E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial + Planetarium Visit
Lured by a bowl of popcorn laced with Reese's Pieces, our kids were riveted to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and its premise that life may exist beyond our solar system. Kids easily relate to E.T. because the movie is told from a child's (or perhaps an alien's) point of view. The story of a young boy and his incredible friendship with an alien left behind on Earth won our kids' hearts, just as it won our hearts over twenty years ago.
The idea that life might exist on other planets excited us all, so we headed to our local planetarium for a Family Star Show to learn more about the heavens. Our kids were intent on figuring out how E.T. found his way to Earth without an interplanetary MapQuest in his spaceship. Among other things, they discovered that the Milky Way is much more than a candy bar -- it's also the cosmic signpost that E.T. probably used to identify our solar system from innumerable others.
The greatest lesson, however, was the feeling of awe we felt contemplating our little planet orbiting through an expansive universe. In fact, it was the same awe that Spielberg achieves when Elliot's bicycle leaves terra firma at the end of the film. Lost in a black hole of wonder, our kids were "star struck" in the original, and best, sense of the word.
KIDS OFF THE COUCH KERNELS
Want to know how to find a planetarium in your city:
Click Go Astronomy
Want our advice about watching E.T. with young kids?
- Some children may find it scary when E.T. gets sick; however, it helps to remind kids that heroes usually make it to the end of the film. It's worth a little nail-biting along the way to see the kids flying on their bicycles at the film's end. There is some minor language (like "penis breath") but by today's standards, these lines seem quaint.
Want to foster extra-terrestrial conversation after the film?
- Help your kids try to predict what might happen in a scene from the music cues. Let them guess, midway through a scene, if something scary or funny is coming up.
- Film critic Vincent Canby called E.T. "an upside down Wizard of Oz." Ask your kids to compare Dorothy and E.T. and they'll be thinking like film critics.
Want to get your kids excited about astronomy?
Here's what we do in our backyards:
Log on to NASA and The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's cool site for kids. Their project, Constellation in a Canister, is easy to make and can help kids find constellations in the sky. We also like to keep an eye out for seasonal celestial events, like the Perseid meteor showers. Brew up some hot chocolate, grab some cozy blankets and wake your kids for a middle-of-the-night viewing in your backyard.
Want to watch other great space movies that our families have enjoyed?
- Iron Giant (1999, PG, 86 minutes) Brad Bird (The Incredibles) directs this animated robot alien story;
- October Sky (1998, PG, 108 minutes) A boy dreams of making rockets and comes into conflict with his father. Starring Chris Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal;
- The Right Stuff (1983, PG, 193 minutes) Saga of the Mercury astronauts based on Tom Wolfe's bestselling book;
- Star Wars (1977, PG, 121 minutes) First in George Lucas' series.
To rent these and other great films go to Netflix.com. Try Netflix for FREE
Want some great books on space?
- Papa Please Get the Moon For Me (1999, Little Simon);
- Reaching For the Moon by Buzz Aldrin (2005, HarperCollins).
- Harriet's Hare by Dick King Smith (1997, Yearling).
- d'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire (1992, Delacorte). Constellations were named after Greek and Roman gods, which most kids study by middle school. This book belongs in every family's library.
- Seymour Simon's books on space and planets;
- A Walk Through the Heavens: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and Their Legends by Milton Heifetz, Wil Tirion (1998, Cambridge University Press).
KidsOffTheCouch.com was founded by two moms who are passionate about film and media literacy. They decided to combat the creep of screen time in their kids' lives by getting on the couch and watching great films together with their families. To sign up for your FREE weekly email, CLICK HERE.
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