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Family Movies That Will Inspire Your Young Artist

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family movie night


Films for aspiring athletes are easy to come by—it’s hard to have missed the stories of incredible coaching and teamwork in baseball, basketball, football and more—but what about movies for the aspiring young artists in your family? We took on this popular question and came up with a list for you to consider as you plan your next family movie night!

This list includes films with widely applicable themes and messages, including resilience in the face of adversity, challenging boundaries to reach success for the whole, helping others, using your talents, developing discipline to reach goals and the power of good mentorship. Any one of these is likely to spark a thoughtful family conversation that will support the positive growth of your young artist!

From the popular Disney/Pixar to more independent films, we’ve organized this list to include films best suited for young elementary first, building up to more mature films due to language, content and length for early teens and adults alike.

Finally, despite ratings and popular opinion, we recognize that family values are unique and individualized, so it is always a good idea to screen these movies ahead of time if you have any potential concerns.

Ratatouille (G)

“Anyone can cook!” is the message of the beloved and famous chef in this film. Is it true? You should watch to find out, and along the way you will surely fall in love with none other than Remy the rat, who’s an inspiration to anyone who feels their dream is impossible. As an inspiration in the culinary arts, even you will likely find yourself wanting to try a new recipe (ratatouille?) or flavor combination in your meal prep after viewing this film. Cuddle up to watch, and then crack open the cookbooks!

Happy Feet (PG)

In the spirit of embracing all types of art, this film’s message on embracing individual talents no matter how well you do or don’t measure up to the accepted norm, comes with entertaining dance, song and beloved characters that will keep the whole family smiling! The main character realizes that while all of the other penguins have beautiful singing voices, he has the ability to dance like no other penguin.

Coco (PG)

History, culture, music and coming-of-age—the themes that run throughout Coco are as thoughtful as the music is engaging. Protagonist Miguel finds himself in the colorful Land of the Dead as he works to prove his talent, realize his dreams and uncover the reason for his family’s generation-old ban on music that stood in his way. Your young artist may find inspiration from this Disney/Pixar film to pick up a stringed instrument and sing along.

Moana (PG)

While it’s not a film directly about art in the traditional sense, Moana’s love for the sea can be likened to a love for any art. A unique soundtrack compared to other Disney films, Moana is sure to leave you and your family humming these tunes for days. The female protagonist, Moana, faces the biggest of challenges in order to save her island, and to do so, Moana follows her heart and her passion for the sea. She’s a strong character who stretches her boundaries to save her people and make a positive difference in her world (just as an artist has the power to do, too)!

Dolphin Tale (PG)

Based on a true story, Dolphin Tale chronicles the events around helping a wounded dolphin work its way back to swimming strength with a prosthetic tail. The main character is a young boy who develops a particularly strong relationship to the dolphin and his journey to success. While it’s not your typical art film, it is a story highlighting the power of the art in science applied through design and innovation, human strength and the connectedness between animals and human beings–a sure winner among young animal lovers and innovators!

Akeelah and the Bee (PG)

With some harsh language and more mature content, this is a movie better suited for older kids and definitely one you should review before watching. With a message related to setting and working toward goals, Akeelah and the Bee is a movie great for any aspiring artist, athlete, scientist or student. This film especially highlights discipline in working toward long-term goals, be they artistic, academic or athletic in nature. The message is one for any age, as this famous quote highlights a pivotal point in the film: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Ballet Shoes (PG)

A lesser known film with one of the biggest known names of today’s young actors, Emma Watson stars in this film based on a novel by Noel Streatfield. The story is based in the 1930s, and is an intriguing story for any aspiring dancer or theater artist. As the plot goes, three young orphaned girls work their way through the challenges and harsh criticisms of the performing art community. Talented, they all find their own way to success, one (who follows her heart to escape dance entirely) in the area of aeronautics, the other two in life and dance. Ballet Shoes includes some mature content relating to life and death and has a pace better for slightly older kids.

August Rush (PG)

Another film with the message of music’s ability to inspire, connect and help people thrive, August Rush is about a young boy in search of his birth parents. He finds his voice, identity, connection and ultimately, his parents through the cultivation and expression of his musical talents with a little help along the way. With slightly more mature content and a slower overall pace, this film is better for older kid audiences.

