Movies For Children - Explore Recall and Interpretation While Having Fun
Reading to your children or having them read to you helps them develop cognitive skills. Having discussions about the material, talking about the characters and recalling episodes are all practices which enhance comprehension. Going to the movies can also be a resource for developing those same skills.
Movies for children are geared toward a certain age group. Many times, parents take their younger children (ages 3 to 5) without determining whether the material will depict their level of awareness. Older children (ages 6 to 10) will, generally, grasp the intention. But it is up to the adult to ensure there is an adequate level of understanding; even if the perception is different.
Most Disney productions translate into some type of moral. Pertinent values reflected in the storyline can be used to reinforce learning strategies and peer coping capabilities.
However, without comprehension, an entertaining experience can turn into an expensive and distracted learning opportunity. The movie industry continues to increase the ante of ticket sales by introducing state-of-the-art enhancements for a realistic offering. Even with the realism in fantasy, without prior preparation, young children often become restless with the overall package. The attempt to at being productive then turns into boring confinement. With a little guidance from the adult, the child will learn how to become engaged and have fun.
"Can we go to the movies?"
When there's a new animated movie release, children usually know about it first. The trailer is flashed during their favorite television show, an advertisement creeps across their iPad or a their friend brags about going to the show. Whatever the method of discovery, an interest is created and the request proposed to the adults.
For young children, the attraction is in the initial presentation or further prompted by obtainable merchandise. Although the characters may be newly born and without a dedicated following, the coloring, animation, child-like qualities and creative scenic design is a draw on the attention of a child. The allure is not necessarily relevant to the compelling plot of the story.
"Mom, can we go to the movies so I can see how the main character manages the plot with other characters to have a resulting conclusion?" (not a typical question)
Taking the time to preview the material with children adds to the enjoyment and family closeness of watching a movie.
The official websites for newly released movies contain information to give the viewer backstory to both characters and plot. Customized to the targeted audience, they have grown to be interactive playgrounds for all age groups. Visiting the official website prior to attending the movie, builds interest by connecting personally with the characters and their dilemmas.
Within the various menus on the website, adults have several options to aid in the enthusiasm and appreciation of the movie. Character descriptions build a personal connection to each character. Watching video clips sets up expectation. Association is developed through games and download content. This also makes for a great bonding opportunity. The entire family can participate by connecting a laptop to the television for a larger viewing advantage.
At the theater, point out the movie poster to the children just to reinforce what you are about to see. Taking a photo of your child standing by the movie poster can cement the memory for your scrapbook.
Once the movie starts, the children are in a captive state. Initially, they give full attention. Because this is not their very first encounter with the characters or the storyline, there is an ease of familiarity which keeps them focused.
However, children do have a short attention span; especially younger children. As most movies extend beyond the typical 30 minutes of a Nickelodeon program, they may become disinterested. When they do, reconnect them by relating back to what was learned from the website. It may be an expectation of what the character will do. A few short whispers should refresh them.
At the conclusion, you can cheer the favored character's victory (or console the defeated - depending on character type selected). On the way home, ask open ended questions about the movie.. This should not be a serious interrogation. The adults can make this exercise fun by answering the questions themselves with the wrong answers. See if the children pick up on the mistake. The results will determine if there is, at least, a minimal comprehension of the storyline.
An example of questions you could ask:
- I'm getting so old! Can you tell me what the story was about again? I can't remember.
- I thought it was nice for "name" to be friends with "name." Oh, they weren't friends? Which of the animals were friends?
- How would you handle that situation?
Now, one day your child may ask why you were so stupid when it came to the movies. But, that's okay.
This effort will exercise your child's memory and allow them to practice interpretation. Allow the child to re-tell the story or answer your questions from their perception. If their perception is totally wrong, you can say, "Oh, I thought it was..." But, if you child is adamant, accept their perception as truth. As their literacy is practiced and matures, their perceptions will become more aligned with the storyline. Be sure to keep the conversation light and playful.
Below, I share my experience with this exercise as I take my 5 year old grandson to see "Monster's University."
