You asked

How can I tell which films are appropriate for my preschooler?

The easiest way to tell which movies are appropriate for any age child is to use the official ratings. These can give you a good idea of whether there are violence, sex and other content in the film, and how much. The Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) categorises films as follows:

General Classification Category
Films classified as general are suitable for school going children. They aren’t too serious, have minimal sexual content, if any, and that which does appear is mild. Violence is usually mild or comedic – such as slapstick or cartoonish. Films like Ice Age, and the Hannah Montana movies fall into this category.

PG (Parental Guidance)
The rating PG means that a movie is generally suitable for children of all ages, however, it is recommended that parents of very young or very sensitive children watch the film first, to ensure that it is suitable. These types of films may deal with more serious issues, including war, it will have mild language and sexual content, and will usually have a positive outcome, even if the theme is more serious. Movies like How to Train Your Dragon, and Night at the Museum 2 fall into this category.

The 12A rating is given to films that have a slightly more mature theme, and content, and that are suitable for children aged 12 years and older. As with other categories, however, violence, sex and other aspects of the film will be mild, although in this category, mild swear words are allowed. The Twilight movies, Iron Man 2 and Clash of the Titans fall into this category.

As with the 12A rating, films rated 15A are designed for audiences 15 years and older. Violence is more realistic, although not gratuitous, references to drugs are allowed, and some sexual content, as long as it is moderate and positive, is allowed. Films like The Hurt Locker, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and Shutter Island are classified in this category.

When a film is categorised as 16, most themes and content are allowed. It may contain more graphic violence than 15A movies, moderate sexual content, and references to drugs. Zombieland, Jennifer’s Body and Kick Ass are some of the movies that fall into this category.

Over 18
The over 18 category is designed for films that are suitable for an adult audience. As such, any level of violence, sexual content, language and drug references are allowed, and these movies are definitely not suitable for children. Movies like Saw VI, Friday the 13th and Ninja Assassin fall into this category.

As you can see, the film rating system makes it easy to find movies that are appropriate for any age child, however, at preschool age, your child should only be watching movies rated G or PG.

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