1. Resources
  2. /
  3. Parenting
  4. /
  5. Activities for kids

Rainy Day Books and Movies for Kids

Tiffany Smith
March 11, 2008

Check out these books and movies for entertainment??when the weather is keeping you??indoors.

Are you staring out the window, looking at pouring rain...while your kids are staing at you, complaining about being bored? Be prepared with some rainy day ideas.

Here's a list of some of our favorite books and movies with a child care theme. You'll find a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction books and movies to share with the kids, as well as some just for grown-ups. Refer to the list when you're stuck with nothing to do on a rainy day, or to enrich your family's daily selection of nighttime, naptime, or fun reading or viewing. Hopefully you'll find a few new books and movies that will become family favorites!

Books for Families

Title: Caddie Woodlawn

  • Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age: 8 to 10
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Year published: 1935
  • Review: Set in the Civil War, and based on the real life of the author's grandmother, the book tells of an 11-year-old girl in pioneer Wisconsin who is allowed to roam freely with her brothers, but gradually learns some female behaviors, too. Wonderful for a free spirited girl like my daughter, who adored it, as did I when I was a child.

Title: Clifford The Big Red Dog

  • Author: By Norman Bridwell
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reading type: Picture Book
  • Reader age group: 4 to 8
  • Publisher: Scholastic Books
  • Year of publication: 1962
  • Review: When Emily Elizabeth Howard chose the runt of the litter, Clifford, she showered such affection on him that he grew and grew, to over 25 feet tall, and her family, in order to house him, had to move from the city to the country. Clifford is enormous but loveable, and they have many adventures together. My children enjoyed them all and loved the series.

Title: Good Night, Gorilla

  • Author: Peggy Rathmann
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reading type: Board book/toddler book
  • Reader age group: 0-4
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Reader Group
  • Date of publication: 2002
  • Review: My son received this wonderful little gem as a birthday gift and I still get a kick out of reading it two years later! The unique illustrations are what really make this seemingly simple hard-cover book sing. Humorously written and illustrated, Good Night, Gorilla tells the tale of clever zoo animals who manage to sneak out of their cages and into their zookeeper's home for the night. The kind zookeeper and his wife try to lead them back to the little community zoo but, alas, the animals persevere, and win!

Title: Hansel and Diesel

  • Author: David Gordon
  • Genre: Easy readers
  • Reader age group: 3 to 7 years
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Date of publication: 2006
  • Review: I was blown away when I saw the amazing illustrations in this highly creative book. Based on the tale of Hansel and Gretel, this incredibly beautiful book has some dark imagery and a few mildly scary scenes out in the forest with the trucks' nemesis. It tells the tale of two little flat-bed trucks who decide to go out in search of fuel for their hungry family. They get tricked by a nasty old "winch" who tries to turn them into scrap metal. Luckily, there's a happy ending and the flat-bed family lives happily ever after. You and your children will be happy, too, while you admire the work of author Gordon's amazing illustrations and witty prose.

Title: Little House on the Prairie Series

  • Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Genre: Family Saga/Western, Fiction/Historical Fiction
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age: 8 to 11
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Year published: 1935
  • Review: My daughter particularly loved this series, the adventures the family experienced, the creative problem solving involved, the family dynamics, and imagining what life was like being raised on the Kansas prairie during pioneer days.

Title: Hug

  • Author: Jez Alborough
  • Genre: Board book/picture book
  • Reader age group: 0-3
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Date of publication: 2002
  • Review: Just thinking about this picture book makes my eyes well up with tears. It's a simple tale of a chimp who's desperately trying to find his mommy. The words are few and the illustrations are beautiful, but it's the message that every animal, person, and living thing needs love and affection that gets me going. Bobo the chimp seeks out his friends elephants, giraffes, and snakes for hugs and help in reuniting him with his mother. Finally, the two are reunited and Bobo gets his much-needed hug.

