Every year at this time, I remind parents about the TV series Liberty's Kids. The animated show aired on PBS and is now available on DVD. Aimed at kids ages 7-12 years, the series introduces kids to American history through the eyes of two young apprentice reporters named Sarah and James, who experience first hand the conflicts and events that shaped their nation.
Through the series, kids learn about the American Revolution through the eyes of two exciting characters, and they get to experience the different perspectives of both sides. Kids can learn a lot about human nature and conflict resolution as well as historical fact about the war and surrounding events.
The series contains about 40 episodes, so there's plenty to keep kids' TV time busy until the 4th of July, and the show is entertaining enough that they will likely want to watch it over other less educational options they might have spent TV time on.
(Photo © DIC Entertainment)
When we went to see Maleficent, we had about 15 minutes before the movie started. We decided that we would each come up with an idea for the back story of Maleficent and see who came closest to guessing the real movie plot. The idea of a villain with a sympathetic back story is familiar to my girls, as they are all big fans of the musical Wicked.
We had a lot of fun coming up with our own ideas, and the girls didn't even realize I was using the movie to teach them and get them thinking about story lines, plots and other literary elements. I found it interesting that they all, even the six-year-old, came up with plausible story lines. My oldest thought Maleficent had been cursed. Our middle child thought Maleficent had been wronged by someone in the king's family line sometime back. My youngest though Maleficent was jealous of the king and queen for some reason. I guessed that Maleficent had been in love with the king sometime long ago. You'll have to see the movie, if you haven't already, to see which of us was closest...
When the movie was over, my two younger girls were, well, disappointed and disturbed. They didn't like the way a few of the plot points worked out. So, of course we made up our own more satisfying ending. In the end, I think they liked the movie overall. And as with The Wizard of Oz, we will never watch Sleeping Beauty the same way again.
In anticipation of the upcoming live action film Maleficent, starring Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie and directed by Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland), Disney has released a new packet of activity pages for kids!
The movie portrays the untold story of one of Disney's most feared villains, Maleficent, from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. Watch her story come to life in theaters on May 30.
My kids are so excited for this film. They have watched the trailers over and over. Because they love the musical Wicked, they are fascinated to see what Disney has come up with for Maleficent's back story. They've been getting their creative juices flowing trying to come up with their own scenario to see whose will be most like the movie.
(Photo © Disney)
While it doesn't happen all the time, there are those occasions when something in a TV show or movie provides the perfect springboard for a deeper conversation or an example we can use to teach kids something about real life. This happened in our family recently.
Without going into specifics, let's just say that our daughter had encounter with an adult who wasn't behaving like one. Our daughter related the experience and told us that she just looked at the ground and didn't know what to say. I tried to explain to her that she should look said adult in the eye and be respectful and honest but not intimidated.
Now, to a kid, an adult at school can be the epitome of intimidation, particularly when the child is put on the spot in front of other students. This situation was not at all serious, but to a kid, it's still embarrassing and awkward. How to explain to a child that it's still important to have a back bone, even if there is an adult involved?
Enter Ender...light bulb moment. In the movie Ender's Game, there is a scene in which Ender respectfully questions one of his superiors. Despite the adult's negative reaction, Ender respectfully stands his ground. After the adult leaves the room, there is a clear shift in the attitude of the other kids, who instantly begin to see Ender as a leader.
We watched the movie with our daughter within a day of our conversation, and when that scene played out, I paused the movie right there and pointed out Ender's actions, and we analyzed the results. Now this movie is not real life, nor is it even remotely close to our situation, but my daughter really got it. She realized what I meant by being respectful but not timid, and by showing confidence but not pride. This was an important lesson for me to get across, because I don't want my kids to be fearful of authority, respectful yes, but not fearful or intimidated.
Talking with kids about things that happen in movies and relating them to real life events is a great way to discuss and instill family values and make things relatable to kids. Parents can use TV and movies to benefit kids in many ways, especially when co-viewing. Don't be afraid to pause the program to discuss something with your kids. Because while doing it too often may result in more eye-rolling than learning, seizing the opportunity of a few really poignant moments here and there can have a big impact on kids and their thought processes and even how they see the world.
