Family Movie Night: Best 15 Movies of All Time

Family movie nights are one of the most fun and affordable ways to spend time together. But choosing a flick the whole crew agrees on can be a struggle! To the rescue: our list of family-friendly movies sure to pleasure kids and parents alike. So fire up the popcorn-maker, turn down the lights -- and keep a stash of Puffs facial tissues close at hand for tearjerker moments!



Family-friendly Movie No. 1: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Although there are plenty of remakes, nothing beats the original Judy Garland film. She plays Dorothy, the Oklahoma girl who is swept away in a tornado to a magical land. Joined by a lion, scarecrow and tin man, she heads to Emerald City to meet the wizard who can help her get back home.

Family-friendly Movie No. 2: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Introduce your kids to your own childhood favorite. In this Steven Spielberg-directed film, a lonely boy befriends an extra-terrestrial accidentally left behind on Earth -- and must outsmart the authorities to help him return to his home planet. The poignant lessons are tissue-worthy.

Family-friendly Movie No. 3: The Princess Bride (1987)

A loving grandfather reads his grandson a classic fairy tale, which features swashbuckling pirates, swordfights and an epic love story. The plot has a little something for everyone!

Family-friendly Movie No. 4: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Another Roald Dahl story is featured in this iconic movie. After winning a golden ticket, Charlie and his grandfather take a tour of eccentric Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory. The fantastical factory is a child’s imagination sprung to life.

Family-friendly Movie No. 5 and 6: The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Muppets (2011)

Why not play a double feature with this Jim Henson classic and its modern sequel? In the original, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang set off to seek success in Hollywood. The second film picks up after they’ve already gotten famous and disbanded. To save their theater from a greedy oil tycoon, they must reunite and throw a benefit concert.

Family-friendly Movie No. 7: The Lion King (1994)

After the death of his father, a lion cub named Simba is exiled from his pride by his wicked uncle. In young adulthood, Simba comes across what’s left of his pride. Along with his friends, a meerkat and warthog, he must fight to regain his rightful throne.

Family-friendly Movie No. 8: Babe (1995)

Featuring a farm full of adorable animals, this movie focuses on Babe, a pig raised by a sheepdog. Despite skepticism and ridicule, Babe learns how to herd sheep -- and even enters a contest. Your family will cheer during this against-all-odds story!



Family-friendly Movie No. 9: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

In 1950s Japan, two sisters and their dad move to the countryside due to their mother’s illness. There, the girls discover that their house and neighborhood is filled with magical creatures. This simple and beautiful story about friendship is a fine pick kids and adults of all ages will love.

Family-friendly Movie No. 10: Up (2009)

In this colorful Pixar movie, a retired balloon salesman ties thousands of balloons to his home and floats off to explore South America -- unknowingly bringing along 8-year-old Russell. This hilariously mismatched duo sets off on a jungle adventure, teaching each other lessons along the way.

Family-friendly Movie No. 11: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Fling Lockwood thinks he’s a genius, except none of his inventions tend to work. When his town falls into an economic crisis, he is sure his latest invention -- a machine that turns water into food -- will save the day. But when it starts to rain burgers and chicken nuggets that cover the city, plans start to go awry. This animated revenge-of-the-nerds feature inspired by the beloved children’s book is bound to capture the hearts of your kids.

Family-friendly Movie No. 12: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Director Wes Anderson and actors Meryl Streep and George Clooney turn this Roald Dahl story into a wickedly clever film. After stealing chickens, Mr. Fox must help save his community from the farmers’ wrath.

Family-friendly Movie No. 13: Tangled (2010)

Rapunzel has joined the Disney stable of princesses. But instead of the passive damsel we grew up knowing, she’s a curious, spirited, young lass that wields a mean frying pan. This is a gorgeously animated, magical film sure not to disappoint.

Family-friendly Movie No. 14: Brave (2012)

Set in the Scottish Highlands, this animated film tells the story of Merida, a spirited princess who defies tradition and her mother’s wishes. In the process, she unknowingly puts her mother under a witch’s spell. A skilled archer, Merida, must save the day. In the process, she learns a lot about herself and her relationship with her mom. 

