A question that a lot of parents identify with – how do you choose your child’s first film? And once you have dealt with it and your child’s appetite and curiosity have both been whetted, you will find yourself scratching your head about what films to choose during vacations and holidays.
Gone are the days when every household gathered around the TV and consumed family friendly content. With screens now in every hand, and even little hands, it is a serious challenge to monitor the content that children may be consuming. Often away from your supervision.
Not only is it important to regulate screen time – whether it is the big one or one the smart phone and tabs, as a parent it is imperative that you apply certain filters before selecting a film for your child. Just because a film has child actors, or is an animation, does it mean it is right for your child?
Here are a few tips on how to select a film for your child.
While we are naturally inclined towards Hollywood productions, for their slick production and wide range of stories, vernacular films often are a treasure trove for children growing up in our country. An Indian child may not always be familiar with snowfall and blueberries, but can relate easily to the monsoons and mangoes. Films such as Kaaka Muttai, Stanley Ka Dabba, Dhanak, Saivam, Blue Umbrella, Makdee, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne are bound to appeal to children who are old enough to understand the virtues of empathy, consideration and enjoy adventure and friendships. Our favourite however would be a Doordarshan classic available on Youtube: Malgudi Days. It is unadulterated fun when binge watched with your children and a great way to bond as a family too.
They both go hand in Hand. Think of how your child would respond to the idea of the protagonists kissing – which they do in almost all Hollywood films. Think of when you wish to introduce the idea of romance, intrigue, physical intimacy, heartbreak and adolescent crushes to your child. A great way to test this filter is to review an all-time classic The Sound of Music before introducing it to your child. There is intrigue, some dark emotions, some romance and plenty of drama. But it also has a great sound track that should help your child start exercising those tender vocal chords right away!
A film, overall, may have a fantastic, uplifting feel to it. But also look for the subtext. Finding Nemo, for instance, has a lot to say about courage and love, even though it also deals with death of a parent. The Jungle Book may be a great film for older children, but some toddlers react aversely to the idea of a little baby getting separated from his family. Be alert, sensitive and aware of your child’s emotional landscape before unspooling a complex narrative before him/her.
True, a film must entertain. But when you put your child before a screen for close to two hours, you must also think of the big takeaway. Do not let your child be a passive consumer. Think of what you can discuss with your child afterwards. About the characters. The heroics. The lessons about facing situations, forging friendships. End of the day, you must remember not to leave your child on his/her own before the TV screen or laptop during the length of the film. Make sure your child understands that the screen is not a friend. But just another kind of toy that is meant to be engaged with only with an adult around. Do not ever switch on the TV and walk out. It is akin to putting the child on an addictive substance and creating the impression that this ‘me time.’
Even Disney has changed his Princesses and created characters who are not passive receivers of compassion and wait to be rescued. Think of the traits you want your child to pick up. While fantasies are great, a shot of reality may also be handy. Choose films that celebrate courage, honesty, empathy and compassion over mindless swashbuckling and endless twirling of fancy gowns.
At KLAY we had compiled a list of Holiday Films for your child. Take your pick, or make your own list! Dim the lights, grab the popcorn and enjoy. As a family.