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Photograph: BFI

The BFI is now streaming highbrow films for kids under five

‘In the Night Garden‘, 1950s style

By Time Out Film

If, at this advanced stage of lockdown, your wee’uns have reached the end of the Pixar canon, seen ‘Frozen II’ enough times to be fluent in Northuldran, and become weary of the porky capers of Peppa Pig, help is at hand. The BFI has just added a free collection of short films to its BFI Player specifically aimed at that hard-to-please five-and-below demographic. Best of all? They’re educational as well as fun. 

The Films for Fives and Under archive spans nearly a hundred years of cinema: its earliest short dates back to 1897 and the collection spans most of the twentieth century up to the early 1980s. Whether you’re wondering what the late nineteenth century’s version of ‘In the Night Garden’ is or just trying to explain the ’70s-style madness of ‘The Clangers’ to your dubious kids, it’s well worth a browse. 

Alice in Wonderland
‘Alice in Wonderland’Photograph: BFI

It’s not nearly as esoteric as it might sound. In fact, the films are a lovely way to introduce children to different forms of filmmaking through cinema’s magical distant – and near – past. They could be a gateway to Pabst, Guy-Blaché and Griffith, or they could just get you through to teatime. It’s a win, either way.

According to the BFI, the shorts are ‘intended to entertain, amuse, intrigue or spark the imagination, while developing an understanding of what film can be and do.’ They’re all U certificates and have been tested on real children – not in a sinister way – but the recommendation is for an adult to take a look first just in case. (Look out, for instance, for the March Hare in the 1903 version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. No real hare has human hands.)

Dip into the Films for Fives and Under collection on BFI Player now.

What to stream if you’re in lockdown with kids.

The best films to watch on Disney+.

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