be released in 2018.
Lessons to learn: This movie takes junior into the fantastical world where toys come alive when you’re not around. The plot centres around change ― new toys replace old ones, and Andy moves to a new house, signalling that circumstances change and because they still have each other. You can also point out to your kiddos that toys come in all shapes and sizes ― and some may not be perfect, they could be missing an eye or look worn. Despite this, each toy still has its play value, so you can use your imagination to make the most of them. Teamwork is also a theme in this movie ― when we see that Woody can’t fix problems on his own, and only does so with the help of his friends.


6. The Lion King [1994]
What: This moving film tells of lion cub Simba’s journey to adulthood to becoming king of the jungle. Simba’s happy childhood is rudely interrupted when his evil uncle, Scar, kills his father, forcing Simba to run away. In the jungle, he leads a carefree life with his friends, till his father’s spirit visits him and he returns with his friends to reclaim his kingdom.
Lessons to learn: Right from the beginning, we are cautioned that we cannot trust everyone we meet ― some people are only out to satisfy their own interests, such as Simba’s uncle. However, there are also good people around, as seen in the wise monkey Rafiki, who eventually mentors Simba as his advisor. The movie is also about the importance of facing one’s past, no matter how it hurts, so that you can embrace your true identity. Because it’s only by embracing whom you truly are that you can you then accomplish great things.

Photos: iStock

You may also like…

Make it: Fun DIY Halloween costumes

5 smart time-hacks to bond with junior

8 steps to teach junior to play independently