Category Archives: Arts

Best Movies for Families [from mostly] 2016

Guest Blog
with Movie Maniac Moe from The Calgary Public Library

It’s always easy to find great movies for the 14+ crowd, being that most flicks are aimed at this demographic.  On tap for 2016 were many returning franchises for the older kids (and kids at heart), like ‘Avengers: Civil War’, ‘Star Trek Beyond’, ‘Batman versus Superman’, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, and ‘Ghostbusters’.

It is a little harder, though, to find something that you can watch with the whole family. Something without nudity, violence, gore, profanity, images of alcohol, drugs, smoking, or frightening and intense scenes, yet still has something to offer up that appeals across a variety of ages… especially if you have managed to talk an older child into sitting with their parents and younger sibling and promised them “you’ll like it”.

Parents know how often a child will watch something they like — we’re talking dozens, maybe even hundreds of times. I know I am guilty of it myself… some of my fave films I have seen upwards of 40 times! Just like grown-up movies, not all children’s movies are created equal, and poorly made children’s movies can be mind-numbing for adults. But we like what we like and children do even more so.

So have a look at these ten suggestions. They will stand up to multiple viewings — visually stunning, creative, funny, and highly watchable… for the WHOLE family.

zootopia_xlgZootopia

The entire city of Zootopia is populated by animals living, thriving, and holding down regular day jobs. From tiny shrews to the largest elephant, everybody has a place in this society. For any human who has ever gone to a registry office, you will find the scene with the sloth particularly funny. Rated PG for some very mild rude humour.

 

 

 

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For the legions of Roald Dahl fans, the Big Friendly Giant is brought to screen in a manner befitting this beloved story. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the novel by the well loved author, you are in for a real treat. Rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor, but this should be good for 6 years old and up. Directed by master movie maker, Steven Spielberg.

 

 

fqNhnLkg-7U.movieposter_maxresFinding Dory

The sequel to the very popular Finding Nemo, this Pixar release features the return of the friendly-but-forgetful Blue Tang, Dory. This time the search is for her long-lost parents. Along the way everybody learns something new about the real meaning of family. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements. The young kids will love this one.

 

 

 

The Jungle Bookjungle_book

Everyone is likely familiar with little Mowgli, the boy-child raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves. This Rudyard Kipling story has been adapted to film many many times in the past seventy plus years. This version features only one live person, and the little boy is wonderful. The CGI (computer generated images) are so seamless, many times you are certain you are looking at real animals. Lots of A-list stars are doing the voices and parents can have extra fun trying to guess who’s who. Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril, but it should be suitable for six and up (with parental guidance). You will love the elephants!

Untitled-1If you can track down the live-action adaptation from 1994 (a little hard to find these days), that was the standard for my young girls

As I mentioned above, the story is of such enduringappeal that it is always being remade. So even though one was just released in 2016, a new version has just wound up production and is due for release in 2018. It stars everybody’s favorite Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, and will no doubt be a hit.

 

 

news-021516b-lgA Beautiful Planet

This film explores the Earth as seen from the International Space Station. Astronauts film what they see as they orbit the planet, and the images are stunning. In the night scenes you can actually see major cities around the world, plus different storms taking place on Earth. From Disney, this is only 45 minutes long, and can be viewed by 5 and up.

 

 

 

Kung Fu Panda 3Kung-Fu-Panda-3-Movie-Poster

In the third installment, Po continues his ‘legendary adventures of awesomeness’, and must fight super villain Kai. To fight him he must try to train his well-intentioned but clumsy fellow pandas. Rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humour.

 

 

 

Kukubo_and_the_two_strings_ver13_xxlgbo and the Two Strings

Kubo, a young boy in a fantastical alternative Japan, is kind, clever, and an amazing storyteller.  As with other flicks from this movie house,  this gorgeously animated offering from Laika Studios tends to be a little darker than the light-hearted, brightly-coloured movies from other creators, but with some parental guidance, this one is genuinely wonderful for 8+, or younger at personal discretion.