Title: Make Way for Ducklings

  • Author: Robert McCloskey
  • Genre: Picture book
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age group: 4 to 8, or younger
  • Publisher: Viking Kestrel
  • Date of publication: 1941
  • Review: This book about how two ducks searching for the perfect place in which to start a family (and then finally finding it in Boston) conveys to children the thought and care parents give to creating a home and to then raising their children. It will help children feel safe and loved, and was a favorite with my children, who also adored the wonderful illustrations.

Title: My Nanny and I

  • Author: Hillary Lockhart (By the way, she's a nanny!)
  • Genre: Non-fiction
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age group: Toddler board book
  • Publisher: Children's First Publishing
  • Date of publication: 2007
  • Review: This book gives a short but sweet description of why a nanny is wonderful when parents are at work or away. It really reassured my 3-year-old daughter that she can have fun with her nanny and I'll be home at the end of the day for hugs and kisses. We were even able to talk about the fun things my daughter and her nanny can do together she made a list! If your child is worried or anxious about not being with you during the day, this book really hits the spot.

Title: One Morning in Maine

  • Author: Robert McCloskey
  • Genre: Fiction/picture book
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age group: 4 to 8
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • Date of publication: 1952
  • Review: This is a tender book about how a child experiences her wobbly tooth, how she feels when it falls out, and then her distress when she loses it. It conveys all the emotional stages a child goes through in this mini-drama of childhood and should resonate with every child. It was a favorite in my family and, in fact, was a Caldecott Honor Book. This book is a sequel to another Caldecott Honor book, Blueberries for Sal, which was also excellent and highly recommended.

Title: All-of-a-Kind-Family

  • Author: Sydney Taylor
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader Age Group: 7 to 10
  • Publisher: Random House Children's books
  • Year published: 1984
  • Review: My children were fascinated by this turn-of-the 20th century family of five Jewish sisters and their daily adventures and experiences such as losing a library book and then figuring out how to confess to the librarian and work out a plan to pay for it. The way the girls approach their dilemmas can offer kids dealing with ethical issues in their daily lives good role models and guidance.

Title: The Captain Underpants Collection

  • Author: Dav Pilkey
  • Genre: Transition books
  • Reader age group: 9 to 12 years
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Date of publication: 2002
  • Review: For a hilarious, silly adventure about a pair of rebellious elementary school students and an unwitting principal turned superhero, buy any of the Captain Underpants paperbacks. If your stomach's easily turned, however, you may want to avoid reading this series to your child. There are also words and references you may not want your child reading such as "boogers," giant evil robots, and cranky teachers. Our 4-year-old is a big fan of the series, but my husband and I read the books to him usually before bed. We always get a good laugh from Pilkey's creative and unique take on school antics, cafeteria food, evil robots, superhero principals, and wild, childish pranks.

Title: Trumpet of the Swan

  • Author: E. B. White
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reading type: Family reading
  • Reader age group: 7 to 10 but my kids loved it at age 5 to 7.
  • Publisher: Harper Trophy
  • Date of publication: 1970
  • Review: This beautiful story about a swan who lacks the ability to chirp, tells how he, with the support of his loving family, found an alternate means of communicating and even the ability to attract a female swan which the other male swans attract by trumpeting. It is a story of meeting challenges with creativity and loving support, finding a means of self expression, and finding love. Great for teaching children the value of creative problem solving, facing challenges, having hope, accepting one's differences, and looking for the unique strengths within each person.

Books for Parents

Title: Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

  • Author: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, & Diane Eyer
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: Adult reading
  • Reader age group: N/A
  • Publisher: Rodale Books
  • Date of publication: 2004
  • Review: Kids these days can be driven to the brink of academic and extracurricular exhaustion, and parents and caregivers who are skeptical of, tempted by, or firmly implanted in this push should read Einstein Never Used Flashcards. The authors outline empirical evidence suggesting that preschoolers don't benefit in the long run from achievement programs, and instead advocate learning through everyday play, which naturally enhances problem-solving skills, attention span, social development, and creativity.

