I’ve noticed a new phenomenon in our household lately. All of us — two adults and three kids — love movies and television, but find ourselves plugged in (literally, as in, with a headphone) to the various TVs and iPods scattered throughout the house, watching the shows we each like. It’s everything from Disney Channel to TLC to History Channel. No, I’m not the one watching TLC, well okay I am because I find some of the shows fascinating as I watch different parenting styles, like on Toddlers and Tiaras.
Needless to say, we need to bring the family back together, and what better way to do it than with a family movie night? Okay, I know what you’re thinking. With such wide tastes, how in the world are we going to find something we all like and can watch together? And, logistically, how do we make it all happen? Well, as Walt Disney himself said, the way to get started is to quit talking and start doing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Make it official. Set a movie start time and stick to it. At our house, Friday nights are movie nights because it’s a nice way to de-stress after a long week of work, school and practice. The iPhones and iPods turned off and the movie starts at 7 p.m., after a simple dinner of pizza or mac-and-cheese.
Finish those chores. It’s hard to escape into a movie when you’ve got dishes and laundry calling you from the other room. Work together as a family to get household chores done before the movie starts (good motivation!). Even young kids can help pick up toys and put away laundry.
Have fun with it. Make tickets and sell them at a “box office” (a large cardboard box that’s cut out and decorated to look like a real box office). Provide fake money to each of the children and use it as a time to teach the responsibilities of money (give each child enough money for their ticket and snacks) My wife is great about being the ATM and our kids love it. You can even “usher” the kids to their seats, using a small flashlight like in the old days. Don’t be afraid to get into character as you set the stage
Set the stage. A darkened room and plenty of comfy seats are a must. Make sure the room is clean and “picked up.” Blankets and large pillows on the floor are great movie seats.
Make the concession stand. Movie candy like Goobers, Sprees, Gummy Worms and Candy bars lend an air of authenticity, and don’t forget the popcorn and drinks. Take time to make reusable signs as part of setting the stage. Be sure to price each item so that the kids can enjoy the show and have to make some financial decisions. Remember to get back into character while serving at the concession stand.
Schedule an intermission. Give family members a chance to take a potty break or hit the “concession stand”.
Consider a theme. If you have been doing family movie night for a while now and consider yourself a pro try a theme night. If you’re watching “Finding Nemo,” snack on gummy sharks and goldfish crackers and pretzels. “The Jungle Book” lends itself to animal crackers, fruit and peanuts. If you have the time and room set the stage for a Drive-in. I have the ideas ready for this one but have not tackled this idea as of yet. Enlist your kids to come up with creative snacks based on the movie.
Teachable Moments. You can’t predict teachable moments but they are all around us and come and go quickly. As parents we must be ready to ask the right questions, no yes / no questions. Questions that ask children to describe, explain, or share ideas extend the conversation. Reflect on their feelings, even animated movies stir up different feeling in children. As the parent be sure you take time to share your thoughts about the movie and what you learned. If you are looking for some ideas try the book The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde. The book includes discussion guides on many of the latest Pixar movies.
Whatever movie you choose, family movie nights are a wonderful tradition that your kids will remember long into adulthood. You’re not only spending fun, quality time with them, but also creating a bonding and learning experience for everyone. Now dim those lights and let the show begin!