Family-friendly Movie No. 15: A Monster in Paris (2013)

In this animated adventure taking place in 1910 France, a science experiment turns a flea into a 7-foot-tall monster. The flea is sweet and gentle and teaches kids the importance of not judging people based on their looks.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

How Dads Keep Kids Healthy

It's no surprise that positive parenting affects a child's health and happiness. Countless studies have shown powerful benefits of dad's participation in children's development: Kids of highly involved fathers score better on cognitive tests at 6 months of age, are better problem-solvers as toddlers and have higher IQs by age 3. In school, they get more A’s and perform better on standardized tests. There's an emotional benefit too: These children report feeling less anxious and depressed, and they're more social and empathetic.

But did you know that kids with involved dads are physically healthier too? Studies have shown that kids who live with active, involved fathers are:

  • Less likely to suffer a physical accident
  • Six times less likely to visit the emergency room
  • Up to two times less likely to suffer from asthma
  • More likely to be active -- and four times less likely to be obese by the age of 18 -- than kids with inactive, obese dads

And there are benefits for dad too: Fathers who engage with their kids are more likely to feel more satisfied and empathetic with others, as well as less stressed.

Young kids require lots of attention and love, especially when they're sick. So every day, both mom and dad should make 10 minutes of one-on-one time with their kids a priority. Here are a few smart ways dads can get involved in kids' lives:

Be the chauffeur. There's no easier time for undivided catch-up time with your kids than when you're driving home from school or swim practice. It can become important bonding time during which kids open up about what's going on in their lives. Just make sure to ban cell phones to create an opportunity for meaningful conversation.

Get your hands dirty. Do a little yard work together! Your kids will love mucking around in the mud, and you'll get a helping hand digging up the flowerbeds, raking leaves or scavenging sticks for the fireplace.

Build something. Whether it's a living room fort or a kitchen science experiment, start a project together. While having fun, you'll also create precious memories together: According to Harvard University, the more senses you use, the more involved your brain will be in making a memory (which means your kids are likely to remember the experience).

Experiment in the kitchen. You don't have to be a master chef to cook with your kids. For your next weekend brunch or dinner, mix up boxed pancake batter with blueberries, or concoct an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sandwich together. (Making a mess is the fun part, anyway!)

Read to them. Reading is essential to your child's mental development: As early as the 1960s, studies showed that kids with fathers who regularly read to them were more likely to score better in many important cognitive skill categories -- especially vocab -- than children whose fathers did not. So start at an early age, and do it often.

Tell stories together. Boost your kid's creative juices by telling a story and letting your kid fill in the parts. Play off of each other and, above all, have fun! Research shows that when toddlers chat with their dads, they tend to be more inquisitive and even use a larger vocabulary than when they're talking with moms.

Make a coloring book. If your kid's stuck in bed or if it's a dreary day, make it a bit brighter by sketching the outline of a person or place and asking your kids to fill in the details. If you have a younger kid, draw a full image and give her the crayons to fill your mutual masterpiece.

Share your passion. Whether it's walking your kid through a golf swing or simply explaining why the sky is blue, make sure to discuss the things you love with your kids. They might occasionally roll their eyes ("Dad's at it again!"), but they won't forget those impromptu lessons.

Hug them. Kids need physical attention -- and not just from mom. Snuggle, show affection, love them -- especially when your little one is stuck sick in bed (and all her friends are outside playing).

Moms, encourage dads to get involved. Studies show that when moms are supportive of their spouse’s parenting, men are more likely to be involved and feel more responsible for their kids' well-being. Plus, there’s nothing better than sitting back and watching your family grow closer together. So keep a camera and a box of Puffs tissues at hand and prepare for moving experiences.

Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

-- As told to Colleen Canney, editor and writer

Keep Your Kids Happy -- With Allergies

For many kids, this time of year can be frustrating. They want to run outside and play, but the pollen count leaves them sniffling, sneezing and wheezing. What can you do to help? By minimizing their exposure to triggers, providing them with relief and offering some creative distractions, you can still make allergy season fun for the whole family.

Protect Them
There are a few simple things that can be implemented daily to reduce or prevent exposure to environmental allergens.

  • Check your filters. Pollen and spores can get trapped in air conditioning filters, so set a specific day each month -- like the day you pay bills -- to change them.
  • Schedule indoor activities. On days that the pollen count is significant (check the count here), keep kids inside during the early morning and dusk, when the air has the most allergens. Have fun games and projects in place.
  • Do an outfit change. When kids come in from outside or come home from school, have them change their clothes immediately and wash off any residual pollen from their faces and hands.