Title: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

  • Author: Marc Weissbluth, M.D.
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: Parenting/sleep book
  • Reader age group: Adult
  • Publisher: Ballantine Publishing Group
  • Date of publication: 1987, 1999
  • Review: I've long been a fan of Dr. Weissbluth's sleep system. When my oldest child was 3 months old, a friend gave me this book and it helped me to understand how infants and children sleep and what they need from parents to achieve healthy sleep habits for life. Weissbluth advocates using baby's internal clock and outlines a fairly strict schedule for sleep. You won't mind altering your own social schedule to fit in your baby's naps at the proper times one little bit.

Title: Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years

  • Author: Nancy Schulman & Ellen Birnbaum
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: Adult reading
  • Reader age group: N/A
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Date of publication: 2007
  • Review: Written by two childcare veterans, Practical Wisdom is, in fact, replete with useful tips to help guide parents through the "school" and "home" aspects of their preschoolers' lives. The book covers everything from separation anxiety and choosing caregivers to play dates and meal-time management, providing concrete examples that help parents and caregivers learn to handle various scenarios in a way that is supportive of the child while still appropriately being in charge.

Title: Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence

  • Author: Rosalind Wiseman
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: Adult reading
  • Reader age group: N/A
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • Date of publication: 2003
  • Review: Middle school can be one of the most dreadful social phases of an adolescent's life. To learn about the complexities that adolescent girls face, parents and caregivers should read Queen Bees and Wannabes. Author Rosalind Wiseman distills her many years of conversations with adolescent girls to help parents understand cliques, girls' power plays, and other touchy issues such as teasing, gossip, reputations, beauty and fashion, and social taboos like alcohol, drugs, boys, and sex.

Title: Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

  • Author: Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: adult reading
  • Reader age group: N/A
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Date of publication: 2000
  • Review: Boys have feelings too, and parents and caregivers of sons will do well to read Raising Cain. The authors describe the challenges that boys face when confronted with mentors who still adhere to macho male stereotypes, and the basic disadvantages of not being able to do as well in typical school settings (where long quiet periods are increasingly required). The authors advocate for raising boys with an eye towards communication and emotional sensitivity and they offering action points to work towards change, so boys learn to recognize and express emotion.

Title: Unconditional Parenting: Moving from rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

  • Author: Alfie Kohn
  • Genre: Non fiction
  • Reading type: Adult reading
  • Reader age group: N/A
  • Publisher: Atria
  • Date of publication: 2005
  • Review: It's hard not to fall in the trap of praising "good" behavior (being quiet, not messy, etc.) and being frustrated by age-appropriate behavior (periodic tantrums). But Kohn advises parents and caregivers to re-evaluate their responses in order to avoid conditioning kids towards approval-seeking behavior that can be dangerous, such as caving into peer pressure. He recommends that parents and caregivers communicate love and acceptance, even if you don't love the behavior first understanding and accepting that age-appropriate "bad" behavior happens, then taking the time to listen to and involve kids in decision making, which can help prevent meltdowns in the first place.

Movies for Families

Title: Annie

  • Genre: Musical, children & family
  • Director: John Huston
  • Date of Release: 1982
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: Annie, 11, lives in an orphanage. She wants to find her parents, and searches for them, learns that they are no longer living, and, after a series of adventures, ends up happily adopted by a very rich man who adores her.
  • Review: Ultimately, some of the themes underlying this movie are rather bleak (unhappy orphanage, kidnapping, etc.), but somehow the songs, cute kids, and prospects of a happier tomorrow make for cheery entertainment. I knew every single Annie song by heart as a little girl, and couldn't help but love that Annie was able to win over the cold-hearted Daddy Warbucks with her optimism.

