The best TV shows and films for children this Christmas: From Julia Donaldson's Superworm to Terry Pratchett’s Abominable Snow Baby

Don’t just rely on Santa scrambling down the chimney to deliver festive joy to kids this year - bring seasonal magic into your front room with the best TV and films for children this Christmas

By James Descombes Published: 14 December 2021 - 11.14am
Netflix Superworm, Shaun the Sheep, Abominable Snow Baby

Wrapped all the presents? Bought all the food for the big day? Well now it’s time to relax.

Enjoy a calm and cosy festive film treat with the whole family. Here’s our pick of the best TV shows and films for children this Christmas.

Plus, don't miss our round up of the 5 best family films on Netflix this month.

Terry Pratchett’s Abominable Snow Baby

The Abominable Snowbaby Channel 4

Channel 4 has a strong tradition of showcasing animated Christmas specials such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Quentin Blake’s Clown, and their biggest Christmas hit to date, The Snowman, which premiered on the channel in 1982.

This year, Channel 4 has adapted Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby, taken from the author’s book of Christmas stories, Father Christmas’ Fake Beard.

The 30-minute special uses traditional hand-drawn animations, adding some childlike magic to the moving story of a 14-ft abominable snow baby that lands on a quintessentially English town and scares all the inhabitants.

Thankfully a kind granny (voiced by Julie Walters) and her grandson Albert (voiced by Hugh Dancy) take him in and show him lots of love an affection, changing the town’s perception of him and melting away their initial prejudices.

This heart-warming story of courage and compassion is another feather in the cap for Channel 4 and its reputation for creating Christmas classics for the family.

Terry Pratchett’s Abominable Snow Baby arrives on Channel 4 this Christmas Day at 7.30pm

A Boy Called Christmas

Nikolas in A Boy Called Chrsitmas

Sky Cinema’s new Christmas spectacular is available via NOW and makes for a great pre-Crimbo treat for the whole family.

It follows the story of a young Father Christmas, who embarks on a magical adventure into the snowy north to find his father (Michiel Huisman), who’s on his own mission to find the fabled land of Elfhelm and bring back some Christmas hope to the kingdom.  

Of course, young Nikolas (Henry Lawfull) isn’t alone. He’s joined on his journey by his best friend Mika the mouse (Stephen Merchant) and his buddy Blitzen the reindeer as they face hunters, grizzly bears and troublesome trolls.

Full of dazzling special effects, Christmassy backdrops, and sacks of humour (often delivered by Merchant’s talking mouse character), A Boy Called Christmas is sure to deliver some winter wonder this year.

The film also stars Jim Broadbent as the King, Maggie Smith as Aunt Ruth, Sally Hawkins as Mother Vodol, and Toby Jones as Father Topo.

Read all you need to know about A Boy Called Christmas >

Check out our interview with Director Gil Kenan and actor Henry Lawfull >

A Boy Called Christmas is available on Sky Cinema and NOW

Julia Donaldson’s Superworm 

Julia Donaldson's Superworm BBC

Unwrap a Christmas Day TV treat for the family as everyone’s favourite wriggly worm winds his way onto BBC 1.

Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, has created numerous classic stories for generations of children, including the likes of The Gruffalo, Stick Man and The Highway Rat.

Now her 2012 book Superworm, which was also illustrated by long-time collaborator Axel Scheffler, is getting a TV makeover. It’s the ninth one of her stories to get the TV treatment.

The 25-minute animated film follows a super-long and super-strong worm who’s always ready to rescue his animal friends. But when Wizard Lizard and his servant Crow capture the poor worm, his friends must hatch a cunning plan to save the day.

Olivia Colman narrates the story and former Doctor Who star Matt Smith voices the hero worm, while Rob Brydon returns as the voice of the crafty Crow. Hip, hip hooray for Superworm!