The LEGO Movie release date has been announced: you can look for it on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD 2-Disc Special Edition, and Digital HD on June 17th -- making it a great summer movie treat for kids which will hopefully inspire lots of building and creativity.
One year when we went to visit far away family, my daughters had loads of fun building crazy domino tracks with their cousins. This sparked the "Domino Club," in which they built fancy tracks at home and sent pictures back and forth to each other, trying to come up with the coolest tracks they could. They even videoed some of the tracks for each other as they fell so they could see how great they looked when they all toppled down along the carefully created routes.
I think it would be great fun and awesome use of summer time to do something similar with LEGOs. Inspired by the LEGO city and other themes and characters from the movie, kids could come up with their own LEGO worlds and share them with friends and family. Or, start a LEGO summer club and just have kids come and create together.
For an in depth activity that will stretch their creative minds in all different directions, challenge kids to build their own LEGO town and write their own script or story about what happens there, just like the kid on the movie. These activities can inspire the reluctant writer and get kids thinking about important literary concepts like plot, characters, and settings.
(Photo © CB )
As most parents know, fast food chains use toys, which often feature characters from favorite TV shows and movies, to market their kids' meals to kids and parents. In a commitment to kids' health, though, Disney has made marketing goals around kids' health issues, and they try generally not to market "unhealthy" food items to kids.
Now there are varying definitions of what is and is not healthy, but I commend the effort anyway. For some time now, Disney has partnered with Subway off and on, including Disney movie themed bags for the kids' meals. This week, we happened to stop by Subway since we were running around and had planned to have a picnic, but we didn't finish our errands in time to make the home made version.
My daughter got a kids' meal which came in what was actually a very nice Maleficent themed bag. She insists upon using the bag for her school lunch now, and it's holding up well. Now, it's not my intention to market for Subway here, and I know that processed lunch meats are not exactly health food, but I have to voice my opinion when I see companies actually trying. I appreciate a kids' meal that comes with a toy/bag that is actually useful and not something that will end up in the trash the next day. I know Subway has changed these bags for the better, because a while back we got Phineas and Ferb kids' meals and the bags were not nearly as reusable. I also appreciate the effort to market healthier foods to kids.
Have you ever taken a baby to a movie theater? I see people do this all the time. Every once in a while, said baby starts to wail in the middle of the film, and you know whether the parent promptly takes the baby out or not, the film has been disrupted at that point.
Now if the film is a children's film, I'm not going to get upset about it as long as the baby is taken out if he starts getting loud, particularly if the showing is early in the day. If a family wants to see a movie together and they can't find anyone to babysit, who am I to judge? Matinee showings of kids' films are often a little noisier anyway.
But my real question is about those babies who sweetly sleep the whole way through as the rest of the family enjoys the movie together. Yes, there are babies who do that, and it never ceases to amaze me. I avoid taking babies to the movies at all costs, because I just know how it would go down, and I get really stressed out about things like that. I don't want my kid disrupting anyone's movie experience.
Now you know why I'm writing this post, right? Yes, because a couple of weeks ago I broke my cardinal rule of avoiding taking the baby to the movies at all costs. I really needed to see Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and I wanted to take the older kids, and darn it, I didn't want to leave my husband home, and there were no other babysitters to be found. (Okay I have to be honest here and say there were no trusted babysitters to be found, which for me with a baby that small means...my mother-in-law couldn't do it).
We went to the earliest showing. My husband sat on the end close to the exit ready to run out of the theater with the little guy if necessary. My plan? Baby was going to fall asleep eating and stay that way. What happened was baffling. My noisy, has to be bouncing all the time baby sat there and watched half the movie, then ate and fell asleep that way.
Am I likely to do it again? Nope. I think we got lucky, and besides, who knows what watching 3D movies with no glasses on could do to a baby's eyes, but I digress. I'm glad we got to see the movie together as a family, and I'm not going to begrudge anyone else that experience if they choose to chance it as well. But even though he was very good during that movie, I was still stressed at the thought that he might let out a sudden wail, as babies often do, and so that was likely the extent of his movie going until he's old enough sit quietly and appreciate the experience. This means I will have to be better at planning ahead for babysitting, because there are some excellent family movies coming up later in 2014 that we'll want to see together.