 

 

moana_ver5 Moana

Not content with infecting a large portion of the adult population with his catchy earworms in hit musical ‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel Miranda turns his skills to the younger generation in the delightful ‘Moana’. There’s at least three songs in this one that neither you nor your little ones will get out of your heads. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

song-of-the-sea-posterSong of the Sea

If the songs of the sea form Moana weren’t enough for your heart, and you missed this hit from a couple of years ago (2014), you’ll definitely want to check it out now. There are a lot of titles on this list from heavy-hitters Disney and Dreamworks, so we always like featuring some of the other studios. We can’t wait for the next from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon!

 

 

What Does It All Mean? (Nursery Rhymes, that is)

Sometimes an egg is just an egg. And sometimes it’s a cannon.

I am currently in love with this fantastic book about the meaning of nursery rhymes: Half for You and Half for Me by Katherine Govier.HalfForYou

As a children’s librarian, I love all things to do with children’s literature. Nursery rhymes hold a special place in my heart, though, from the many recitations by my mother at bedtime; the impromptu plays my siblings and I would concoct based on the rhymes found in our dog-eared and much loved Real Mother Goose anthology; and the hours now spent repeatedly singing these rhymes with my two-year-old son.

So when I came across this book, I was immediately besotted. A nursery rhyme book that divulges its secrets and that is both beautifully illustrated and Canadian (Albertan!) to boot! Yes, please!

Back to the egg. We are all familiar with Humpty Dumpty. But did you know that while some think Humpty Dumpty is a riddle rhyme, with the answer being ‘Humpty is an egg’, others believe Humpty actually refers to a cannon on a castle wall used to protect the royalists during sieges?

Or that Rock-a-Bye Baby has sometimes been credited as the first poem produced in North America? (Apparently, one of the pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower saw Aboriginals suspending their babies in birch bark cradles in the trees to be rocked by the wind. Ingenious!)

But this next one blew my mind. Many people have often said that Ring Around the Rosie is actually a rather depressing rhyme about the plague. But Govier sets us straight, explaining that the rhyme is probably not old enough to be able to reference the Great Plague we thought it was describing. This rhyme doesn’t appear in history until the late nineteenth century – a full two centuries after the 17th century plague it supposedly describes. Rather than falling dead in the line ‘we all fall down’, it is believed the children are really just curtsying. Isn’t that a much nicer way of imagining this rhyme as we sing it with our children?

I love reading about the multitude of theories surrounding the origins of nursery rhymes. Is there one that you’ve always wondered about? Send us a message and we’ll see if we can find some answers for you!

Favourite Activities for Fall

Our practicum student, Miss Becky, shares her favourite activities, crafts, songs, and rhymes for you to enjoy with your little ones during the beautiful autumn weather that seems to be sticking around (knock on wood)!

Little boy in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch and/or Corn Maze

What better way to embrace fall than to go a Pumpkin Patch?! Picking the perfect pumpkin can be a great deal of fun! It sure beats scrimmaging through a bargain bin only to find the ‘perfect’ pumpkin is at the very bottom of the bin — or not there at all! The fresh air and many acres provide for lots of space and running around, to blow off some of your little one’s steam.

Here are some tips for visiting a Pumpkin Patch:

  • Dress in layers
  • Arrive early and plan to spend a couple of hours there
  • If allowed, bring along a picnic lunch to really enjoy the fall atmosphere

Follow this link that allows you to find a Pumpkin Patch near you:

Scavenger Hunt

This activity is free and gets both you and your child/ren outside for some fresh, fall air! Here is our example of a quick and easy scavenger hunt checklist.

fall scav hunt

Tips:

  • Laminating a checklist and using dry erase markers allows you to take this scavenger hunt to more than one place.
  • Finding multiples of the same item encourages counting and numerical skills. For example, 3 red leaves or 5 lawn decorations! Reinforce the valuation of the numbers!
  • Turning ‘Twig’ into ‘Twig that looks like the letter Y’  helps to develop alphabetical skills.

