Now that half term has arrived, it’s important to relax ...and I mean all of us. Parents too. Find time to put those feet up … and put those school books down. Spend time with your children and recharge your batteries.
Sometimes, in my house, we decide to watch a film "as a family". My husband Jonathan will often choose something thrilling, dangerous and possibly in black and white … completely unsuitable for the children. My daughter who is 13, might choose a rom-com, which is lovely, or a 15 (action/thriller): pushing the boundaries and so she should. My son who is 11, who usually ends the evening watching Match of The Day at around 10.30pm, but while the choices are being made, he waits to see what we all decide on while looking at the iPad or doing the Rubik’s cube.
At this time in their lives, children’s brains are like sponges and you can definitely help them to increase their knowledge by showering them with information that will go in with minimum effort and maximum absorption. So let’s waste no time: below I have prepared 7 gems of wisdom that will help your children learn about real life events in the movies, all from the comfort of your living room sofa.
Your children might ask for Star Wars, Mamma Mia and Johnny English - and you should definitely watch these because they are great films - but in my gems of wisdom, I present you with films that might have slipped through the net, but that are worth searching for on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The films are mostly PG: Parental Guidance. This is the rating for “general viewing”, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. The British Board of Film Classification states that a PG film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older. I have included two 12A films in the list because if you have an older child it might be a better option for your family. Films classified 12A contain material that is not generally suitable for children aged under 12: a younger child could see this in a cinema, but they could only do so if accompanied by an adult. The bottom line with this list: you have to call the shots depending on the age of your children and what you think is suitable.
NB ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS read the Parent’s guide on IMDB for information about sex and nudity, alcohol, drugs, frightening scenes, violence, gore etc. It’s all too easy to miss some shocking details because your cousin , brother or best friend who doesn’t have children recommended a film they thought was great. They didn't watch it through the eyes of a junior school child.
Now, plump up the cushions, settle down with some popcorn and get ready to escape into another world.
7 Fantastic Family Movies to Watch with your Children over half term
1. Cool Runnings PG
Loosely based on the true story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team who dream of competing in the Winter Olympics in 1988, despite never having seen snow. With the help of a disgraced former champion desperate to redeem himself, the Jamaicans set out to become worthy of Olympic selection, and go all out for glory.
2. Hidden Figures PG
Another film loosely based on real-life events. This is the story of three brilliant, female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space programme. They must brush off everyday office racism in order to prove themselves in one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Watch this for the storytelling, the positive message about education and the value of hard work, and the struggle against prejudice at a time when gender and racial inequality were far greater than they are today.
3. Chariots of Fire PG
The story of two athletes who represent Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games: one of them is a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and the other is an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. Both men are inspirational characters who do not compromise on their values, and have the courage and strength to follow through with their beliefs.
4. Will PG
An eleven year old boy runs away from school and journeys across Europe to the 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul. A moving and uplifting film that Liverpool fans particularly, will enjoy. Will’s story here may not be true, but the 2005 Champion’s League Final which is often referred to as the Miracle of Istanbul, is regarded as one of the greatest games in the history of the tournament.
5. Queen of Katwe PG
Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona and her family. Her world changes one day when she meets a missionary who teaches children how to play chess. Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player, winning local competitions and tournaments, and so opening the door to a bright future and a chance to escape from a life of poverty.
The story of King George VI, who sees an Australian speech therapist in his efforts to cope with a life-long stutter. The men become friends and after his brother abdicates, King George VI relies on his speech therapist to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast on Britain's declaration of war on Germany in 1939.
7. The Pursuit of Happyness 12A
This American biographical film is based on the life of a bright and talented but marginally employed salesman. Having invested his entire life savings in portable bone density scanners, Chris Gardner struggles to sell them fast enough to match the demands of his family, and finds himself and his five-year-old son evicted from their San Francisco apartment with nowhere to go. When Gardner lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm, he and his son endure many hardships, including living in shelters, in pursuit of his dream of a better life and future.
That’s all folks, as they say in the movies. Enjoy the half term with your little ones and please share this list with any friends and relatives looking for movie ideas.
Next week, bringing out the best in mobile devices with great apps that will help your child to learn. Essential reading for those of you concerned that while we need to embrace new technology, we should try to encourage quality screen time, by showing children ways they can use their devices wisely.
Until next time, dear readers, farewell.