Everything in the world of parenting is a challenge, even family movie night. With two adults, and kids that are six and two, it is safe to say that our tastes—and attention spans—vary. Movies are a big part of our lives. They are part of date nights, lazy nights, sleepovers, and family nights, so needless to say, we needed some solutions that work for all of us.
The first thing I want to stress is that you need to keep in mind what sort of attention span your children have, and even what kind of day it was. If you have children under four, the likelihood that they will sit through two hours of anything is slim to none. My suggestion here is to loosen the reins on what “movie night” looks like.
Maybe pick a TV show you can enjoy as a family instead. Shorter episodes are for those days when everyone is a little too excited, and you can always watch more than one if you’re streaming and everything is going smoothly! I grew up doing this with my mom and brother watching Survivor. It doesn’t always have to be cartoons. We are actually watching The Masked Singer as a family now. Who knew they’d love it?
My daughter is too young to really care about movies yet. Unless there are bright colours or music, she doesn’t pay attention. But my six-year-old, he claims to want to watch them regularly. This is rarely successful, as children his age get distracted so easily. The solution that seems to make the most sense is to just pick a family-movie that the kids love and deal with it.
The thought here is if it is something they specifically ask for, or a franchise they’re fans of, then they will actually sit through the movie without a thousand questions or complaints. We did this with Paw Patrol: The Movie. I thought I was giving in and just doing what my children wanted, but it actually worked out in our favour. The movie was a lot of fun.
This isn’t always the case, unfortunately, and we aren’t always that lucky. Sometimes the movies they choose are just brutal for us as parents to sit through, or even worse, the kids are STILL distracted and bored halfway through. You spend the next hour threatening to turn off the movie if they don’t sit still or stop talking. Then you end up with unhappy parents AND unhappy kids, and this doesn’t make for the best movie night as a family.
We have sat through our fair share of animated movies, or Family Channel made-for-TV movies. As our children get older, they have started to show interest in things more grown-up. This is both a blessing and a curse. A win for us because we can throw more movies that adults can actually enjoy into the mix, but a loss because, though they THINK they want those movies, in our experience, they get really, really bored during them.
Nowadays, with the world of streaming, the choices are endless. Between Netflix and Disney+ our children have anything they can think of at their fingertips. This is how we ended up with our first Marvel movie as a family, X-Men.
My son was still a little young, but I figured, why not? It turns out because he will spend the next hour asking “why isn’t he in his costume?” and being utterly disappointed with any scene that wasn’t non-stop action. He was too young to realize that superheroes aren’t always in their tights and fighting battles.
Now, with Spider-Man: No Way Home commercials everywhere, we are in for it again. How can you say no to Spider-Man? We will have to hunker down and do some crash courses in Peter Parker, though there looks to be enough heroes, villains, and action in that movie to keep the kiddos entertained. But that means the theatre—I think that’s a whole other column.
At their ages now, things are going a little smoother, but getting them to sit still is the real struggle. We have come up with a few solutions. The first thing I’d recommend is limiting all extra distractions for both kids and adults. Put away the phones and tablets, turn off your ringers and make sure everyone is snuggled up in their jammies. If you aren’t comfortable and focused on the media in front of you, why would they be?
The last, possibly most important—and fun—thing we do is a snack smorgasbord. This is especially important for sleepovers. When my niece and nephew come to stay over, we go through every cupboard to find every delicious thing we have on hand. Dips, chips, candy, and chocolate, and even those mini cans of Orange Crush. We break out plastic containers that have dividers, and we help ourselves, buffet style. The kids are so excited about movie night because we make it something extra special.
I do have some bad news though. There is nothing—and I mean nothing—that will stop them from talking through the entire movie. There will be questions, running commentary, narration and so, so many bathroom breaks. Keeping them chewing doesn’t help, threatening to shut the movie off doesn’t help, and no one cares about winning the quiet game anymore. That is just one part of a family movie night we will all have to endure.
Consider their attention span, no distractions, all the snacks, and if at all possible, a compromise in movie choice that will suit everyone’s needs, young and old. Seems so simple, right? On your next family movie night, remember that they won’t want to snuggle up on the couch with you forever, so take the moments you can get as they come. Even if that means movie night comes with a thousand interruptions, I guarantee they will be some of the fondest memories your children have, and no one will remember what movie you even watched.