Provide Relief
Allergy flare-ups are inevitable, so it is helpful to keep a few tricks in your parenting toolbox.

  • Try saline solution. It can safely rid eyes and nasal cavities of allergens. (Just remember to keep a box of tissues on hand for the post-application drip.)
  • Draw a warm bath. It can provide soothing relief to itchy skin, and the steam may relieve congestion. 
  • See your pediatrician. Check to see if a prescription or OTC medication can provide relief during the worst of the season.

Include Them
Kids live in the here and now, so trying to explain a concept like allergies can be difficult. In order for them to understand and take ownership of their allergies, involve them in the solution-making process.

  • Ask for suggestions. After identifying specific issues -- for instance, the pollen on shoes or higher count on windy days -- ask your child to think of ways to combat the problems. He might suggest leaving a shoe bin at the door or closing windows in gusty weather.
  • Assign a responsibility. After realizing weather plays a large role in the impact of allergens, your child can become the family’s meterologist. Every evening, have him report the next day’s weather, so you can prep together.
  • Encourage him to share. Telling their friends why they can’t play outside at certain times can help empower your kids -- and makes the situation feel less frustrating.

Distract Them

  • Dress up their tissues. With so much sneezing and sniffling, a box of tissues will become a staple for your children. Have your child personalize the box with paint, glitter or stickers so it seems more fun.
  • Build a fort. If your kids are stuck inside, make them a special place: Build an elaborate fort with sheets, blankets and furniture. This can be their haven for storytelling, homework and imaginative play.
  • Schedule outings. Suffering from spring fever? Have your child choose a special place, like the mall, museum or gym, once a week. This will give him something to look forward to during allergy season.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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De-stress Your Next Doctor's Visit

Going to the doctor's office can be a stressful occasion for the whole family. As a pediatrician, I want to make sure that the kids I take care of are happy and healthy -- and that their parents have a chance to address any concerns. And this all has to happen within 20 minutes, so I don't keep my other patients waiting! To maximize our time together and help the visit go off without a hitch, there are a few smart moves moms can make. Here's what I recommend to de-stress your next doctor's visit:

Bring your child's paperwork. Keep your child's medical files in an easy-to-find location. If you're a first-time patient, provide the doctor's office with your medical history and files. That way, we won't have to track down things like allergies and vaccination histories during the appointment. Also, remember to bring in any forms or waivers that your child needs to be filled out for school, sports and activities.

Think about what you want to address. When I'm wrapping up a visit, parents will often mention an important issue that requires more careful examination. To make sure that you don't forget anything -- and that I have enough time to examine any problems -- jot down a little list of all the conditions and concerns that you want to discuss. You may also want to call or email me before coming in. For instance, if you're worried because your child can't concentrate in school, I sometimes have his or her teachers fill out a questionnaire before the visit.

Keep track of symptoms. Take note of when your child developed her problem and how often it occurs, such as when she started getting headaches and how long they last. Knowing the complete picture can help me make a diagnosis.

Prep your child. Before the appointment, let your kids know why they're seeing the doctor. One exception: If you know that getting a shot makes your child anxious and worried, skip telling her. She may spend the entire visit in tears.

Don't promise "no shots!" or "no medicine!" Instead, just say that you're not sure. Your child shouldn't feel like you've betrayed her. Also, don't use needles as a bartering chip. I've had some parents tell their kids, "If you're bad, Dr. Zets will give you shot." Not only does this portray me as the bad guy, it also encourages a fear of doctors!

Photo by humberto chavez on Unsplash

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At what point is it necessary to call a doctor when my child is not feeling well?

When your little one is sniffling and sneezing, it's sometimes hard to know what to do. While most bugs clear up on their own, sometimes an illness can turn into something more serious. Here are four red-flag scenarios in which you should call the doctor:

If your child has: a high fever. For infants, it's a fever above 100.4 F.  For children over 1 year, it's a fever above 103 F, lasting longer than three days. 

If your child has: an earache, or drainage from the ear. This could be an ear infection.

If your child has: a painful sore throat accompanied by fever. This could be strep throat, which a pediatrician can diagnose with a throat culture and prescribe antibiotics.

If your child shows: flu symptoms -- fever, body aches, cough, runny nose or congestion. The doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication to reduce the severity and duration of the virus. But you must act quickly -- the medication only works within the first 48 hours of the illness.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash