How Family Films Can Make Summer Fun
Most parents don’t need the American Academy of Pediatrics to tell them that television and video screen time don't educate their infant children. Dr. Jill Stamm says in her bestselling BRIGHT FROM THE START that she’s asked about screen time more than any other topic. But many devoted parents do use digital screen time intelligently to get them through key moments, like taking a quick shower for parents of toddlers or watching films together through adolescence. Now that summer is here, we spoke to a couple of families about how they find a healthy balance.
When families travel on summer trips, smart use of a favorite film can help make a trip go smoothly. We spoke with Donna, mother of a two-year-old son, about how she used her recently purchased films on a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, a five-hour drive from their home in Brooklyn. She selected films with characters her son is familiar with -- Bob the Builder, Thomas & Friends, and Elmo from SESAME STREET -- focusing on films with music to play in the car on the laptop, and they brought a tamborine he could use to play along during the songs. Film Fresh was a good solution for Donna because she could buy the films, download them to her PC, then replay them whenever she needed (Note: Currently, offline play works only with films downloaded to PCs. We plan on providing offline play for Macs in the near future.)
Camille, mother of a one-year-old, told us her first-ever sentence as a toddler was “Hey Bert, Where’s Ernie?”, something she learned by watching PBS’s Sesame Street in the 1980s. Since Camille grew up to become a middle school drama and language arts teacher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she clearly turned out O.K. “I always knew I wanted to be an actress,” Camille told us, “but when I saw ANNIE, starring a girl my age with curly hair like mine, I had a role model.” Now, Camille shares ANNIE with her four-year-old niece, Isabella, and they re-enact scenes from the film (with Isabella casting her aunt as a “nice” Miss Hannigan). Camille offered some interesting insights about how a good library of musicals can help adolescent actors learn songs and dances that will help them in secondary school performances. “I used to show Gene Kelly dancing in the pouring rain to my students because he came from Pittsburgh,” she added.
Anne confirms the importance of a good film library for a budding film fan. Anne told us, “Mom initially started showing me classic films when I was small for two reasons: 1) She thought some TV programming was too adult for a small child, and 2) There were only so many times she could watch Sesame Street before going nuts. So she introduced me to the Marx Brothers, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, EASTER PARADE, and BRINGING UP BABY. As I grew up, we progressed to Hitchcock, film noir, and David Lean. We even began watching New Wave films in when I was in high school after I expressed an interest in BLOW UP. Classic movies are a part of the strong bond I share with my mother, and since I now work in preservation, it's safe to say I owe a lot to her.” Anne knows so much about film that we coax her into writing an article every once in awhile for our blog, so we’re also grateful to Anne’s mom!
In fact, most people working in film were ardent viewers as kids. Gerry, our Content Producer, remembers watching THE IRON GIANT and lots of other films as a kid, and he makes sure we don’t publish the animated Batman films that he didn’t like as a boy. It’s good to have film nerds on the payroll! As for me, I remember that my friends and I painted our fingernails dark brown all summer after watching CABARET together as tweens.
The NEW YORK TIMES parenting blog, MOTHERLODE, recently argued for watching more TV with children. KJ Dell’Antonia notes that “kicking back and watching together” can be an important part of “shar[ing] some of my sense of what’s fun, what’s entertaining, and what’s funny,” some of which comes from what she watches. But Donna from Brooklyn reminded us of one advantage of films over television -- repetition. Her son loves seeing the same film over and over again, giving him a sense of mastery and control from knowing what comes next.
Film Fresh aims to have a good selection of films for families to use intelligently, to share together as a bonding experience, to introduce older children to a world of stories and ideas. We’ve just published dozens of new episodes of Angelina Ballerina, Barney, Thomas & Friends, plus films with foxes, horses, kids who play music, and a famous basketball player. Summer vacation can be a great time for parents and kids to make a list of films to watch together. Let us know how your family uses films!