Toddler TV: Holiday Edition - The Snowy Day

I really like when books get new life with a transition to film, especially for little ones. We always read the book, too, but it's really nice to have the opportunity for a child to see the book from another perspective. 

In this case, the book-to-movie is The Snowy Day, originally by Ezra Jack Keats. It's only available if you have Amazon Prime (if you don't, how do you parent? I'm genuinely interested because Prime saves my sorry behind at least once a week). 

Some background: The Snowy Day was first published in 1962 and won a Caldecott Medal. If you're iffy on screen time, I highly suggest this as an the book and let your child watch along, associating the action on the screen with some parts of the story.
Timing: The movie itself is only 38 minutes long, meaning that it's well under the suggested screen time for a toddler/preschooler and it's filled with messages and ideas that my own daughter took into her independent play time. The animation hearkens to the book's illustrations and isn't overly intense for younger eyes.

Story: A young boy, Peter, wakes on Christmas Eve to see that his street is snowed in. His mother sends him down the street to his grandmother's to retrieve her famous mac & cheese, which will be served along with other food at the family's Christmas party later that night. Peter, is, of course, sidetracked along the way, seeing friends from the block (who he invites to the party without asking his parents) and taking some time to play in the snow before getting to his grandmother's apartment. Sad from being rebuffed when he asked to join in a snowball fight with his friends, his grandmother gives him his Christmas present a bit early--a saucer for sliding down snowy hills--which lifts his spirits. His grandmother helps him carry the food and other gifts back to Peter's apartment, but when they stop to join in the snowball fight a snowplow accidentally ruins the food and breaks Peter's brand-new snow saucer. Peter is heartbroken and is worried everyone will be upset with him because of the lost food and damaged presents--instead the friends he's spent time with throughout the day show up at his home with food from their own cultures--latkes, long-life noodles, tamales--and they enjoy the most important part of the holiday season: spending time with those you love.

Why Do I Love It? The Snowy Day is a deeply inclusive movie--every character is a minority in some way, shape, or form. Peter, the main character, is black. His best friend Layla is Jewish and introduces Hanukkah into the story in a wonderful way. A store owner, Mrs. Lee, is presumably Chinese based on the fact that she brings a traditionally Chinese dish to at the end of the film. Anthony is an Italian food vendor. Ahmed, whose nationality/religion isn't entirely clear, owns a toy store. The list goes on and on and results in a movie where many children can see someone who looks like them, sounds like them, or celebrates a holiday like them. For those who don't see someone "just like" them...what a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a story told from a different perspective! 

Post-Show Activities: 
1. Talk with your child about what you just watched. Ways to start the conversation include:
  • Why was Peter sad? 
  • What made him happy again? 
  • Has there been a time when you've been disappointed because a toy broke, or you didn't get to eat the food you were expecting? 
  • How did Peter deal with his upset? Can you think of ways to do the same? 
  • Did some of the foods Peter's friends brought sound yummy? 
2. Take a trip to a local Asian market and get the ingredients to make Mrs. Lee's Long-Life Noodles:

3. Talk about Layla's family tradition of doing a good deed on the 6th night of Hanukkah. Together, think of a good deed you child can do (cleaning out their closet to donate old clothes, agree to get one fewer gift on Christmas morning and donate that gift to a child in need, make a Snack Bag for a homeless person, etc.).

Let me know how it goes!


Lindsay Sweeting was in the world of Marketing and Publicity in her previous life. These days you're more likely to see her running after her toddler than running a meeting, but she does her best to find time to create new recipes, come up with fun activities for her daughter, and write about the craziness that is life in the Sweeting house.

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