One of the great joys of having grandchildren is the opportunity to relive the pleasures of childhood. We love to get on the floor and play with their toy trains or construct houses from plastic blocks of one kind or another.
And we can take them to the park and put them on the swings. Sometimes, we even have a little swing ourselves.
But small children grow up amazingly fast and suddenly we are confronted with teenagers who certainly don’t want to play on the floor or to be seen near the playground with their grandparents.
What to do?
In my house, we introduced them to the wonderful and varied pleasures of movies. It’s fun for us and wonderful for them.
It starts, of course, with taking them as young children to the movies – or showing them selected movies on TV. There are all the usual Disney favourites for very young children, plus others that have been made along the way.
It is a bit of a cliché, but I do find the old ones are the best.
We happened to find The Red Balloon, a short (half-hour) French film from the early 1950s, on TV and taped it. One of our grandchildren loved it so much, he more of less memorised it, like some children do with books.
It is incredibly charming and has almost no dialogue to worry about. You can find it on YouTube now.
This same grandchild also loved the movie made by David Attenborough about being locked into the Natural History Museum at night, with all the animals there coming to life (called David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive). It is brilliantly done.
I subsequently took him to that Museum and found him studying a particular part of the cafeteria floor very carefully. In the film, it had been turned into a hole, a kind of burrow where some animals lived. Alas, he was a bit disappointed to find nothing but the floor.
But somewhere along the line, the usual children’s movies are no longer of interest. You have to find something else.
It probably depends on the sex of the grandchild (mine are both boys), but with a little trial and error, you can soon find what they like.
One grandson loved all the James Bond movies and other adventure or action stories. No problem there – always plenty to choose from.
And then it isn’t difficult to segue into the easier heist movies, like Charade. We didn’t see it coming, but the older grandson thought, quite rightly, that Audrey Hepburn was drop-dead gorgeous.
Or try the many 1950s movies intended as ‘family entertainment’. An example here is To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant. And the same grandson fell in love with Grace Kelly.
Then, there are the classics, such as Casablanca, which you just feel they ought to know about. I wasn’t sure whether either grandson would take to this, as it isn’t an easy film and is in black and white, but they did – and the same one was seriously taken by Ingrid Bergmann.
Once you get started, it becomes very easy to carry on. Because the one grandson liked Grace Kelly, we tried Rear Window. He was soon into all the films by Alfred Hitchcock.
There are so many suitable movies. There are the numerous films of Alec Guinness, which often suit the tastes of adolescents. Or films about their very age and gender, such as Dead Poets Society.
The one piece of advice I would add is that it is important, especially when they are younger, to sit with the grandchild, stop the film where needed, and explain what is going on. They will tell you when they don’t understand. And the need for this diminishes hugely over time.
I would also argue that it is important to take into account what you will tolerate yourself. There are plenty of very adolescent films that neither of us could sit through with any pleasure whatsoever.
Let the kids find these by themselves.
Now, the two grandsons love watching all sorts of movies on TV when they come to our house. Indeed, it is an essential part of any visit.
It passes the time very pleasantly, allows us the joy of revisiting old favourites and teaches them a lot about all sorts of things.
One grandson enjoys movies and likes to watch them with his parents on occasion.
The other has become a true ‘movie buff’, taking his interest much further than anything we have taught him. He is (of course) much more capable than we are on the net and looks up all sorts of information about the films he is interested in.
And it is somehow delightful to think that in the 2020s, there is a soon to be 18-year-old young man who thinks a lot of dead actresses from the 1950s are gorgeous!
For more activity ideas with grandchildren, read 5 FUN ACTIVITIES TO ENJOY WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS.
Do you watch films with your grandchildren? Which ones were particularly successful? Have they developed a long-term interest in film?