I love going to the movies but these days it’s not as easy to organise the babysitters, so mostly I enjoy watching movies at home.
What I really love about a good movie (apart from the escape) is that there is often a chance to discover a new thought or remember a feeling that might have been pushed to the background by my busy life.
Since time began parents have taught their kids about all of life through stories. In many cultures that was the way history, morals and daily skills were passed down and kept alive. Most parents that I know now comment that their children are watching hours of screens every day so why not harness the amazing messages in the movies that they love to teach your kids valuable lessons.
Sometimes the moral or overall theme of a movie is obvious and is even obvious to the kids watching but other times it can be much more subtle. A quick internet search will locate you a bunch of opinions if you are unsure where to start.
Some classic examples of themes in movies are:
- Toy Story – friends stick together and love each other despite their differences
- Bug’s Life – the little guy can triumph, thinking for yourself, stand up for yourself
- Monsters Inc – laughter and love are more powerful than fear
- Finding Nemo – never give up, family bonds are strong, disability or weakness can be overcome
It doesn’t have to be the writer’s intended main theme though and it could literally be a 10 sec segment or scene. I’ve found lots of opportunities to pick up on very small parts of a movie when I need it to explain a feeling or behaviour too. It could be the way a character dealt with disappointment or being betrayed, or it could be something very practical like a science fact or historical point.
We recently saw Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur in the cinema on a family holiday. It imagines that no asteroid interrupted the lives of the dinosaurs, and an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely friend … a human boy. This heart-warming adventure movie from the creators of Inside Out is about confronting and overcoming your fears and discovering who you are meant to be. The animation by the way is INSANELY good in this movie … it’s almost photographic in detail.
Everyone in our family enjoyed the movie but it was interesting how many little messages and themes kept coming out in discussions over the next few days. These ranged from ‘making our mark on the world’ to ‘friendship with others different from ourselves’ and right through to ‘how families work together’. It wasn’t all initiated by us either and in a way I think it’s even more powerful when the movies raise questions for kids and we can just go along for the discussion.
How to do it?
There is no right way but rather once it’s in your mind that watching a movie could be a great learning opportunity as well as just fun, you will find what works for you. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Pause the movie
Ok this is difficult in a cinema! On DVD though you can easily pause the movie and discuss something that’s happening. I like to give my kids permission to ask for a pause too because otherwise the thought may be gone later or they may just not understand a crucial part of the movie.
Obviously it would get annoying if this happened all the time but once in a while is OK. Try pausing and asking a question like:
- “Have you ever felt let down by a friend?”
- “Do you have a friend who is very different to you? In what ways?”
- “What would you do in that situation?”
Obviously most of the chats will happen after the movie. It’s not essential but if you watch the movie at least once too, then you will be much more aware of what the themes are and the best questions to get discussion going. Often I will straight-out ask the kids “what was the message of the movie?” and it is amazing how often they get it … and how often they totally miss it. They certainly have some creative answers at times haha.
Some useful questions might be:
- “How do you think that Woody felt when ……” (Toy Story)
- “Do you agree with that?” (any movie situation)
- “What could Arlo have done differently when ….” (The Good Dinosaur)
Recall a scene that matches real life
I regularly draw attention to some classic movie scenes when my kids have a tough time or face a challenge in real life. It’s easy to remind your children about how characters felt or what they did to face situations in the movie and encourage them to do the same. Sometimes it’s also to NOT do the same too.
For example, when my daughter (who is 6 years younger than the nearest older brother) complains that she can’t do the same things as the boys I regularly remind her of how Arlo in The Good Dinosaur was much smaller and couldn’t do the same role in the family as the others … but he had his own tasks and the important thing was to do that well. One day my daughter will be bigger and able to achieve similar things.
Extend the movie
My kids play some movies over and over again to the point of driving us insane! You can easily build on that enthusiasm by extending on the movie with things like:
- Role play scenes from the movie
- Playing games as characters or with toys
- Writing stories based on the character’s lives after or before the movie (older kids)
- Playing out alternative endings
- Putting the well-loved characters in any situation or dilemma and seeing how your child plays it out … then discuss
- You can find lots of clever ideas at http://inspire.disney.com.au/the-good-dinosaur-au/
The opportunities are endless and limited only by your imagination.
What a great way to teach life’s valuable lessons in a way that your kids will love. It’s a safe way to learn as the mistakes have little or no consequence.
The Good Dinosaur is a very recent release (available now on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD) so it’s a great opportunity to grab a copy and add it to your collection of ‘learning material’!
For more info check out the trailer below and visit The Good Dinosaur
We are giving 5 lucky families the chance to score 1 of 5 The Good Dinosaur DVDs. All you need to do is comment on the blog post below and tell us … “Why would you love to win one of The Good Dinosaur DVDs?”
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Entering the Giveaway: To enter you must answer our question as part of the Giveaway entrance. You are able to only enter once for this Giveaway. Do not submit duplicate as this will not improve your chances of winning. Use of Entrant Information: Any information you fill out for this Giveaway will not be used for any other purpose except to notify you if you are the winner. Drawings: The winners will selected based on the answers to the competition question. Prizes: FIVE individual people will each win one copy of The Good Dinosaur DVD valued at $41.95 each including postage. Eligibility: Each email address may win only once. The Giveaway is open only to legal Australian residents 18 years of age or older. School Mum is not responsible for (1) typographical errors, misdirected or incomplete entries; or (2) computer or telecommunication system failures or similar disruptions to email services and/or the Internet. The competition ends at 11:59pm EST on the 22nd of May 2016.