Discover more about Superworm >

Superworm premieres on BBC 1 on Christmas Day at 2.30pm 

CBeebies The Night Before Christmas 

CBeebie The Night Before Christmas BBC

As you’d expect, CBeebies is going big with its Christmas entertainment.

The Night Before Christmas cooks up a feast of fun in the form of music, dance, theatrical performance and storytelling, with a cast of much-loved CBeebies presenters.

The show was recorded in front of a live audience at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in October.

The story tells the adventures of Holly and her brother Jack on Christmas Eve, as they send their wishes to Father Christmas. But the mischievous Wish Taker pinches those wishes, so Holly has to travel far and wide to get them back and give them to Santa.

Available on CBeebies and iPlayer from 11 December 2021

Hansel and Gretel: After Ever After 

Hansel and Gretel After Ever After

Having previously continued the Christmas stories of Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk, the After Ever After series gets its hand on the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale, Hansel and Gretel.

David Walliams (playing a troll) and Sheridan Smith (transformed into the Witch) return to tell the tale of what happens after the original story ends, with Hansel (played by newcomer Bill Bekele) and Gretel (Lily Aspell) heading home after escaping the Witch’s gingerbread house and shutting her in the oven. They thought they’d finished her off, but she managed to escape before being baked and is now out for revenge.

Hansel and Gretel will have to return to the Witch’s house to end this once and for all.

Hansel and Gretel: After Ever After airs on Sky Max and NOW on 23 December at 8pm

Robin Robin

Robin Robin Netflix

Netflix teamed up with Aardman Animations to create a Christmas classic in Robin Robin.

The 32-minute stop-motion film is perfect for little ones, keeping them entertained with an array of magical musical numbers that ramp up the Christmas cheer.

The story follows a robin that’s brought up by a family of mice after accidentally rolling into a rubbish dump. But as Robin grows up, she realises that she’s different. In an attempt to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse, she goes on an epic heist but ends up discovering who she really is.

Gillian Anderson provides the voice for the villain of the piece, the menacing Cat, while Ricard E Grant lends his voice to Robin’s mentor, Magpie.

If you love previous Aardman productions, such as Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, you’ll love this animated musical masterpiece too.

Find out all you need to know about Robin Robin >

You can stream Robin Robin on Netflix now 

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas 

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas BBC/Aardman

Another Aardman Animations classic gets a festive follow up, with Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas showing on BBC 1 on Christmas Eve this year.

In this 30-minute family special, Shaun and his friends have to rescue Timmy, after he goes missing during a farmhouse raid to get bigger Christmas stockings for the flock.

CBeebies favourite Justin Fletcher returns as the voice of Shaun the Sheep, while John Sparkes (Peppa Pig) returns to voice The Farmer.

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas is on BBC 1 on Christmas Eve at 6pm (and again at 11.25am on Christmas Day)

Worzel Gummidge

Worzel Gummidge Calliope Jane Mackenzie Crook BBC

Worzel Gummidge brings a bit of the countryside to Christmas, as Mackenzie Crook (The Office) returns in the title role of the talking scarecrow for two new seasonal shows. He also directed the series.

Adults and children alike can enjoy watching Gummidge go on two new adventures, with the first, Twitchers, airing on 28 December, followed by Calliope Jones on 29 December 2021.

Twitchers sees a flock of rare choughs arrive at Scatterbrook Farm after a thunderstorm. Realising the opportunity to scare such rare birds, Gummidge enlists the help of his pals Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens), but his plans are scuppered when a group of birdwatchers move in. Can the kids come up with a plan to save Worzel’s embarrassment?

In Calliope Jane a travelling fair comes to Scatterbrook for one night only, but Worzel can’t join in the fun. He tells Susan and John about a fair with an enchanted organ that sends humans to sleep so scarecrows can enjoy the rides without being seen. Strictly champion Bill Bailey makes an appearance as Mr Peregrine too.

Worzel Gummidge Twitchers airs on BBC 1 on 28 December 2021

Worzel Gummidge Calliope Jane airs on BBC 1 on 29 December 2021