Updated: Mar 29
In part five of my series on creating magic moments for your children, I share how movies can spark creativity and create a sense of belonging.
One of the first movies I remember watching is Ghostbusters. I saw it for the first time when I was ten years old. Later, as a teenager, I was mesmerised by Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The movies themselves are as memorable as the moments that surround them. Ghostbusters was part of a fun-filled trip to the city with my family. Back to the Future was made more joyful by a spirited cinema audience who loudly cracked random jokes. And I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? during one of those infrequent but cool school excursions. These movies will forever be part of my life story because they gave me a sense of belonging; I was able to share my growing love of pop culture with family, school friends, and even wise-cracking strangers! The effect of movies (and theatre) on a child's life is enormous – they have the power to inspire creativity, set a child on a path to a life-long career, instil a sense of belonging, and encourage whimsy.
Movies bring people together and inspire creativity
Movies are magical experiences because they tell fantastical stories that enthral, teach and inspire emotion. They give children a chance to experience the magic together with family, friends, or even their generation. Star Wars was a watershed moment for any child in the '70s. This excellent New York Times article explains why: Star Wars is one of those movies that became "part of the architecture of our private selves and a kind of currency we trade with our peers". There is something special shared by those who saw Star Wars for the first time as children; they treasure it as a magical memory and wear that memory together as a badge of honour. When Star Wars came out in 1977, I was four years old, but my parents didn't take me to see it. Since I love movies so much, I have always keenly felt that I missed out on a significant shared experience. Because of that, I will be taking my child to see movies on the off chance that one of them allows him to experience a watershed pop-culture moment that he can share with his generation.
Musicals have the same, if not more powerful, effect on children; a musical's theatrics and splendour can ignite a child's imagination and drive to create. In his wonderfully candid and entertaining memoir, I Was Better Last Night, American playwright Harvey Fierstein recalls that his mother regularly took him to musicals as a child. Harvey grew up to become a four-time Tony Award-winning writer and actor. (Amongst his many brilliant accomplishments and acting gigs, many know Harvey as Robin Williams' brother in the film Mrs Doubtfire, who uses his makeup skills to transform Robin into the eponymous granny nanny). Harvey acknowledges that his mother is responsible, at least in part, for setting him on a trajectory toward his creative career. When I read Harvey's story, I harked back to a great piece of advice from my son's godfather: expose your child to as much as possible because it gives them opportunities to learn what they like. Harvey's story shows that anything, even musicals, can trigger a child's life-long love that could turn into a career or hobby.
How to make the most of movies and theatre
When it comes to movies or theatre, I have come up with some tips to make the most of the experience with your children:
Choose age-appropriate experiences. Young children will love magic shows or live singing and dancing acts like the Wiggles. Cinemas often have sessions that cater to families – some even allow babies! Most live events for under five-year-old kids are pretty relaxed when it comes to seating, and they are interactive and fun. Older kids might also enjoy musicals – check their websites for a minimum age suggestion.
Encourage your children to relive the experience. After a movie, children might seek to recreate the joy of their experience by singing songs, drawing the characters, or even making up spin-offs! To encourage this, you can buy any toys tied to the movie, join in, or watch and enjoy!
Build anticipation and context. If the movie is related to a book, read it beforehand. While many adults don't mind being surprised, kids prefer to know what to expect and look for familiar characters and plot points.
Debrief the experience. A post-movie treat at a café or a park is a great way to connect with your child to discuss what you've just seen. It also enhances the magical feeling of having a special outing together!
Share the experience with other children. Invite other parents and their children to join you. The kids will be able to relive the experience through play.
Do it again if they want. If your child wants to see a movie repeatedly, then let them – surprisingly, it's good for their cognitive development.
Which movie does your child love? Let me know in the comments below.