Leaf Prints

This is a cheap and easy craft to keep children entertained! Below is a link from Nurture Store with easy-to-follow ideas as well as picture resultss — lots of opportunity to get creative with using colors that aren’t associated with fall (pinks, purples, blues), and/or adding glitter, gems, buttons etc. to create texture!

http://nurturestore.co.uk/autumn-leaf-print-crafts

Books

Reading books associated with seasons and holidays is a great way to get children excited about upcoming or current events. Below is a link with some great recommendations, as well as what age they are directed to.

http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/fall-books-for-kids-autumn-stories

Rhymes/Songs

Some of our favourite fall songs include:

Five Little Pumpkins/Witches/Scarecrows

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

The first one said, “Oh my it’s getting late.”

The second one said, “There are leaves in the air.”

The third one said, “But we don’t care!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one said, “We are ready for some fun!”

Then OOOhh OOOhh went the wind

And out went the lights

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Autumn Leaves are Falling (to the tune of London Bridge)

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down

Autumn leaves are falling down, all around the town.

The wind will blow them round and round, round and round, round and round

The wind will blow them round and round all around the town.

They’re drifting gently to the ground, to the ground, to the ground

They’re drifting gently to the ground, all around the town.

Take a rake a rake them up, rake them up, rake them up,

Take a rake and rake them up all around the town.

Have You Ever Seen an Apple? (To the tune of The More We Get Together)

Have you ever seen an apple, an apple, an apple

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

A red one, a yellow one, a red one, a yellow one

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

Autumn Winds

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves fall down from ev’ry tree,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Red and yellow, gold and brown,

Softly leaves come tumbling down,

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves go spinning to the ground,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Big or little, all will fall,

As they heed the windy call,

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

A Squirrel Song

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns, gathering all the acorns,

Gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

And I’ll put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside, put them all inside,

Put them all inside my little home.

And I’ll eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until, eat the nuts until,

Eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

Then I’ll do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again, do it all again,

Do it all again come next fall.

Adding objects, finger puppets, movement, and/or instruments are enthusiastic ways to interactive ways for children to participate in these songs and rhymes

Leaf Play

autumn fallen maple leaves isolated on white background

This activity makes for a interactive afternoon for both you and your little ones, and is sure to tire you both out!  All you need for Leaf Play are leaves and an imagination — if you don’t have a yard full of leaves, adventure to the nearest public park or field, take a rake, and start piling! Jump in the leaves, throw them as far up as you can so that it’s ‘raining leaves’, bury one another, make tunnels, organize smallest to biggest piles, etc. This can go on for hours, so pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it!

Carving/Painting Pumpkins

Since visiting the Pumpkin Patch, your family has now picked the perfect pumpkin(s)! So, what better way to celebrate your victory than to carve or decorate them? From our experience, especially with younger children, it typically ends with the adults doing most of the work for carving; the kids usually want to play with the ooey gooey insides (and we have no problem with that)! A great way to get children involved in creating their own pumpkin design is to have them paint and/or decorate their own. Go to the dollar store, pick up some cheap acrylic paint of their choice, and some accessories: buttons, gems, sparkles, stickers, beads etc., and let them get creative. Whatever the result, they’ll be incredibly proud!

Decorate pumpkin for halloween night on wooden background

 

 

 

Creativity, your child, and you

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
– Pablo Picasso

I love this quote, even though it reminds me of the many people I meet who say that they are terrible at drawing– the many adults who say this, and even older kids. But, younger children never seem to think that way on their own. The question is “why not?”

