unsolicited advice wednesday: movies

If you know me, you know I'm not a mom who shies away from a little screen time now and again, especially since I value things like, I don't know, showering and cooking actual food for dinner. Last summer we definitely exceeded the average 2 hours daily screen time while we were going through all that bone marrow transplant nonsense. You'll notice though, child psychologists, my kids survived and as far as I can tell their brains are just fine-ish.

We've since cut it down considerably and, miracle of miracles, some days the TV doesn't even come on (Hallelur-yuh!) but we've started a family movie night once a week as a fun evening activity, complete with popcorn and sofa-snuggling. The challenge with our young kids is finding a movie that's enjoyable for all of us. Like many things in life, Phil and I obviously have to sacrifice our personal tastes for the good of the children (Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson will have to wait) but there are some compromises we just. can't. make. Like, for example, an actual plot (gasp!) and some humor to keep us awake and engaged. Ocean likes exciting adventures with lots of action. Iris, for being such a tough cookie, is quite the delicate flower when it comes to movies and TV. She's extremely sensitive to anything dark or any type of adversity. Which is sort of a problem since every movie ever made has the whole protagonist/antagonist thing happening.

I've found three flicks that work for our family, and are particularly good for the sensitive set with a real lack of anything scary or threatening, which I wanted to pass on in case anyone else has run into the same conundrum.

1. Curious George. Will Ferrell is funny as The Man With the Yellow Hat, the plot is interesting and while Ivan, the doorman, is a little intimidating his few scenes are short and can be easily fast-forwarded without losing any of the plot.

2. Disney's Cars. And not just because Iris is obsessed with Lightning McQueen. It's funny and the story is sweet with good lessons built in. The only scary part is when McQueen and Mater are being chased through the corn fields by a combine harvester (did I mention Iris also loves trucks and tractors?) and, again, that part can be skipped right over.

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks. There's a tiny bit of potty humor which is less than desirable but nothing overtly nasty. And nothing frightening or dark. The plot is interesting enough to keep us all on board and the music is toe-tappin' good.

It goes without saying that you should preview these before showing them to your kids but they have worked well as our movie night staples.

And what about you? What family-friendly movies are you watching with your kids that I'm missing?


Becky said...

Have you tried "Finding Nemo"? The scariest part of that one is the chase by the headlight fish, but could be fast forwarded through pretty easily.

And "Despicable Me" is pretty good too. Not much in the way of a "bad guy" and Steve Carrell is pretty funny.

keri m said...

We loved Sound of Music and Mary Poppins when our kids were that age, as they also were very sensitive to intense moments in the plot. We've now progressed to the Incredibles, even though 'puffy fire' now makes an occasional appearance in their pretend play. The Little House series is always a classic, if your kids don't mind seeing you tear up at the end of EVERY EPISODE. Netflix also has some stage productions that are okay, Peter Pan, Oliver, some of the classic musical theater. Even though we don't own a TV, we're not above using 20 minutes of a video as a reward or family snuggle time.

Jeff Baj said...

Despicable Me was great! Leila does a spot-on impression of one of the little yellow characters in the movie when it says, "Whaaaat?". By the way, she doesn't even watch TV but she saw that part and none of us could stop laughing!

Meliss said...

I am a HUGE "Wall-E" and "Up" fan. And I have heard awesome things about "How to Train your Dragon".

Samwise said...

Our kidos love watching Fantasia. In my opinion, it has a lot going for it. It's a great way to expose kids to classical music, you can vary the time you watch since it's done in segments, and there are nice segments for the sensitive people in the room as well as more sinister sequences for those that need it.

Amy McKenna said...

My girls are afraid of something in nearly every movie. In fact, if it entertains Stephen and me, then it's sure to freak the kids out in some way. Makes movie night a challenge. I agree that Cars is basically the only Disney movie that doesn't have an evil/scary character in it. I recently let the girls watch the Kit movie (as in the American Girl Doll), and it was really great! The whole family enjoyed it, and nothing too freaky just some slightly heavy/sad stuff about the great depression and Kit's Dad leaving to look for work. I HIGHLY recommend the Shawn The Sheep series (from the creators of Wallace and Grommit). Really cute, funny, and great for adults too.

Cassie said...

Some good suggestions, guys. It's always a different experience to watch a movie through the eyes of my children. Something I thought would be totally benign often ends up terrifying or wildly inappropriate.

Becky and Jeff, I haven't seen Despicable Me yet but it sounds like that could be a contender. Same with How To Train Your Dragon... though the mere mention of a dragon could freak Iris out. One can never be certain.

And it's been ages since I've seen Fantasia, Sam. I'll have to check it out again.

Keri, I like the idea of older movies. I'm gonna have to check into that.

We adore Shaun the Sheep as well, Amy! SO funny... we'll do a few episodes on Netflix for movie night now and again. (I miss you, by the way... I blow kisses whenever I drive by your house.)

Thanks for lending your voices, guys. I'm so happy to hear from you all, especially those of you I haven't seen in way too long! xo

Jill said...

Hello Brabbs~ Google deleted my lengthy comment (maybe that's a good thing?) so here's the readers digest version....
Our family top 5 movie night choices (subject to change every Saturday evening :))
1. Swiss Family Robinson
2. Flipper. Seriously.
3. Veggietales
4. Night at the Museum (1 or 2). Don't ask me why these movies don't scare my 3 year old but Lion King does.....
5. How to Train your Dragon. While we like it because of the lesson and the lack of foul language, the dragons can be intense.

OH! and we love the Hanna Barbara series called The Greatest Adventure! It's about 3 kid archeologists who go back to biblical times and experience some of the greatest biblical stories (David, Esther, Samson, Noah, Daniel). They are awesome!

So my "shorter post" turned out to be lengthy too :) miss you guys!!!

Love, The Daugherty's :)

Bex said...

Aaaaaw! Family movie night sounds like so much fun!

We have swung from WAY too much tv - to the NO tv rule (except ONE show on the weekend). Then back to too much tv.

I think the psychologists recommend consistency with child rearing. Oops.

But I have to say that the NO tv times were a lot of fun.

Aviva said...

I second the suggestions for Finding Nemo!

I don't know if Ocean would like it, but my kindergartner LOVES Enchanted, which she first saw when she was 4. There's a little bit of scary, but my kid is willing to tolerate witches in princess movies. But 101 Dalmatians terrified her, and still does.

And fwiw, we also find that "too much" tv makes the munchkin a monster. I have health issues that started a few years ago, and early on, that meant that Ellie got to watch more TV than we'd have liked while we learned to adjust to the new normal. We had to go no TV for a couple weeks to break the behavior issues (tantrums, talking back, etc.) and then could re-introduce it. We try to keep it to small chunks (30 min), with occasional movie-length viewings as rewards. But we also make exceptions for sick kid or even sick parent days when changing the channel or DVD is all we can manage. And I don't think TV really kills brain cells -- but I'd have to believe that because my parents used to abandon me in a playpen in front of the TV for hours when I was a toddler, and I think my brain is still in fairly good shape -- but we just find that limiting it keeps our family life more pleasant. :-)