5 Ways you can use what your children are really into to your advantage
Lately, my children have been obsessed with all things Wizard of Oz. The little one was the catalyst for this particular marathon viewing session. He saw it once with the older children and now asks for it over and over, talks about the characters all the time and tries to repeat the dance numbers whenever the mood strikes. He calls the movie “Follow, Follow” and its the Yellow Brick Road that has caught his attention the most. All family members are called upon to lock arms with him, our backs bent, and prance around the hallway (our Yellow Brick Road) singing the songs as we go.
The older two (10 and 7) also love the music and the theatrics of the movie, but they’re mostly getting into the behind the scenes story of this classic. The ‘How they Made it’ and what went into the story, its characters, the actors, the makeup mishaps and the difficulties with filming has got them captivated. They still ask to watch it constantly, but they watch it with the behind the scenes stories in mind. My oldest has also started reading the Frank Baum novels. When she watches she does it with the desire to see how the two versions differ.
I was both terrified and in love with this movie as a kid, so I know it might not be something you or your kids will love. The suggestions below can be adapted to whatever your little ones might be into at the moment.
What I love most about this recent trend in our household viewing is that I am becoming a huge fan of the movie myself. I’m going to read the novels and I can’t wait to read the memoir by the actress that played the Wicked With of the East. Most of my ‘teachable’ moments at home with the children are activities and books that I’m exposing them to based on what I think I think would be best. This time, our whole family is on a Wizard of Oz kick, and it was totally led by the children’s interest.
Five ways to make their Obsessions an Enriching Learning Experience for everyone.
1) ‘Behind the Scenes’ as Inspiration
There is nothing like a ‘how it’s made’ video to get you interested in a movie on a deeper level. The Wizard of Oz behind the scenes stories are full of intrigue, accident and triumph. Frank Baum’s life, the author of the original 1930’s novels, is a compelling success story all about perseverance. He was a failed businessman who his story-telling hobby and made it into a success beyond what anyone could have imagined. He trusted his talent and gave it a shot. What a sad world it would be without these characters. Thankfully, Baum decided to take a chance and write out the stories he was telling the neighborhood children. That story alone gave me a perspective on this movie that shaped how I see my talents and gifts. It certainly marked my childrens’ imaginations and left them thinking deeply about what they could do with their unique gifts.
The behind the scenes clips available for most movies often include some good lessons about what it takes to make something great. I think its important for children to see how much work and tribulation can come with a movie production. Nothing comes without effort and that’s an important lesson for all of us. No matter what movie you’re watching on repeat, since your family already thinks the movie is aces, try to discover what went into its making. It didn’t appear magically on screen, and many people had to work for years to get it as it is. This in itself should inspire your little ones to work hard to get what they want. It can encourage them to get up and try harder if they fail. I’ve found that the behind the scenes clips will have your children appreciate the movie even more.
2) Introduce New Vocabulary
With the younger one, we try to use the things he’s into to increase his vocabulary. The Wizard of Oz was great for basic things like colors (Yellow Brick Road, Pink Glenda The Good Witch, the Emerald City, and the RubyRed slippers). This movie was also full of interesting emotional concepts as well. He really got to see courage in action and fear on the faces of the characters. Sadness and worry, disappointment and shame were all on display for him to see and try to understand.
The emotional concepts were especially great for the older children and we’ve had some pretty interesting conversations about the main characters. I’ve been working on their emotional vocabulary for years and was really inspired by Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. Movies are often a great opportunity to get some good conversations going. The kids liked pointing out to me that the four travelers all think they are lacking something, but each one displays that very trait from the beginning. They aren’t missing anything at all. For example, the Scarecrow figures out how to get down from the pole, helps Dorothy find a way to get the apples from the nasty trees and generally comes up with a solution for most problems. He thinks he needs ‘some brains’, but he has them in spades.
3) Put on a Play
My kids love putting on little plays and making puppets. The oldest acts more as a director than an actor nowadays, but she builds beautiful puppets to make up for that. This movie is a genius way to get all ages involved. The characters are easy to draw if you want to go the puppet route (we just stick Popsicle sticks to the back of little drawn characters) This works well for the main characters. For some characters, like the Lion and Monkeys, stuffed animals would do the trick nicely and would eliminate some of the crafty side of things. Costumes and makeup can be sidelined completely and you can just act out the parts. That’s what we’ve been doing lately, just reciting parts of the movie we like to act out. Sometimes we do it out of order and just focus on the scenes we like best. Take the chronology out of your play-acting and it takes the stress out of ‘getting it right.’
Our toddler especially likes the dance numbers and often that’s all we do, walk up and down the hallway singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”. The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion’s dance numbers in the beginning are really fun to imitate. We’ve taken to using the BluRay feature that allows us to skip ahead to the musical numbers. One of the bonuses from the deleted scenes also happens to be an extended dance sequence with the Scarecrow. Well worth watching.
4) Ask questions and Create a memory Book
This movie was a really great jumping off point for questions and conversations. I learned that the baby wasn’t scared of the witch because he’s a ‘good fighter’, in his own words. He was sure that Dorothy was scared. You can have the older ones write out their answers in a journal where you keep track of their thoughts on other movies as well. What a great way to remember this moment in your family.
Here are some of the questions I used to get to know my kids better with The Wizard of Ozand to get them thinking critically :
What made you scared, in this movie? Which character is the best dancer? What was your favourite color from the movie? Which was your favourite Munchkin? Did Dorothy dream the whole thing? Were the characters really lacking in brains, heart, courage and the ability to go home? Did they really need the Wizard? (the answer, by the way is no!) What was your favourite costume? Why?
5) Find the Book version and read it together
This has to be my single most useful tip. Whatever your children are into, there’s a book for that. Find it.
Reading will encourage so many things in your children, the least of which is the ability to entertain themselves without a screen. I love technology and I’m all for using it, but I’d rather they use it to lead them to a book. The books and technology go hand in hand now with my kids. They looked up why the Wicked Witch’s stage makeup caught fire and why using heavy metals in makeup isn’t a good idea, then went back to reading F. Baum’s novel with renewed gusto. We’ve made the Wizard of Oz our family book club.
Everything old is new again, so whatever movie they’re in to, I can almost guarantee there is a book version. Use your children’s interests to guide your next family obsession.