If the Spring rains hit during the September holidays and you are stuck indoors you may find yourself in need of a quiet activity to keep the kids occupied. Sometimes popping in a DVD can be the answer. Here are a few suggestions of holiday viewing to inspire children's imaginations.
This sweet animated film is based on the book The Borrowers by another English children's author, Mary Norton. My preschooler described the borrowers as "little fairies without wings" which is more or less accurate. They are tiny people who live hidden in the foundations of human homes and "borrow" the things they need from humans. Arrietty is the young daughter of a family of borrowers who commits the cardinal sin of being seen by a human. The family must then decide whether they need to leave their comfortable little home for fear of being captured.
The film is a production by Studio Ghibli, the makers of other great films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Princess Mononoke.
The 1975 BBC adaptation of this classic children's story has been released on DVD. This one is a seven episode tv series rather than a movie so it could be watched in smaller chunks between other activities if you prefer to limit screen time. It is the story of Mary Lennox, a spoiled little British girl who was brought up in India. When her parents die of cholera she is sent to live with her uncle in England. His house is huge and mostly empty. Mary learns of a secret garden, locked up ever since her aunt's death. She becomes obsessed with finding the door to the garden and eventually succeeds and restores the garden to its former beauty. She also discovers the house's other occupant, her crippled young cousin Colin. She takes Colin into the secret garden and he grows stronger in the fresh air, eventually gaining the ability to walk. Mary's uncle then forgives them trespassing in the forbidden garden and begins to let go of his dead wife and learn to live again.
The story still has plenty of appeal to young audiences, with its child protagonist and slow building mystery, though younger children might need an adult to watch with them and explain some things. As you'd expect from a BBC production it has wonderful sets and costumes that give you a sense of what it would be like to live in an enormous country mansion at the turn of the century.
The Dark Crystal
I enjoy this movie as much today as I did when I first saw it in the early eighties and my daughter loves it too. It's a fairytale-like story about a young orphaned Gelfling (a little elf-like creature) named Jen who goes on a quest to find a shard of the mysterious Dark Crystal which can magically restore balance to his world. Along the way he meets Kira, another Gelfling The cast is made up entirely of puppets, created by the amazing Jim Henson Creature Shop. The unearthly world full of bizarre animals and plants seems so real at times.
The Dark Crystal has minimal violence but some scenes may be a bit scary for young children so parental guidence is recommended. Also, it may cause your daughters to ask why they don't have wings.
This 70s tv series was based on the classic 16th century novel Journey To the West and was wildly popular in Australia in the early 80s. It's the story of a band of pilgrims, led by a young boy priest named Tripitaka, who are travelling from China to India to fetch some Buddhist scriptures. Tripitaka is helped (and hindered) on his journey by Monkey, the immortal monkey king with his magical Wishing Staff, fighting skills and tricks, Sandy the water monster, Pigsy the pig monster and a dragon who was been turned into a horse.
There is lots of action and fighting but very little gore. Kids are captivated by the slapstick and silliness as well as the stories of magic and trickery. Mums and dads may enjoy the nostalgia.
Warning: after watching your kids may want to run around hitting each other with brooms and rakes.
This film, based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, is one for slightly older kids. It's a wonderful adventure story about a boy who travels beyond The Wall into a strange and magical kingdom to fetch a star and prove his love to the girl he wants to marry. When the star turns out to be a young woman with numerous other people out to capture her things get a little more complicated.
The film is full of gorgeous visual effects, great action sequences and hilarity (such as Robert De Niro doing the Cancan).