Gems of Wisdom - The Archive

Inspiring Movies to Watch With Your Children over Half Term


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.



6. The King's speech 12A

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.


Games that take the pressure off, but keep the brain on - Part II

Hello once again and welcome back to the Jumping Yak's  ‘7 gems of wisdom’

Last week I shared with you some of my favourite 'games that take the pressure off but keep the brain on'. This week, encouraged by a group of mothers whose children are taking the 11+, and my own children who said that the list was too short, I bring you yet more fun to be had at home.

In my life as a television presenter, I never made it as host of a gameshow. But if I had done, I think I would have loved it. Remember Ben Shephard, my friend from Maths 4 Real? He now presents Ninja Warrior - a crazy show that you should watch if you haven't already, and if you're old enough, you'll remember The Krypton Factor: contestants from across country competed in a series of rounds that tested their physical stamina and mental attributes. 

One school in west London is considering changing its entrance tests at 11+ to include a series of games and puzzles based on the television quiz show The Crystal Maze in an attempt to avoid the ‘arms race’ in tutoring. My message here: it's easy to keep the mind ticking over in ways that don't always involve traditional schoolwork.

Scrabble and Monopoly may still be top of the pops when it comes to board games, but both require time and time is something many of us are short of. Just for a moment, consider the negative effects of excessive gaming, social media and all things related to illuminated screens. Now is the time to interact with your children. When they have time for a break from revision or homework, the games below are just what the doctor ordered: a quick diversion from everyday activities and a fix of fun.


The 7 Gems of wisdom


1. Magnetic Dartboard - bet you didn’t see this one coming! Obviously this is not a serious option for someone who wants to learn darts and turn professional, but a lot of fun when stuck indoors and feeling in need of something livelier than a game of chess. There is no danger of injury from sharp spikes flying hither and thither and if you are so inclined, you can make it mathsy by adapting the rules of traditional darts and counting down from 501 and finishing on a double. 


2. Jacks - Did you play this as a child? Ten small ‘jacks’, a ball and a nice flat surface. Each player bounces the ball, picks up a number of jacks, and then catches the ball before it bounces for a second time. Typical rules include picking up one, then two, then three and so on ...depending on the total number of jacks included. The game can be taken to another level with certain phrases such as, "horse before carriage", which for some reason brought us out in incredible mirth when we played this over the summer. Google the rules and get ready to sharpen up your hand-eye co-ordination.

3. Elastics - Hone your precision jumping skills and concentration with ‘elastics’ - sometimes known as French skipping, which is not actually French. It was invented in China in the 7th century. Three or more players (or two dining chairs and one player) use a long circle of elastic to compete a series of increasingly difficult jumps without making an error, often while chanting a song. FUN! The position of the elastic is raised as the jumper moves through the levels, from ankle to knee to waist height and higher. When I was at school, we had great respect for the girls who made it to thighs-ies and then on to waist height jumps. Seriously impressive! Where are those girls now I wonder?!

4. Rubik's Cube - Another favourite from school days which enhances your patience, memory and spatial reasoning. Invented in 1974 by a Hungarian architect, this is often given the accolade of the world’s best toy and it surely needs no explanation. Cubers talk about algorithms and make it sound oh-so-intellectual, but by learning a series of simple moves (those algorithms) you too can solve it. I can do it in under 2 minutes - nothing compared to the world record but not bad for a 45 year old mother of 2! For fun, search “3 year old solves Rubik’s cube in high chair”, and “fastest feet only solution," on Google. (Incidentally, one of my favourite films of all time, The Pursuit of Happyness (sic), features Will Smith solving a Rubik's cube during a taxi ride. If you find the algorithms are all a bit too much for you, watch this wonderfully uplifting, true life story.)

5. Time Shock! (Previously called Perfection) - A frantic game of race-against-the-clock madness: see how many shapes you can put into the right slots before the tray pops up! Feel that heart beat… and test your skills of working under pressure. These are probably the emotions you’ll need to channel if you find yourself acting the part of a bomb disposal expert in a James Bond film one day.

6. Wentworth Jigsaws - If it all gets to be a bit too much - a jigsaw is the perfect break for everyone. Attempt those 1000 piecers if you have time…  - but if you don’t, how about a small puzzle under 100 pieces. It will still be sharpening up your hand eye-co-ordination and spatial reasoning. I love the Wentworth traditional wooden jigsaws which come in mini boxes with ‘whimsy’ pieces often in the shape of butterflies, trees or animals. Perfect when you need a little break and someone wants the kitchen table back later.

7. 3D puzzles: IQ Puzzler Pro - 2D and 3D Brain Teaser - This puzzle is a winner for problem solving, logic and analytical thinking. Using combinations of coloured connected balls, you must try to recreate designs shown in the accompanying booklet, ranging from very easy to expert. Great practice for those spatial reasoning papers set in the 11+.


That's it for this week - but I couldn't resist leaving you a verbal reasoning challenge. Can you spot the hidden games in the following text? There are 7 and I've done the first one for you...

Take the risk and remove the games console from your child. It is true that, sometimes it can be quite an operation requiring all your skills of diplomacy to persuade your child to agree. But you should try. If you don’t have a clue don’t be put off. The 7 gems of wisdom could help you to regain the monopoly on the remote controls and gaming devices in your home. In less than a fortnite you might change the vibe in your house and it will be hard to guess who is more surprised about the fun that can be had from these old fashioned games - you or your child? Everyone’s a winner - Kerplunk! I mean ker-ching! (Did you see what I did there?!)

Next week, in the 7 gems of wisdom:

Half term is upon us - and by special request (thank you Liz), I will bring you a list of films to watch with your children…. keep the brain on with 7 biographical films that every child should see. 

Until then, farewell.