I started watching movies with my kids for one reason.
I love the movies. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who does too. As our home’s resident ScreenMom, I’ve already instilled in my kids a passion for the movies, first and foremost because movie-watching is a way to have fun together.
But I’ve discovered it’s so much more than that. I’ve found watching movies with my kids – especially the great ones — to be richly educational, often in unexpected ways.
Think of how RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK exposes kids to archeology, ancient as well as 20th century world history, and teaches them the value of scholarship. But unlike some dry social studies textbook, the movie does all this while keeping them enthralled and entertained. It shows through the character of Indiana Jones that you can act courageously even when you’re afraid – something every kid should take to heart. It’s a beautiful example of the mechanics of great story-telling. And how else can you learn how to escape an underground chamber full of snakes? (“Why did it have to be snakes?”)
Watching movies with kids exposes them to cultural touchstones they’ll have in common with you, extended family, friends, people new to them, and the families they’ll someday make for themselves. Just imagine how many people in your own social universe, as well as around the world, know the phrase, “May the Force be with you.” Movies are the cultural currency of our times, part of the communal connective tissue of modern life, in entertainment form.
They connect us with our parents and grandparents, who grew up watching movies — including some of the greatest ever made.
They connect us with people globally, giving us ways to break the ice and bridge the gaps.
The best movies, the like best books, movies, plays, music and paintings, help us empathize with others, even people very different from us, and let us experience vicariously what we might otherwise never know. And they take us places we may never have imagined, introducing us to characters we’ll never forget.
No doubt there are the movies you watched as a kid that marked you somehow, made you see things differently, and even helped you get through your childhood. The wonder of this digital age is that you can fairly easily locate, buy, stream, rent or borrow any movie that struck a chord in you when you were six, or nine, or thirteen.
Share those movies with your kids. It’s like handing someone you love your favorite book, or giving them a mix tape of your desert island songs, the ones you can’t live without. You’re giving them a piece of you by showing them something you love, and watching them get to see why. It’s even better when they turn out to love it too.
When I watch movies at home with my kids, I act as our kids’ movie curator. I let them select from those movies I loved (or my husband loved) when we were kids, as we deem the kids ready to appreciate particular films. I hunt down the good ones I somehow missed, but are worth our while. I also let the kids pick from the best of the crop of movies from recent years, as the newer movies we all enjoyed at the movie theater and the ones we didn’t get a chance to catch but still want to see, become available for home viewing. Whether we watch something new, older, or classic, great storytelling comes first.
I hope I’ve convinced you to start turning your kids into movie lovers. Now … what to watch with them? Elsewhere on this site you’ll find plenty of great ideas for every age/grade level – as well as this helpful guide: How To Watch Movies With Kids (link to come).