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Who doesn’t love a good movie? Hot summer days – when it’s too hot to even think about being outside – are perfect for a family movie night. When my boys were young – elementary age – we would frequently build pillow forts in the living room, put on a movie, and have our picnic lunch of PB&J while vegging out to the VCR (remember those!?).
Savor Family Movie Night
Instead of just popping in a DVD, or streaming a video, spend a little time planning to make your movie time even better. You might even want to have a family meeting and brainstorm ways to up your game when it comes to family movies. The kids may also want to suggest movies to watch – let them list all they want as long as they know the final decision is up to mom and dad.
- Make it special. If you have the TV on all day every day, then there is nothing special about putting on a movie. Get in the habit of keeping the TV off except for planned viewing times. Having the TV on in the background can distract children from playing and using their imagination. If you need some ideas of what to do instead, you can check out my summer bucket list.
- Have snacks or a picnic in the living room. Popcorn and juice or water is all you really need. But if you want to make it special, have some veggies and fruit, some cheese and crackers, or even a small sweet treat. It really depends on when you have your movie time. Even better, have movie-themed snacks: hotdogs and pretzels for baseball movies, puppy chow for dog themes movies, or Swedish fish in blue jello for ocean movies.Or, keep things simple: A mid-afternoon flick may call for a small snack of crackers or pretzels. While an evening movie event could be accompanied by pizza and veggies with dip.
- Choose a fun-for-everyone movie. This may be more difficult if you have all ages of kids. However, aim for movies appropriate for elementary children and you’ll probably be fine. Be sure to check the ratings, and stick with G or PG. If you and your kids are out of ideas, or if you want to expand beyond animation, check out the resources below for choosing your next film.
- To take your family movie time up a notch, discuss what you watched after it’s over. You can discuss lessons taught and whether they reflect Biblical principles, major characters and how their behavior was something to be admired or not, or why the movie is better or worse than similar movies. These types of discussions prepare your children to think critically about their media consumption. Don’t settle for “I like it” or “It was funny.” Instead, make your children back up their claims and be specific: “I liked the part where…” or “It was really funny when…” or even “I’d like to be friends with [character] because…”
Some Great Resources for Family Movie Time
There are multiple lists of great movies to watch with your kids, and way too many to list here. Instead, I’m going to share some great resources for choosing movies.
- First, Plugged In. If you’re not familiar with this ministry arm of Focus on the Family, you’re in for a treat. They publish reviews of movies, television shows, music, books, and video games. I relied on their reviews when my kids were growing up. I appreciated the breakdown of spiritual, violent, sexual, and other content. I liked the searchable database, where you can search by rating, genre, or alphabetically. There’s also a search function, so you can search by title and quickly find the good, bad, and ugly on almost any movie, certainly the most recent ones.
- I also appreciate Common Sense Media. Although not published from a Christian perspective, their reviews do include a category for positive roles models and positive messages. They have a different search function where you can search by suggested age, topic (cars, sports, etc.), and character traits. Besides books, movies, games, and television shows, Common Sense Media also reviews websites and apps.
- Common Sense Media has a list of great family movies – which includes Frozen, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, March of the Penguins, and My Fair Lady, just to give you an idea of the range of movies represented. It’s a great place to start. They also have ‘best of’ lists for television, books, music, and more.
- List Challenges has a 300 Family Movies list to help you choose also. Although the list doesn’t include reviews, they do include a Rotten Tomatoes rating. You can choose a movie and then go to Plugged In or Common Sense Media to check it out. If you’re a Disney fan, check out their Complete List of Disney Movies
- Finally, Rotten Tomatoes has a Top 100 list for Kids & Family They are listed by ranking and their ranking is based on ratings from 40 or more reviewers. Movies with less than 40 reviewers aren’t ranked. In case you’re interested, Inside Out is ranked number 1.
I hope this primer on Family Movie Time will be helpful. Building memories is something that is intentional – and maybe this guide and the resources I suggest can help you plan your next memory-making episode in front of the television.