Music of the Heart (PG)

A music teacher at an inner-city school teaches young students to play the violin. It’s no easy feat as she faces the challenge of motivating, funding and maintaining support for her program. However, the students who stick with it are changed for the better. This is a movie about succeeding in the face of adversity and the value of the musical arts to human health and happiness. Some language and mature content make the film better suited for older kids, so review before sharing with the entire family.

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Creative Drawing Ideas for Kids

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Lifestyle

Kids Books for Women’s History Month

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March is Women’s History Month. It is no secret that the roles of women have been minimized in our schools and that our shared history has been told predominantly by men about men. In fact, in 2017 the National Women’s History Museum issued a comprehensive report of state curricular standards and determined approximately one woman for every three men is mentioned in states’ social studies or history standards.

Women have been integral in the shaping of our world—in big ways and small—and there are a few books to shine the light on some of the important women from the past and of today.

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A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon

4 to 8 years

The true story of mathematician Katherine Johnson—made famous by the movie Hidden Figures—who started college at 15, joined NASA and helped put a man on the moon. Her hard work and intelligence broke both race and gender barriers while advancing space exploration.

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Alex and The Amazing Lemonade Stand

4 to 8 years

Alexandra Scott was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma shortly before her first birthday. When she was just 4 years old, she set up her first lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for childhood cancer research. Sadly, she died in 2004, but her family, plus other individuals and organizations, continues her legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

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She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

4 to 8 years

Featuring Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor and one special cameo, this book celebrates American women who changed the world through their persistence and bravery.

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The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

5 to 10 years

This moving picture book, which tells the story of the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

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Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World

8 and up

In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of 50 powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever.

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Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was determined and focused from early childhood, and she used that strength to become the first female doctor. Breaking that barrier paved the way for aspiring female doctors today.

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Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2

8 and up

Featuring 100 stories of extraordinary women from history and of today, this second edition of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls will inspire young minds and encourage big dreams.

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Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina

Growing up, Maria Tallchief was a gifted pianist and dancer. According to her Osage Indian tradition, women are not permitted to dance, but Maria’s parents recognized her gifts and allowed her to break the rule. When Maria reached the age of 12, her father told her it was time to choose between her two loves. Maria chose ballet. It was a decision that would change not only the course of her life, but the face of classical ballet in America.

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Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World

8 to 12 years

Featuring the true stories of 35 women creators, ranging from writers to inventors, artists to scientists, readers will meet trailblazing women who made an impact. Some names are known, some are not, but all of the women had a lasting effect on the fields they worked in.

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Inside Out and Back Again

8 to 12 years

Inspired by the author’s childhood experience as a refugee—fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama—this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

This paperback edition also includes an interview with the author, an activity you can do with your family, tips on writing poetry and discussion questions.

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The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science

10 to 12 years

One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. She didn’t care that people considered bugs to be “beasts of the devil” or that studying them up close wasn’t what girls did. This is the story of one of the first female entomologists and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.

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I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Malala Yousafzai was only 10 years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school. Malala stood up for her right to be educated, and she was shot for it. She survived and is now an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In this Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world—and did.

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Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

Grades 4 and up

Women in Sports not only highlights the achievements and stories of 50 notable female athletes from the 1800s to today, it also contains infographics on topics like muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, pay and media statistics for female athletes and influential women’s teams.

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Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History

Grades 6 and up

This collection features an array of diverse figures from 430 BCE to 2016, spanning 31 countries around the world and touching on Egyptian leaders, polar explorers, Nobel Peace prize winners, musicians and more.

READ THIS NEXT: Kids Books for Sports Lovers

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Puberty Books Your Kids Will Actually Read

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My kids are 10 and 12, and puberty is sneaking into our home. There are conversations about how old my husband and I were when we hit our puberty milestones, and when things like bodies, skin, hair and feelings start to change. We began the reproduction and puberty conversation years ago, and we found books to be great supplemental information for the kids. Books allow kids to process the information at their own speed and use the diagrams and photographs to better understand the complicated reproductive systems of both men and women. 

Many parents dread the puberty and sex talks. It can be awkward for everyone and confusing for kids, but we live in an age where you can find a well-written book that appeals to kids and adults delivered to your door in no time. These are the books you’ll want to have on hand for when “the talk” goes down. 

When dealing with conversations about puberty, make sure to be open and honest, and reassure your kids that the changes they’ll experience are perfectly normal. It’s also important to have these conversations before the changes begin happening; experts suggest kids know about the physical and emotional changes that come with puberty by the time they are eight years old.

