Human being love to tell stories. And ever since they began to tell stories, they have used stories to explain ideas, concepts and feelings to one another.
So if you want to explain a big idea to children, a really good way to do it is through stories. And one of the best ways to tell a story to children, especially very young children, is through movies.
Feelings are one of the most difficult ideas to explain in a way that children can understand, and so a well written movie about dealing with emotions can be a really effective way to explain big, difficult concept to children, while they enjoy themselves.
These movies explain emotions to children in a way that they will understand, without feeling that they are being taught, in fact they will not realise that they are learning at all!
If you choose just one film from this list, Disney’s Inside Out is probably the best one to watch on dealing with emotions.
Inside the mind of a young girl, Riley, are five emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. They are represented as different characters. Joy is their leader, but different emotions take control of Riley’s mind as she has different experiences. This shows children how feelings are influenced by what happens to you
Disney’s Turning Red is the story of 13-year-old, hardworking, spectacle wearing, Mei who discovers that when she experiences high emotion, she turns into a red panda.
Whilst she leans that this is a hereditary trait that can be avoided by taking part in a moonlit ceremony, she has become rather fond of her panda self, as have her friends. She discovers that she can control her transformation by controlling her emotions, and eventually learns to accept this part of her personality.
Wall-e is widely regarded as one of Disney’s masterpieces. It tells the tale of a lonely robot, left on an earth destroyed by consumerism to clean up the devastated planet. After centuries alone he has developed a personality and collects unusual things that he finds during his cleaning. One day he finds a seedling and ends up on a journey into space.
The environmental message is most obvious one in this film. However the themes of loneliness and the zombie-like acceptance of the few remaining humans whose lives consist of eating and watching TV make the message that we have to look after our planet even stronger.
Pride is the emotion highlighted by this big Disney Pixar hit movie, as top racing car Lightnin’ McQueen finds himself lost and alone in a small town when he should be competing in the final race of the season.
The kindly folk of Radiator Springs soon firmly cut him down to size, and in turn he uses his talents to help the town, which is slowly closing down due to lack of visitors.
In spite of it PG certificate, Big Hero 6 includes some big themes. Robotics prodigy Hiro’s brother Tadashi dies while trying to rescue his mentor from a burning building. Hiro teams up with Baymax, a healthcare robot built by Tadashi to avenge his brother’s death.
Hiro is consumed by revenge and anger, but Baymax, programmed only to help people reminds him that the goal is saving lives, not hurting others.
Up is a beautiful Disney film which, with comparatively little dialogue, manages to consider the issues of miscarriage, loss and grief in an age appropriate way.
After Carl loses his adored wife Ellie, he becomes stubborn and grumpy, refusing to move out of the beloved house that he built with Ellie. He decides to float his house away to their special place, Paradise Falls, but discovers that he has accidentally also taken Russell, and 8-year old scout.
Eventually Carl begins to deal with his grief, and learns to live again.
Yes, another Disney, but one of their biggest hits of the last few years is all about emotions. Elsa fears that her ability to control ice and snow will hurt those around her, especially her much-loves sister Anna. She also fears the rejection of her citizens if they discover her powers.
Elsa runs away, but Anna’s love for her sister is too strong, and she goes to find her and bring her home. Elsa realises that love is the key to controlling her powers, but it is the love of the two sisters that conquers all.
In the film ET: The Extra Terrestrial, the alien ET is stranded on earth and protected by a group of children. One of this group Elliot, a ten year old boy finds that he can feel the ET’s thoughts and emotions.
His empathy for the creature means that he is able to understand and help the alien to contact his own planet and eventually return home.
This film based on the much loved book by L.M. Montgomery is the story of Anne Shirley, a red-headed orphan who is sent to live with an elderly couple at Green Gables Farm.
Anne’s emotion anger often gets the better of her, causing her to lash out and risk losing her home at Green Gables.
In this animated movie, 10 year old Lucas is neglected by his family and tormented by the local bully. In turn he takes his frustration out on an ant hill. Next morning he wakes up to discover that he has shrunk to the size of an ant.
Lucas experiences all the threats that the ants are subject to and ends up having to team up with the ants to save the anthill. This teaches kids how a person who is bullied may become a bully, and the film also shows how Lucas develops empathy for the ants that he tormented.
These last two films which explore emotions are suitable for older children and are mostly rated 12A or above, and include themes of violence, drugs and sex.
This stop-motion animation was originally made in French (also known as My Life As A Zucchini). Icare accidentally pushes his alcoholic mother down the stairs after she comes at him in a violent rage.
Put in an orphanage, he meets other children who have been abused and neglected, and finds the ways that they all have developed to cope with their abuse. Icare must learn to trust adults again and the other people in his life.
Charlie has been depressed through much of his childhood. He begins high school but is shy and finds it difficult to make friends. Many of his fellow students have suffered abuse and although he makes friend he is bullied, suffers blackouts and has a further mental breakdown.
This is another story where children can learn that their emotions can be caused by the way they have been treated so that they can understand why they behave the way they do.
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