There can sometimes be a stigma on the entertainment industry as it relates to movies and our children.
It's often vocalized as: books good; movies bad. (Despite the fact that so many movies are actually based on books.) But when your child is a reluctant reader (like mine), movies matter because many of the same things kids learn from books can be learned through the movies.
Some say movies stunt a child's imagination, but I'd argue that movies are a leaping point for kids to imagine a more expansive storyline beyond what they just saw. How often have you taken your kids to the latest animated feature, only to see and hear them the next day acting out their own adventures based on the characters and settings they identified with on the movie screen? The movie has provided them with a framework, and their imagination takes it from there.
Movies can also be visual reminders of moral guideposts. Most of us don't preview every movie our children watch, so the benefit of going to the movies as a family is that as soon as the credits are done, you have the opportunity to discuss scenes in the movie together. While it's still fresh in the minds of young ones, you can address topics such as selfishness, lying, defiance, name-calling and violence, among other things. You can ask your children how the characters could have chosen different moral paths, and how that could have affected the outcome of the movie -- getting them to think about the consequences of actions. I think it's equally important to highlight the qualities that make the characters good role models, like honesty, loyalty and compassion.
As we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with our daughter, it occurred to me that movies also matter because they provide context to things kids may have never experienced. With the incredible filmmaking of the 21st century, our children get to see and feel like they’re a part of landscapes they otherwise may not encounter.
A trip to the movie theater can be a visit to 18th century Pennsylvania, the Highlands of Scotland, the battlefields of China, or the rolling hills of New Zealand. Later when they read about those places and historical and/or current events, kids can visualize them.
So while we as a family go to the movies for entertainment, I know the experience is so much more than just watching a movie on a big screen. It allows my daughter to imagine beyond the screen, takes her to places she's never been to, and gives me a platform to ask and answer questions about morals and values. That's a pretty good bang for my buck in a movie ticket, if you ask me!
Tammy has been blogging since 2008 about home, family, recipes, travel, and more. To read more by Tammy, visit ThreeDifferentDirections.com or follow her on Twitter @ThreeDifferent.