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Will Puberty Last My Whole Life?: REAL Answers to REAL Questions from Preteens About Body Changes, Sex, and Other Growing-Up Stuff.

An expanded and revised edition of the popular flip book for preteens, one half of the book is filled with questions commonly asked by girls entering puberty, and the other half with questions asked by boys.

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The Boys Body Book: Fifth Edition: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up!

Things can get rocky during puberty. That’s where the Boy’s Body Book comes in. The updated fifth edition of this No. 1 bestselling book made just for boys contains everything they need to know about growing up, even the embarrassing stuff. It also includes topical issues like school safety and consent. Author and nurse Kelli Dunham covers everything from body changes to planning for college, giving preteen boys the answers they need to prepare for puberty and beyond.

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American Medical Association Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen

Becoming a teen is an important milestone in every boy’s life. It’s even more important to get answers and advice to the most common health issues boys face from a trusted source. The “American Medical Association Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen” is filled with invaluable advice to get you ready for the changes you will experience during puberty, like physical and emotional changes, the importance of eating healthy and taking care of your body, skin care, the reproductive system and relationships and feelings.

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The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls 
For Girls 8 and Up

 

With all-new illustrations and updated content for girls ages 8 and up, this incredibly popular and respected book about puberty for girls features tips, how-tos and facts from the experts. You’ll find answers to questions about your changing body, from hair care to healthy eating, bad breath to bras, periods to pimples and everything in between.

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The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls 
For Girls 10 and Up

A follow up to the first Care and Keeping of You book, this is a thoughtful advice book that will guide girls through the next steps of growing up. With illustrations and expert contributors, this book covers new questions about periods, your growing body, peer pressure, personal care and more! Written by Dr. Cara Natterson for girls 10 and up, “The Care & Keeping of You 2” follows up the original bestseller with even more in-depth details about the physical and emotional changes you’re going through.

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It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends
For Kids Pre-K Through Elementary School

“It’s Not the Stork!” helps answer the endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten and early elementary school children ask about how they began. Two cartoon characters, a curious bird and a squeamish bee, provide comic relief and give voice to the full range of emotions and reactions children may experience while learning about their amazing bodies. Vetted and approved by science, health and child development experts, the information is up-to-date, age-appropriate and scientifically accurate–and always aimed at helping kids feel proud, knowledgeable and comfortable about their own bodies. It also talks about how they were born and about the family they are a part of.

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It’s So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
For Kids 7 and Up

“It’s So Amazing!” provides the answers to questions like “how does a baby begin?” “what makes a baby male or female?” and “how is a baby born?” with fun and accurate comic-book-style artwork and a clear, lively text that reflects the interests of children age seven and up in how things work, while giving them a healthy understanding of their bodies.

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It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
For Tweens and Teens

With a brand-new chapter focusing on safe Internet use, this book is a great resource for kids, parents, teachers, librarians and anyone else who cares about the well-being of tweens and teens. Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and AIDS, “It’s Perfectly Normal” offers young people the information they need–now more than ever–to make responsible decisions and stay healthy.

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A Child Is Born

Kids and adults alike will be fascinated by the photos in this book that give a detailed glimpse of life inside the womb. This awesome journey from fertilization to birth, which was written nearly 40 years ago, is completely revised for a new generation with amazing photos and new and updated text.

READ THIS NEXT: Kids Books for Sports Lovers

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Lifestyle

Kid’s Guide to Winter Plant Identification

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kid with leaf


Familiarizing your kids with the diversity in plant life right outside your door doesn’t have to begin with formal scientific names and descriptions. In fact, building up to a point where your child might find a genuine interest in knowing the different genus and species names of a plant is much more authentic, and it starts with simple, daily observations–tuning their eye to the range of plant life around them. 

Is the plant woody or herbaceous? What makes one leaf shape different from the next? How does the plant physically change from one day to the next? Do some change more than others? How does the surrounding animal life interact with the plant? 

You’ll find that once you and your kids head outside and start asking questions, it’ll be hard to stop! At some point you’ll likely want to go out and find a good field guide for your area (as questions you don’t know the answers to are likely to come up quick), but you don’t need one to get started with simply noticing the unique plant characteristics right outside your door. 

While winter may not be the first season that comes to mind when someone mentions plant identification and observation, plants don’t disappear in the winter–they still surround us. In fact, to be able to identify some plants, it helps to notice the way they change from each season to the next. 