How about you? Do you take your baby to the movie? and if so, does it stress you out? -- for me it's almost as bad as taking the baby on an airplane...
Limiting kids' exposure to media is about more than just making sure they don't watch too much TV or waste too much time playing video games. It's even about more than protecting kids from content that is disturbing, degrading or otherwise diminishing to the human soul. Just like other things in life that can be overdone or addictive, healthy media use requires self discipline. And with the unfathomable number of devices now available to all of us, keeping screen time in check is harder than ever.
In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is to teach them the hard skill of self-discipline. People with self discipline are not only able to avoid overdoing things or getting themselves into troublesome situations, but they are also more successful as they are able to make themselves work hard and manage time wisely.
Media is one tool that can help parents teach kids to discipline themselves and monitor their own behavior. Parents can teach these lessons by explaining to kids why keeping media use in check is so important, and then empowering kids by allowing them a say in setting the rules and guidelines your family follows when it comes to media time and what content is appropriate or not.
Help kids establish and stick to healthy TV habits. Also, when co-viewing with kids, find opportunities here and there to help kids process what they are watching and analyze how behavior or events apply or don't apply to the real world. Parents can even use commercials to effectively teach kids life skills that will help them in every aspect of their lives.
There are so many ways that we can use media for good, but as parents, we have to remember to be proactive. Kids are learning from all sorts of media every day whether we like it or not. The extent of their exposure and the messages they receive are up to us, but if we give kids a part in monitoring and regulating their own media behavior, we can empower them to be stronger, more productive individuals now and in the future.
For movie night the other night, we were trying to think of movies our kids have never seen. We racked our brains for childhood favorites the kids might enjoy, keeping in mind that movies we watched as kids sometimes aren't what we would let our kids watch today. For example, I loved Goonies; however, due to some of the content in that movie, I wouldn't let my younger kids watch it now. We've been surprised a couple of times when watching older movies and content we thought nothing of as kids shocks us a little when we watch with our own kids.
So, we thought of Never Ending Story, The Dark Crystal, Flight of the Navigator, and a couple of others. I know we saw tons of movies as kids, but only a few still stand out today, and many of those memorable flicks are common to both my husband and my lists.
We then tried to think of what movies from our kids' childhoods will stand out to them when they are older. We see so many movies, which ones will they tell their kids about?
Clearly several Disney and Pixar movies like Frozen, Tangled and Toy Story will continue to be favorites. What about non-animated films? There's the Harry Potter movies, of course, and other great films based on books. Many Super hero movies will likely maintain their super status. Beyond that, most of the movies my kids want to watch over and over are animated. Animated movies have come so far since we were kids.
What are some of your favorite childhood films, and what movies do you think your kids will be telling your grand kids about?
Green eggs and ham, anyone? This weekend (March 2) is Dr. Seuss' birthday. Celebrate by reading a few Seuss books and/or watching TV renditions of his fabulous tales.
Our favorite Seuss story is How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but since the holiday season has passed, we'll likely read a couple of his longer tales like Horton Hears a Who or The Lorax and some fun shorter ones as well. Many of these fun rhyming stories are available in cartoon version on DVD, and some have been turned into full length theatrical releases, Horton Hears a Who and The Lorax included.
Also, on Monday and throughout next week, PBS KIDS is celebrating Seuss' birthday with new episodes of the educational show for preschoolers The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. This educational series stars Seuss' famous Cat in the Hat, who takes his friends Nick and Sally on scientific adventures where they learn about animals, habitats and other types of natural science. Check local PBS listings for exact times. Or, you can also find episodes of The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About That on DVD and on demand.
While reading is the most obvious and educational way to celebrate Seuss' b-day, watching movie versions of his stories can be educational too. TV time coupled with reading and parent interaction can even help kids develop communication skills and early literacy skills. Extend the learning even further by having kids create their own wacky character and write a rhyming story like Dr. Seuss did.
(Photo © PBS KIDS)