Occupy the kidlets

So, school holidays are approaching. 8 weeks with no more teachers, no more books. And while I am a strong believer in the value of kids reading, I also can’t help but recommend chucking the kids in front of a DVD every now and then, giving you no doubt a well deserved break.
For those of you without children - don’t dismiss this article as just for those with kiddlywinks. Take a stroll down memory lane and re-immerse yourself in your childhood faves – The Never-Ending Story, Willow or The Boy Who Could Fly. I still find that when I’ve had a really rough day, the charm of a G or PG film can really lift my spirits – happy endings are guaranteed!
The inspiration for this month’s recommendation came from last school holidays when I visited my aunt and cousins who are nine and eleven years old. They really wanted to get out a DVD but my aunt was completely at a loss as to what they should get. As I do with anyone who asks me to recommend something, I asked the boys for their favourite movies. A problem quickly announced itself. My aunt and uncle are divorced and it became apparent that they strongly disagree on what is appropriate viewing for the boys. Both their mother and I were appalled to learn that their father had let them watch Blood Diamond, Gladiator and Master and Commander, three films with fairly graphic battle scenes. A fight inevitably ensued that their mum was out of touch and they watch that kind of thing all the time.
Eventually, the fight was resolved with a compromise; we came up with some movies that their mother considered appropriate for their age but with a bit of the themes they were accustomed to and expected thrown in.So, the summer hols are coming but you’ve been through every Disney film available - to the point that you know the difference between a “fork” and a “dinglehopper”. You also can’t bear to sit through a Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. And you certainly don’t want to dip into the adult movies and risk the aforementioned violence, language etc (and the inevitable uncomfortable conversations likely to arise from other ‘adult’ themes!) But you want the kids to watch something with substance, something that they can learn from without knowing it.
You may be surprised how many great DVDs you can get for the kids from your local store where you wouldn’t think to look. Don’t fall into the trap of just walking into the Children or even Family section. Though there are many terrific choices here (including this month’s recommendation), you can also browse through the Westerns, Dramas, even Sci-Fi. Use the classifications as a guide – remember, G and PG rated films are located right across the store.

What should you get?


PLOT: Noni is the precocious daughter of a gamekeeper in Africa . Stuck-up city kid Harry is visiting with his Dad when tragedy strikes. As the only witnesses to their respective parent’s slaughter and pursued by the poachers who killed them, Noni and Harry must escape to the nearest town by the only available means – walk the two thousand kilometre distance across the Kalahari Desert. With the help of Noni’s friend, African bushman, Xhabbo, on this treacherous journey they will become firm friends and learn to appreciate the strengths in their differences.

DIRECTOR: Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers, Alias)

CAST: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Legally Blonde), Ethan Randall (Can’t Hardly Wait, Empire Records), Maximilian Schell (Deep Impact), Jack Thompson (The Some of Us).

LOCATED IN: Children section PS – A Far Off Place is only in limited DVD release internationally so may be difficult to find (check the VHS section too).

  • Drive Me Crazy (also known as Dutch)
  • Bushfire Moon
  • The World’s Fastest Indian
  • Storm Boy
  • Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids
  • Treasure Island
  • First Kid
  • Labyrinth
  • Ladyhawk
  • Legend
  • Cats and Dogs
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Storm Boy
  • Hook
  • Born Free
  • Two Brothers
  • Indiana Jones
  • The Great Escape
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Robin Hood Men In Tights
  • The God’s Must be Crazy
  • Willow
Sometimes the greatest resource for entertaining the kids can be the Classics, especially the Screwball Comedies and Westerns of the 30s – 50s. Think John Wayne, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Doris Day. You won’t have to worry about violence, language or adult themes in the content as classification laws were much stricter in the past. And just think of how many films have been made since the 30s – there’s no shortage of choice!

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