If your child sees you confidently experimenting with art, they are more likely to do so themselves. This is what I feel is the biggest barrier to creativity: when we, as adults, say “I can’t”, our children hear this and think that they can’t either. As adults, we are the primary models for our childrens’ behaviour. If you do a creative activity with your child, you should both be exploring together. Let your child take the lead and explore while you do. Discover how to make new colours together. Take your time. I have to emphasize this last point, as I think in this current age, it is so very important to emphasize that by taking your time, you are giving your child the most valuable gift of all. Your art making and spending time together should not be about making something quickly as though it is part of a rigid schedule. Nor should it be about making a cookie cutter type of craft that always looks exactly the same. There needs to be room for spontaneity and discovery (as well as creative messes). There needs to be a time where we can turn off the phone and the screen and just focus on the few small details that are there. This attention to the present moment also allows us to have a shared moment. I would argue by sharing creative moments, we also build essential feelings of trust and confidence in our children. You are giving them the sense that they are worthy of attention, and that the discoveries they are making by themselves are important and worthwhile. It isn’t about just saying “Oh, that’s nice honey,” and returning to your last text message. It is about sharing a genuine, authentic moment with them on their level. And trust me, I am not saying that we can do this all the time as parents, but if we can dedicate some time to letting our children have free, unstructured play with creative materials, I think more magical things may happen and we’ll all remain artists well after we’ve “grown up”.

Meaningful Ways to Engage Your Child in Artistic Expression

Art is a part of how children establish their sense of identity. The authentic self does not need someone else to create a work of expression for them. Jocelyn, the Arts and Literacy Coordinator at Rhyme and Reason, shares some ways she facilitates self-expression through art at home, and in the classroom.

The importance of MESS

Any parent with a small child can testify to how hard it is to contain things… especially mess. We quickly learn what washes off, what doesn’t, and which shirts were maybe not-so-precious in the first place. Fewer parents though, will testify to the need to stop TRYING to contain things, especially in the arena of self-expression and discovery (likely some of the messiest arenas out there). The need to find the perfect clothes for painting in (which are usually the ones that are stained already). Or maybe providing the chance for your child to get naked and play around in paint before they have their bath… Going to the part of the kitchen with the linoleum and avoiding carpeted areas… Using the old shower curtain as a drop cloth…and… just simply letting go.

Alex Mess

Next Steps

After letting him paint with his hands, my then-two-year-old son insisted on painting with his feet. This was only natural to him – and I helped him facilitate this idea by painting his feet with a brush and then literally lowering him down on papers and canvases so he could start creating his multicolored footprints. I had wondered if other kids, slightly older than him, would also be game for this sort of concept, so I brought it to the classroom. One four-year old was beyond delighted, and decided to experiment with different types of locomotion using his hands and feet… all this took was a long, rolled-out piece of paper, some children’s paint, and the permission to just simply let go.

foot painting

Letting go of our ideas of what counts as a “tool” for creating art in the first place is another way we can foster our kids’ growth and discovery. It is one thing to set up a kid-sized easel, plop out some paint, and hand them some brushes, and another thing entirely to provide, say, just the IDEA that you and your child are about to create something. Let them choose how it happens.

Where to start

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Potato prints are always a big hit with kids — using something that is traditionally used for a single purpose, in this case eating, in a new way will really spark your child’s imagination. But my son (again, in letting him take the lead and make his own discoveries) has used multiple other forms of print-making under his own initiative – everything thing from pine cones to the different sets of wheels on his toy trucks and tractors. It probably would never have occurred to me to dip the wheels of a toy truck into paint and roll them across a canvas…which is a shame really, because the results from an aesthetic perspective are quite stunning. But more importantly, what I was doing was providing some materials, letting him take the lead, and letting him use his imagination to improvise on his own. And this is, I would argue, the difference between doing a craft and allowing for something creative to happen, allowing ART happen.

What can you paint or make prints with? Just about anything: leaves, feathers, coins, lace, fingers, elbows…whatever materials you can get your hands (and maybe feet) on, and whatever your imagination allows you to do with them. Get a big roll of paper, some washable paint; any and everything you can find to get those creative juices flowing! Let your child’s imagination run wild, and you’ll have a hard time catching your breath trying to keep up with the amazing things they’ll surprise you with.