Whether family movie night is a weekly ritual in your family or an occasional treat, you can take it to the next level by adding activities that are both fun and educational. Here are some family-friendly movies with ideas for activities, snacks, crafts, outings, and books to continue the fun.
Watch this: Wonder
Synopsis: Auggie Pullman was born with facial differences that have kept him from attending school, until now. He has made the big decision to start fifth grade at a new school. He quickly shows everyone that what you look like is not as important as what is inside and ends up winning over many at the school. Auggie is a boy with a lot of heart and will have everyone in the family rooting for him as he faces bullying and making friends for the first time. This movie is heartwarming and is a great gateway for difficult conversations about bullying and accepting others who appear to be different from us. (Rated PG)
Do this: Talk to your kids about bullying. What qualifies as bully behavior? How do you handle it? How can you help a person who is a victim of bullying?
Snack on this: Since Auggie is headed to school for the first time, why not pack your kids a sack lunch? This could include a traditional sandwich and sides or you could fill lunch sacks with movie popcorn and candy. Serve cartons of milk or juice to wash it down. Another fun idea, choose a favorite hot lunch and serve it at home.
Create this: Make encouraging cards to send to friends who could use a boost and mail or hand-deliver your cards.
Go there: Declare a “Random Acts of Kindness Day” and spread cheer and good vibes in your community. Some ideas include - paying for the person behind you in the drive-through line, doing yard work for a neighbor, dropping a card or gift off for a friend who could use some cheer, or passing out gift cards to community workers.
Read this: The movie is based on the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. This is a great book to read before (or after) watching the movie. For additional reading about bullying try Real Friends by Shannon Hale or I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet.
Watch this: Cars
Famous racecar, Lightning McQueen, gets lost on his way to the big race and ends up in the small town of Radiator Springs. His first instinct is to get out of town as soon as possible but the longer he stays, the less he wants to leave. This movie has a great message about friendship and slowing down and appreciating what is important in life. (Rated G)
Do this: Set up your very own carwash. This can be a water table with dish soap and sponges for the kids to wash their matchbox cars, a drive-through car wash for bikes and trikes on the driveway, or get the kids involved and wash the family vehicles.
Snack on this: Your race car drivers will want to enjoy some Cars themed snacks. Make stoplights using graham crackers. Spread frosting on the cracker and add a red, yellow, and green chocolate-covered candy to make a traffic light. Other ideas could include “tires” (chocolate donuts) “tractor wheels” (Oreo cookies), or “Mack” and cheese.
Go there: Take the family go-kart racing, attend a local “touch-a-truck event”, or go to a classic car show.
Create this: Create your own race car using a toilet paper tube. Cover the tube in construction paper then add construction paper wheels, stickers, or decorate any way you would like.
Read this: Fans of Cars will enjoy reading If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen or My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis. There are also several Cars themed books available for more stories.
Watch this: Charlotte’s Web
After learning her friend, Wilbur the pig's, days are numbered, Charlotte the spider comes up with a plan to save him. This movie is based on the 1952 book Charlotte’s Web by EB White and is a tale of unlikely friends and is a classic adults and kids will both enjoy. (Rated G)
Do this: What words would you use to describe yourself? What about your other family members? Use a paper plate and attach eight legs (use construction paper) to create a spider. Write your name on the “body” of the spider (paper plate) and write one descriptive word on each spider leg.
Snack on this: For a Charlotte’s Web-themed snack serve “farm fresh” foods such as watermelon, corn on the cob, or apple pie.
Create this: Make a spider web craft - Cut the center out of a paper plate. Use a hole punch to cut holes around the remaining edge of the plate. Cut a piece of yarn and tie a knot at the end. Have the kids weave the yarn through random holes on the plate to make a spider web. To make it easier to weave, wrap a small piece of tape on the tip of the yarn.
Go there: Take a trip to a local petting zoo or farm where you can see real animals. Maybe you will even find a spider hiding somewhere.
Read this: A read-aloud of the classic book Charlotte’s Web by EB White is a must before watching the movie. If you would like to try some spider-themed picture books check out Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham and I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton.
Watch this: Madagascar
Alex the lion is the most popular animal attraction at the New York City’s Central Park Zoo. Alex and his friends, Claudia, Melman, and Marty, end up on the remote island of Madagascar where they are no longer served daily meals. Alex’s carnivore instincts make his friends, a giraffe, a hippo, and a zebra, seem appetizing. He must learn to manage his instincts while confronted with an island full of eccentric lemurs. This movie is silly and fun for kids while still being humorous for adults as well. (Rated PG)
Do this: Have a dance party. The characters in the movie love to dance so why turn on some music and “Move it! Move it” in the living room!