Title: Chanukah on Planet Matzo Ball

  • Genre: Fictional/Musical/Religious
  • Director: Sisu Home Entertainment
  • Date of Release: 2003
  • Rating: G
  • Basic Plot: Loveable puppets re-learn the meaning of Chanukah while observing earthling children.
  • Review: My child received this as a holiday gift some years back and we all love to watch and share this DVD around Chanukah. Without being sappy, overly religious, or too serious, this fun little film tells the tale of puppets from another planet who want to re-learn the meaning and customs of the Jewish winter holiday. By observing young children on Earth, one determined creature relays information to his fellow Jewish puppet family regarding latkes, candle-lighting, Chanukah songs and the holiday's history. This simple film is appropriate for babies and children from 0-7 years old and is chock full of memorable songs and animation.

Title: E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Date of Release: 2002
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: Finding an extra-terrestrial becomes a life-changing experience for a boy and his family.
  • Review: Hailed as a classic, the message behind E.T.remains long after the film is done. A young boy named Elliott finds a small creature and brings him home only to find out that the creature is from another planet. Chaos soon erupts in the boy's small town while his family tries to protect E.T. from the government, doctors and scientists who want to study him. This film is not appropriate for children under the age of 5 or so but is beloved by people of many ages and backgrounds for its heart-warming tale of friendship and loyalty.

Title: Madagascar

  • Genre: Fiction/children's movie/animation
  • Director: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
  • Date of Release: 2005
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: A group of Zoo dwelling animals go on an adventure to the "wild" to discover their true identities.
  • Review: Another animated animal flick a dime a dozen, right? Not so with Madagascar. It's a witty, colorful, and fun frolic in the lives of Marty the Zebra, Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe. These zoo-dwellers with the famous voices of Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and others behind them, lead the audience on an engaging adventure through New York, Madagascar and the open seas. Younger children aged 3-6 years will get a real howl from the great music, animation and unique storyline. Adults, too, will laugh at the fun song and dance numbers and relate to the relationship struggles inside the pack.

Title: Mary Poppins

  • Genre: Musical, children and family
  • Director: Robert Stephenson
  • Date of Release: 1964
  • Rating: G
  • Basic Plot: A magical, musical nanny shakes the dust off a stuffy English household.
  • Review: In the 1960s Julie Andrews dominated as the musical childcare provider (see also, The Sound of Music). As the title character Mary Poppins, Andrews infuses a stuffy English household with magic, music, and exuberance. Kids and adults alike will delight in the imaginative ride, carried by energetic dance sequences and cheery, nearly phonetically impossible songs that you won't be able to resist singing, such as the famous "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Title: Nanny McPhee

  • Genre: Children & family
  • Director: Kirk Jones.
  • Date of Release: 2006.
  • Rating: PG.
  • Basic Plot: A modern day Mary Poppins brings order (and magic) to a household.
  • Review: Nanny McPhee is based on Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, but the magical elements and the single husband/seven mischievous children themes make the movie a bit of a modern Julie Andrews tribute (see Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music reviews). Winning over hearts and better behavior still are welcome themes several decades after the originals.

Title: Paper Moon

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Peter Bogdanovich
  • Date of Release: 1973
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: A con artist and an orphan develop a father-daughter routine that not only leads to successful swindles but to some true father-daughter feelings.
  • Review: A reluctant caretaker turns into a loving surrogate dad in this classic film. Funny, touching, and true.

Title: Parenthood

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Ron Howard
  • Date of Release: 1989
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Basic Plot: A classic comedy about several intertwined Midwestern families and their foibles.
  • Review: People continue to love this because it is rarely less than hilariously (and, at times, uncomfortably) true. Every conceivable family dysfunction served up on "wry."

Title: Planet Earth Series

  • Genre: Documentary.
  • Director: BBC
  • Date of Release: 2006
  • Rating: (Unofficial) Family friendly
  • Basic Plot: Deemed by many to be one of the greatest nature documentaries ever produced.
  • Review: Described by Oprah Winfrey as "the best television you'll ever see" (it appeared on the Discovery Channel), this breathtaking film series lives up to all the hype. The wondrous cinematographyshot in high definition is excellent and you and your family will be overwhelmed by the beauty, grace, and cunning of Planet Earth's amazing animals. Some scenes are graphic and violent there's one incident where wild dogs are hunting an antelope that may frighten younger viewers. Our school-aged son is okay with most of the content and thoroughly enjoys learning about diversity on our blue planet.