From leaf shape and bark type to flowering or non-flowering plants, there’s endless play in watching, noticing and ultimately understanding the greenery that surrounds us. Helping kids see these details will not only help them continue to wonder and learn, but also stay safe (away from the poisonous plants) and fulfilled enjoying the outdoors. 

Pick a Place

A local park, your neighborhood common area, a bench in a shopping center, a wilderness hike and the garden section at a local store are vastly different and yet all great places to start a plant identification journey with your young observer. The trick to getting started is to find a place that’s convenient and engaging! To make it easier to commit to observations routinely over a long period of time (to track changes), pick a place nearby that you’ll be able to easily visit on a regular basis. 

Designate a Notebook

Describe, draw, take pictures–help your child take ownership in their observations by providing a space to jot down their thoughts. Whether you consider it a “science observation notebook” or a “nature journal” of sorts, the point here is for them to record what they see. This will help them track changes over time and have notes to compare things to when they see something again (or get around to comparing notes with a more formal field guide)!

Having them write things down will help them start to notice similarities and differences on their own, eventually pointing out plants you’ve identified with a certain name or category in places other than your designated starting space. 

Emphasizing Sight and Sound for Safety

Plant observation should be limited to the senses of sight and sound before you know with certainty it’s safe to touch. It won’t take long before simply eyeing the plants and surroundings won’t do anymore, and they’ll want to incorporate the less-safe senses when it comes to interacting with unknown plants. 

Make sure to carefully integrate the other senses into the observation experience, by limiting some (like taste and touch!) before actually looking up the plant in a field guide to be sure of any potential toxin or risk. 

Deciduous vs. Evergreen

Now, here’s where the winter months come in. The easiest time to notice a deciduous tree versus an evergreen tree is in the winter. Once you and your kids are in your observation place with the materials you need to record what you see, it’s time to start asking questions to narrow in on the diversity. Starting with the trees around you gives you a chance to break a type of plant life into one of two categories: those with leaves (evergreen) and those without leaves (deciduous). 

Help your child count how many of each type surround you (and record their count in their book). From there, see if they have a favorite or if there’s one that is particularly unique (or common) to look at more closely. Let your observations drive the inquiry! Just don’t forget to make time to write things down as you hone in. 

Seed Pods and Leaf Shapes

Narrowing in on specific trees and plants in your observation spot will begin to highlight details of growth on and around the plant. Use the journal to note safe-sense observations: things you see, hear and smell around the plant without touching or tasting it. If described well enough (or if you use photography), later you can look these plants up to see if they’re safe to touch. Describe the shape, color and size of the seed, as well as if it’s locked in a pod or individually identifiable. 

With leaves, do the same–have your child draw the shape and find similarities and differences from one to the next. Noting these increasingly detailed similarities and differences lays a strong foundation in the field of plant identification.

Flowering or Non-flowering

Determining this during the winter months will likely lead to mere predictions–as flowers often show their colors in the spring and summer months. However, there are a significant number of winter-flowering trees and plants (including a number of fruit-bearing trees) in more inclement areas. Noticing what trees produce flowers in the winter months can help set the stage for the question of “why flowers?” moving forward. 

Defense Mechanisms & Textures

Looking at the texture of plant leaves, stems, bark, seedpods and more is another clue into the identification of a plant. For example, the fuzzy or “hairy” leaves on a berry plant are one of the major ways to discern between the three-leaved berry plant or the three-leaved poison oak or poison ivy! This is yet another reason to carefully integrate the sense of touch after visual observation and field guide research. 

Help your child look and ask, “How does this plant protect itself? Is it sending a warning in any way?” Record observations carefully–this is the practical part of plant identification and the first rule of safety for any young ones interested in exploring the great outdoors.

Looking Beyond Just Getting Started

There’s so much to observe and so many questions to ask about the natural life that surrounds us, so you and your child might want to invest in a field guide to look up scientific names and additional details. This should be encouraged, but don’t forget that getting started with plant identification in the winter months sometimes requires more patience as the diverse details of your surrounding plant life slowly come to life. 

With spring just around the corner, your kids’ winter plant identification observations will provide more context when witnessing some of the biggest changes of a plant’s lifecycle in the coming months. Once hooked, plant identification fosters a lifelong love of learning and nature, so help your little one put together their favorite observation recording tools (notebooks, pencils and a camera if you have one), and find a spot to sit and enjoy!

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Inspiring Female Figures in Art and Science

 

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