Snack on this: Since the four friends land on a tropical island try serving fresh fruits such as pineapple, bananas, and oranges. You could also purchase pre-packaged Melman inspired zebra cakes.
Create this: Draw a circle on a yellow piece of construction paper. Add a lion face to the circle. Use a plastic fork dipped in orange paint to create a lion’s mane around the circle.
Go there: After watching the movie, head to zoo to see some real life hippos, zebras, lions, and giraffes.
Read this: Julius: Fun Facts About Lions for Kids by James Randall Miller is a book full of fun facts for kids interested in learning more about lions. For kids who are intrigued by zebras check out How the Zebra Got Its Stripes by Ron Fontes.
Watch this: Wall-E
Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Earth-class) is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying the planet one piece of garbage at a time. But after 700 years he is very lonely. When a probe named EVE arrives he falls in love and follows her across the galaxy. This movie is heartwarming and has a good message about taking care of our planet. (Rated G)
Do this: Walk the neighborhood and clean up trash that you find in common areas. Discuss what items can be recycled and why it is important. Consider planting a tree, plant, flowers, or taking care of a garden in your yard.
Snack on this: For a healthy snack try foods that come from the Earth. Choose fruits and veggies that your kids love and are more likely to enjoy.
Create this: Make your own robot. Gather empty cereal boxes, paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and any other found items to design and build your own robot. What jobs would your robot do?
Go there: Visit the local arboretum or garden and spend some time in nature. For a fun activity, go on a scavenger hunt. Many scavenger hunt ideas are available online.
Read this: For books for young kids try What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet by Jess French or The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story About Recycling by Alison Inches. Try In a Nutshell by Joseph Anthony for a book about the importance of plants for our environment.
Watch this: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
When hard times hit the town of Swallow Falls, its townspeople are stuck eating sardines for every meal. Local inventor, Flint Lockwood, develops a machine that can turn water into food and becomes the local hero when tasty meals start raining from the sky. But things get out of control and Flint and his friends have to save the town before it’s too late. This movie is funny and a joy to watch. It will make you hungry while imagining what food you would like to see fall from the sky. (Rated PG)
Do this: Have the kids draw a picture of their own crazy weather report. What food will fall from the sky next? Take turns pretending to be the newscaster and giving their crazy weather report.
Snack on this: Make a batch of spaghetti and meatballs to enjoy before the movie. While you eat, discuss what food you would like best if it fell from the sky and what food you would least like to see.
Create this: Playdough thunderstorm - For this activity you will need gray, blue, and white playdough and yellow pipe cleaners. Use the gray playdough to make rain clouds, the blue to make rain drops, and the white to make hail. You can use the yellow pipe cleaners to add lightning bolts. Let your child get creative and make their own thunderstorm.
Go there: In the movie it snows ice cream. Take the family out for ice cream and imagine what it would be like if it snowed ice cream. What is your favorite flavor?
Read this: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and the sequel Pickles Over Pittsburgh are obvious choices before or after enjoying the movie which is inspired by these books. For kid-friendly books about weather check out A Year in the Wind by Hanna Konola or Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemie
Watch this: Mary Poppins
Jane and Michael, children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family are assigned a new nanny. They are thrilled to see she is full of magical surprises. The movie follows their adventures with their nanny, Mary Poppins. The kids try to pass on some of the things they learn to their distracted parents. (1964 Rated G and 2018 Rated PG)
Do this: Chalk the walk. Use sidewalk chalk to create Mary Poppins-inspired art.
Snack on this: Just a spoonful of sugar cake pops. To make this fun snack you will need a cake mix, buttercream frosting, candy melts, sugar, and plastic spoons. Bake the cake as directed. Once it is cooled, break it up and mix in the buttercream frosting. Roll the mixture into small balls and freeze for 20 minutes. Melt candy coating according to package directions and carefully dip cake pops. Before the coating is dry, roll it in sugar. Place a dollop of candy coating on the plastic spoon and set cake pop on top. Place in the freezer until they are set.
Create this: Umbrella craft. You will need a round coffee filter, washable markers, and construction paper. Lay the coffee filter flat and have your child color with markers. Use a spray bottle set to mist to wet down the coffee filter and allow it to dry. Once dry, fold in half and attach a piece of construction paper in the shape of a handle. Hang in the window so the sun can shine through.
Go there: Go fly a kite. If weather allows, get outside and fly a kite. If the weather isn’t quite right, create and decorate your own kite inside.
Read this: Mary Poppins the movie is based on a series of eight books by PL Travers. The first book in the series is titled Mary Poppins.
All of these movies are rated G or PG but please use discretion and choose movies that you feel are appropriate for your family.
Sarah Lyon is a part-time freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to six children, including two-year-old triplets.
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