The Practical Application
Say "monster" to my 5 year old grandson and his eyes get big and wide. Not a fan of any type of monster, he showed some concern when learning I was planning to take him to see the new Disney Pixar movie, "Monster's University." Unfamiliar with "Monster's Inc." he was not aware of the animated feature.
In order to build interest, we went to the official website. The layout was the typical Disney interactive offering, although "The Story" menu was not working. Looking through the characters, I had to interpret the descriptions as the connotations were a few years beyond his kindergarten mentality.
With one year of elementary school experience in his pocket, I decided to relate the scene location of the college campus to that of his elementary school. The dean in the movie was equated with the principal at his school. He seemed to favor the main character, Mike Wazowski. I asked him what he liked about Mike.
"He goes to school and he is carrying books. He likes to read like me. But I really like to say his name, Mike Was-ow-ski." he giggled.
We then moved to the video clips which helped us piece together character relationships. Talking about segments of the movie was not only advantageous in building interest, but it allowed me translate some of the more complicated aspects into an understandable dialogue for a 5 year old.
The movie has a typical plot. The outcasts of a college team up together to overcome the condemnation of their peers. They must also change the mind of the dean who has greatly undervalued their motives. Or, in the words I told him,
"To scare people, Mike, the monster, must first attend school. Once he finishes school, he will be allowed to scare people. But he meets other students in school who don't like him and get him into trouble. We need to find out what happened to Mike and his friends at school. Let's see if he will be able to scare someone."
I, later, used this curiosity to keep him engaged. I picked out certain visual offerings in the video clips and pointed them out to him. It was his job to look for these things in the movie. The conversation was light and fun. He was excited and happy.
At the start of the movie, he was in full attention. But, around the 40 minute mark, his attention began to wane causing him to fidget in his seat. His 3D glasses were no longer of concern. I knew I needed to re-engage him.
Recalling key points from the website, I whispered to him to look for some of the things we saw in the clips. I also told him he needed to let me know if Mike was going to be successful in his scare. I told him I wasn't sure I understood what was going on. It would be a big help to me if we could talk about it on the way home. This was my effort to stimulate his mind while letting him know we would be discussing it in the car.
Refocused, he pushed back in his seat and looked at the rest of the movie a bit more intent than before. At the movie's climax, he did not move but stared unwaveringly at the commotion in front of him.
At the movie's conclusion, we "high five" his character's victory. On the way home, I became dumb and dumber as I asked him questions in a funny and comical manner.
He briefly corrected me on character names, relationships and some of the dilemmas. When he did question a situation, I referred it back to him asking what he thought. The back and forth banter was enjoyable. I was confident a level of comprehension, for him, had been achieved.
The following couple of days were marked with reflections from the experience as he compared his personal conquests to the likeness of those in the movie. He was trying to draw something and would not give up until he made it correctly.
He said, "I tried and tried like Mike did in the movie."
Kid's First Review Of "Monster's University"
What's the payoff?
"Why bother with all of this? It's just a movie and it should be relaxing, entertaining and not a lesson plan."
Here is my list:
- The opportunities for fun in learning are endless.
- Children are reading at an earlier age. My grandson is already reading books at the age of 5. The ability to comprehend energizes the development of cognitive skills they will use throughout their education..The sooner your start, the better.
- Any opportunity to bond with your children or grandchildren should not be overlooked. Tomorrow is not promised. Children need interactive experiences to help them be socially successful in life.
- With the progression of realistic cinema, the inflation of prices is not a temporary occurrence. Many movies are now being released in both regular and 3D screenings with the latter at an additional cost. I have no doubt we will soon enter the "scratch and sniff" phase of cinema. I want to get the most out of my money. The movie outing described above was $52. (2 children $20, 1 adult $11, optional popcorn $8, optional water $8, gas $5)
- Scrutinizing movies can be a developed talent (see video)
If movie going is routine, every movie doesn't have to be this involved. However, you may be surprised once you start, how much it will be expected.