Title: Ponette

  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Jacques Doillon
  • Date of Release: 1997
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Basic Plot: A young girl copes with her mother's death.
  • Review: Easily one of the most powerful and moving films I have ever seen. There is nothing predicable or easy about how Ponette learns to accept her mother's departure from this world. Essential viewing for anyone who wants a fresh perspective on children and the grieving process.

Title: The Berenstain Bears - Bears Get a Babysitter

  • Genre: Children and family, cartoons
  • Director: Buzz Potamkin
  • Date of Release: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Basic Plot: The famous Berenstain Bears learn to cope with the concept of babysitters.
  • Review: Parents who are looking to ready their child for the introduction of a babysitter may wish to check out The Berenstain Bears: Bears Get a Babysitter,where the cubs learn to cope with the concept of babysitters. Kids who already are familiar with the Berenstain Bears no doubt will readily identify with the cubs that worry about being left with babysitter Ms. Grizzle but ultimately realize that they can be safe and have fun with a babysitter that Mom and Dad trust.

Title: The Sound of Music

  • Genre: Musical, children and family
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Date of Release: 1965
  • Rating: Unrated
  • Basic Plot: A nun turned governess brings music and love to a glum military household.
  • Review: As one of seven musical children myself, this classic is not surprisingly one of my long-standing favorites. Julie Andrews is innocent yet complex as nun turned governess Maria who arrives to take care of the seven Von Trapp children. The children are skeptical of caretakers and ready for mischief, but Maria wins their hearts, and that of their seemingly cold military father. This film truly has something for everyone love, politics, and family dynamics with an engaging plot and a vibrant musical score.

Title: The Backyardigans Cave Party

  • Genre: Animation/Children's Series
  • Director: Corus Entertainment
  • Date of Release: 2005
  • Rating: G
  • Basic Plot: The loveable Backyardigans crew travels back in time for a cave party!
  • Review: We love the Backyardigans around our house. There are many times when you can hear our school-aged son, toddler daughter, or even me and my husband singing one of their catchy and clever tunes. In this DVD, the Backyardigans set out on an adventure to meet up with the cave people. Tasha, Austin, Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo sing some of their most memorable tunes on this DVD, including "Go Go Go" and "Racing Day." Prepare to smile!

Title: The Secret Garden

  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Agnieszka Holland
  • Date of Release: 1993
  • Rating: G
  • Basic Plot: A British girl is placed with her gloomy uncle after the death of her parents. The girl decides to restore a long abandoned garden and in the process brings back hope within her uncle's house.
  • Review: Most people prefer this screen adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett book over a previous BBC miniseries. Here we have an unwilling guardian who is transformed over the course of the film into a warmer and more loving father figure through the efforts of a strong-willed child. This version is beautifully filmed and acted.

Title: Three Men and a Baby

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Leonard Nimoy
  • Date of release: 1987
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: Three carefree bachelors happily share a pad together until one of their girlfriends drops off an unexpected result of their nightly partying a baby.
  • Review: In this delightful, feel-good film, three bachelors (Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg), all with no parenting experience, fall in love with a baby who has been deposited at their door and disrupts their carefree lives. My kids loved watching how a baby can charm adults, and the film shows how even confirmed bachelors can learn that family is what's really important in life.

Title: Small Change

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Francois Truffault
  • Date of Release: 1976
  • Rating: PG
  • Basic Plot: Truffault's pean to childhood.
  • Review: Sort of a French version of Little Rascals (but more realistic), Small Change consists of vignettes that spring from a great delight in all that is good and bad about childhood. For every 20 films that purport to know something about children, there's one that shows real insight. Small Change is in the latter group.
Leave a comment

Create a free account with Care.com and join our community today.

Related content

How much should you pay for a babysitter?