Maybe your young learner is getting too old for Bubble Guppies and Sesame Street, but you still want to focus your child’s movie viewing on educational and enriching themes. Or maybe you’ve had to sit through your child’s all-time favorite movie one too many times and you’re ready for a change. Either way, the following movie suggestions are entertaining, eye-opening, and a great way to spend an evening.
Nothing beats a documentary for educational value. The tricky part is getting your child to watch one. But that’s not the case for the stunning Planet Earth (2007) series. After watching just one of the informative, visually stunning episodes from the BBC, the only trick will be deciding which one to watch next.
If your family hasn’t already watched March of the Penguins (2005), this is a great National Geographic film to check out. If you’ve already seen it and loved it, continue the icy adventures with Arctic Tale (2007), also by National Geographic.
Travel the world and beyond with an IMAX documentary on DVD, such as Deep Sea (2006), Blue Planet (1990), and Space Station (2010). Originally filmed for IMAX, these and other documentaries have been converted to DVD so you can enjoy the rich visuals and educational themes in your own home.
If your child loved the Disney/Pixar movie A Bug’s Life, don’t miss Microcosmos (1996), a real-life film documentary that happens to feature many of the creatures who star in the animated film. With extreme close-ups, time-lapse photography, and slow-motion dramatics, your child is sure to forget he’s learning.
Thanks to the elegant stories and beautiful cinematography of many foreign films, including The Way Home (2002), Children of Heaven (1999), and The Red Balloon (1956), you can introduce your child to foreign films a lot sooner than you might think. Subtitles may seem too daunting, but give these three movies a try. The stories are easy to follow and the sparing subtitles are a great way to build reading skills.
An Educational Movie Night
Many family films can become an educational experience when you create a movie night around a particular aspect of the movie. Pick a new family-friendly film, a classic, or your child’s favorite movie (again!) and brainstorm different approaches. For example:
A movie night for James and the Giant Peach (1996) might entail a brief lesson about agriculture: germination, pollination, or even a trip to a local farm. Have your child assist you in making a peach cobbler for dessert — young children can practice reading the recipe out loud, older kids can hone their motor skills by stirring, spreading, and crumbling.
Ratatouille (2007) can be an opportunity to explore French culture and cuisine. Have your child help you prepare a meal from The Art of French Cooking, pull out maps to locate France, learn a few French phrases together, or have a discussion about the education and experience you need to become a chef.
Finding Nemo (2012) offers a great opportunity to identify species of fish, birds, and mammals in the film. Use a map or the internet to identify the Eastern Australian Current and other landmarks to create an estimated travel path of Marlin and Dory. Best to skip serving fish for dinner, though. Save it for a night when you’re not routing for the survival of three adorable little fish.
No matter which movies you choose, remember that engaging your child in dialogue about the themes, characters, and events in any movie is a great start. You can help reinforce ideas you’re currently teaching your child, such as the difference between right and wrong.
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