5 tips for a better family movie night

By: Audrey Smith

Research shows that family movie nights can benefit your child’s emotional, social and cognitive development. These tips can make family movie night more meaningful.

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Family Movie Night

While some parts of family movie night have changed over the years, one part remains the same: It’s good for your family. Research shows that watching movies with your kids can have a positive impact on their emotional, social and cognitive development—especially when they’re regularly encouraged to discuss what’s happening onscreen.

Whether it’s already a thing for your family or you’re looking to start a new family movie night tradition, consider these tips from parents and experts the next time you stream away a Friday night with the kids.

1. Make it routine, not random. One of the most important ways to ensure the success of family movie night is to put it on the family calendar, even if it’s only a monthly event. “No matter what we have going on in our lives during the busy week, we always gather on Friday nights for this family tradition,” says Jennifer Gonzales, a New Orleans-based educator, writer and mother of five. “I hope my kids always know that it can be a stress reliever, a reward or the comfort they seek from the week’s challenges.”

2. Prepare the space. For Dr. Karen Fancher, a Duquesne University professor and mother of two, preparing for movie night also means giving family members a chance to make up their own comfy spot with favorite blankets, chairs or stuffed animals for watching the movie. “Everyone sits in ‘their’ spot during the movie, and we have giant bean bag chairs that the kids reserve specifically for movie watching,” says Fancher. “Even the dog sits in her spot!”

3. Take turns picking the show. It can be tough to find a family movie night selection that works for everyone, especially if your kids range in ages or interests. (You can always add new streaming services for more options.) One way to address this is to watch a few trailers and let each family member vote for their choice, a strategy that Gonzales uses to make sure everyone has a say in what they’re watching. “The movie choices don’t always have to be the latest or newest blockbuster either,” she adds. “Pulling from the nostalgic vault of Mommy and Daddy’s childhoods has proven to be effective for the parents, too.”

4. Pick a movie that links to something they’re excited about. Incorporating a theme into your movie night—based on an upcoming holiday, a common interest or a subject the kids are studying in school—can make your family movie night even more memorable. In addition to your film selection, consider whether the theme might pair well with costumes, a special snack or an off-screen family field trip to a relevant museum or event.

5. Switch up when and how you ask your kids questions about the movie. Ask open-ended questions during and after the show. Meagan Rose Wilson, a parenting coach, Waldorf educator and mother of four, asks her kids about the themes, patterns and flaws they saw during the movie as a way to promote critical thinking. And she doesn’t ask all at once. “You don’t have to talk right after the movie—try the next day over lunch or around the dinner table,” she says. “Not all conversations have to be about the lessons or ethics in a story. Maybe one night you discuss historical costumes, and another you spend time talking about makeup artistry or special effects.”

Implementing a family movie night tradition in your own home can be a great way to bond and expose kids to stories that are different from their own life experiences. For Fancher, whose children are now 17 and 19, reminiscing about movie night continues to be a way her family connects with one another. “My heart always swells with pride when my kids unexpectedly quote a movie and we all get a good laugh out of it,” she says. “In those moments, I know that I’ve done a little bit of something right.”

Pause their phones on movie night with Smart Family.

About the author:

Audrey Smith is a multimedia journalist, public media producer and former high school English teacher whose writing focuses on tech, AI and digital literacy for kids.


The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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