While eating dinner in front of the television isn’t something we recommend every night, sometimes a change of pace can help promote more fun, conversation and connection than the same old routine! That’s why we’ve launched our Dinner and a Movie feature. Throughout the year, we’ll be teaming up with our friends at Common Sense Media to choose family-friendly movies that can help you promote character building while enjoying some fun time together. When you pair them with our suggestions for food, fun and conversation, you can have a memorable Dinner and a Movie experience that turns screen time into family bonding time that everyone will look forward to.
Explore Food, Fun and Conversation About the Earth and Our Environment
Family dinner is a time to connect and have fun together. But it can also be an opportunity to learn and share about things that matter. With the recent rise of kid-driven activism from young leaders like Greta Thunberg, children of all ages are becoming increasingly aware of the need to care for our environment. They may have questions about climate change, endangered animals, clean water and air or our food supply. Fortunately, a well-chosen movie can help parents to answer those questions and learn alongside their kids. As Earth Day approaches, there’s never been a better time for families to explore this topic together.
Movie Recommendations from The Family Dinner Project and the Common Sense Media Common Sense Seal Program:
You can explore environmentally conscious cooking by experimenting with zero-waste recipes that use scraps in creative ways! Try our recipes for Vegetable Stock and Carrot Top Pesto to demonstrate how you can make something edible from items you’d ordinarily throw away. With older kids, ask them to help you plan and cook a week’s worth of meatless meals. You can find inspiration here, or through our friends at the Kids Cook Monday campaign.
Younger kids enjoy games like “How Many Hands?” to help them understand how far foods travel to get to their plates. You can also enjoy some Kitchen Art to use up recyclables and waste items in creative ways, or spend time outside enjoying nature with a game of “Use Your Senses.” Older kids and teens might find it more fun to jump in with some personal action after learning more about the environment. Let them plan a family garden or create a 100-mile food map to show where your family can buy some of your favorite foods with a lower environmental impact.
Watching a movie together can spark lots of interesting conversations. Start a discussion with our conversation starters about Earth and the environment, or choose from questions related to the movie you’ve chosen. Special thanks to our friends at Common Sense Media for sharing their conversation starter ideas for these films!
Talk About: Earth and the Environment
- What’s your favorite activity to do outside? Favorite plant? Favorite animal?
- Are there ways you think our family could do a better job caring for the environment? What are 3 things we could start doing regularly that would be good for the earth?
- Imagine you could build a whole new planet for people to live on. What would it be like? What other species would live there? How could you make sure that the planet was taken care of by the people and animals?
- What, if anything, have you heard about climate change? What thoughts do you have about the things you’ve heard so far?
- If you had to guess, how many of the foods you eat regularly are grown or produced within 100 miles of our home?
- How could we work together as a family to reduce our waste?
- Are there any people whose work on behalf of the planet or animals inspires you? Tell us more about that person.
If You’re Watching A Beautiful Planet:
- What was your reaction to seeing melting glaciers, forests on fire, and miles of drought-stricken land? How could you take action?
- How do the astronauts demonstrate cooperation, communication, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?
- Two of the astronauts lived on the International Space Station for one year. Can you imagine being away from family, friends, and the Earth for that long? What would you miss most?
- A Beautiful Planet explores the possibility of another planet like Earth and another star like the sun in our galaxy. Do you think there’s life on other planets?
If You’re Watching Wonders of the Sea:
- The purposes of documentary filmmaking are to entertain, inform, persuade, and inspire. Which category(ies) best describe Wonders of the Sea? Is this a rare instance in which all four categories may apply?
- Evolving technology has both positive and negative effects on the world around us. The movie shows some of the negative consequences, but it does reveal some positives as well. Could this film have been made without advanced technology? How did that technology serve the filmmakers and raise awareness of important issues?
- The movie states: “The oceans can survive without us; we cannot survive without the ocean.” How does that one sentence capture the substance and spirit of Wonders of the Sea?
If You’re Watching Seasons:
- Talk about the animal violence in Seasons. Is it OK for younger viewers? What’s the difference between seeing animal violence and human violence?
- Unlike many American-made nature documentaries, this one doesn’t have constant narration or voice-over. Which way do you prefer, and why?
- What makes documentaries about the animal kingdom so interesting? What are some of your favorites?
- How does Seasons promote curiosity? Why is this an important character strength?
- Which animal’s life would you like to film if you were making a documentary?
If You’re Watching Chasing Coral:
- Talk about the filmmakers’ open declaration that Chasing Coral has been produced to heighten awareness of the plight of our planet and inspire action to save it. Were they and the scientists on screen successful in their goal? Are you inspired to act? How? Why do movies help spread the word about important issues?
- Talk about Zack Rago as a role model. How did Zack translate his childhood passion for coral into a life’s work? What traits (i.e., curiosity, courage) did he call upon to help make this film happen? How does Zack’s journey show how just one person can make a difference?
- What is meant by the film’s statement “You’re gonna like yourself much more if you can say, ‘Sure, I tried to turn that around'”? What, if anything, do you feel strongly enough about to “try to turn around”?
- As in the case of the oceans and the coral reefs, talk about how the survival of every organism affects our ecosystem.
If You’re Watching Mountain:
- How do the visuals help tell the story? How does the symphonic score contribute to the film?
- How does Mountain compare to other documentaries you’ve seen? What does it have in common with those films? How is it different?
- The movie begins with words printed on the screen that say, “Those who dance are considered mad by those who cannot hear the music.” Why do you think that quote was chosen?
- Are people who risk their lives to achieve a feat, such as BASE jumping or rock climbing, courageous? Or foolish?
If You’re Watching This Changes Everything:
- What unites the diverse people featured in This Changes Everything? How can a shared cause bring people together? What role does the media play in that?
- Do you see evidence of climate change in your community? Does this film inspire you to think about the consequences of those changes and perhaps take action where it’s possible?
- Think about the film’s title, This Changes Everything. What does “This” refer to? Is it meant as a positive or negative statement?
- How does This Changes Everything promote perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?
Did you enjoy your Dinner and a Movie experience? Check out more ideas in our Dinner and a Movie: Family History feature, and look for more Dinner and a Movie ideas coming soon!