Making Christmas TV Educational!
It’s almost that time of year again where you are bombarded with Christmas films on the television, and all your children want to do (and maybe you too?!) is sprawl on the sofa and watch them continuously. Well, there is a way to allow your children to do that and lessen the feeling of guilt that can come with it - make it educational! Find out our suggestions for a number of Christmas films below, each with a free set of Activity Sheets to download!
Father Christmas (1991)
Based on the book by Raymond Briggs, this short animated film takes a look at what Father Christmas does on the other 364 days of the year! Take a look at our suggestions for some activities around this film:
- Challenge children to choose one of the destinations Father Christmas visits on his holidays, and then put themselves into his shoes (or boots!) and write a postcard home, explaining everything he saw and got up to there.
- Some of the places Father Christmas visits are not always enjoyable for him. Encourage your children to write him a letter, suggesting where he should go next year, and why he might like it better than his holiday this year!
- Father Christmas spends time organising presents for us, but what present do children think he would like to receive? Ask them to draw a picture of the gift they would get for him, and write a short explanation of their choice.
- If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is also a fun ‘True or False?’ sheet where children have to observe the film carefully in order to answer all questions correctly.
The Snowman (1982)
Also based on a Raymond Briggs book, in this film a young boy’s snowman magically comes to life, and takes him on an adventure to meet Father Christmas. There are many activities you could challenge your children to do based on this wonderful short film:
- The Boy and The Snowman never speak to each other - but if they did, what do you think they might say? Children could write an imagined conversation between them, or even act it out!
- During the film, we see the Boy building The Snowman step-by-step. Encourage your children to draw pictures and write instructions for each of the different stages of construction!
- Awaken the creative side in your children and challenge them to design their own snowman! Ask them to label what they would use for his eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, etc.
- If you watch the film carefully, you will see that there are many different animals in The Snowman - challenge children to make a note of each animal they spot. As an extra challenge, they could choose one animal to do extra research on, and maybe make a poster or write a report about it.
A fantastically funny film, Elf focuses on the character of Buddy, a human who has been raised by elves at the North Pole. On finding out that he is not actually an elf, Buddy travels to New York in search of his father. Here are some suggestions for activities based on this film:
- Buddy is given a snow globe of New York City, where his father lives. Children could design and draw their own snow globe, showing where they live.
- After watching the film, challenge your children to describe and draw the film’s funniest, happiest and saddest moments.
- In the downloadable Activity Sheets set, there is a match-up activity sheet, challenging children to pay close attention to the film and join the start of given sentences about events in the film to their correct endings.
- Also included in the Activity Sheets set are the lyrics to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, sung by the character Jovie near the end of the film. Children are challenged to complete the missing words using the word bank provided. They can then sing the song themselves!
The Grinch (2018)
This film is based on the 1957 book by Dr Seuss, where a creature named The Grinch hates Christmas and everything to do with it. He devises a wicked plan to ruin the festive season for the town of Whoville. Below are some activity ideas based on the film:
- Children could write a character description for The Grinch, detailing his appearance, his personality, what he does, and how he changes by the end of the film.
- Ask children to draw a picture of, or describe, Whoville at Christmas time. Would they like to live in Whoville? Why? Encourage them to explain their reasoning.
- You could challenge children to step into the shoes of The Grinch, and describe or act out his thoughts about Christmas both at the beginning of the film, and then at the end, and discuss how they differ.
- The Grinch is based on a book in which the story is written in rhymed verse. In the film, we often hear the narrator reading parts of this rhymed verse. If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is a sheet on which children complete the missing rhyming words.
The Polar Express (2004)
A young boy who is beginning to lose his belief in Father Christmas is the focus of this film. He boards a special train to the North Pole, and on the way, has amazing adventures, makes some special new friends, and regains his belief in the magic of Christmas. Some activities to complement the film are listed below:
- Challenge children to design a ticket for the Polar Express. Who would they give it to, and why? What two letters do they think The Conductor would cut out on it, and why? What full word would be created on reboarding the train?
- In the film, the symbol of Christmas spirit for The Boy is the bell he receives from ‘Mr C’. Ask children to draw and explain what represents the Christmas spirit for them.
- At one point in the film, the train passes the Northern Lights. Encourage children to research exactly what this phenomenon is. They could also create their own artwork depicting these magical lights above the Polar Express.
- If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is a crossword for children to complete - all the answers can be found by watching the film carefully!
A young postman who is not very good at his job is sent to serve an unwelcoming, frozen town in the far North. He meets an old toy maker, Klaus, and together they begin delivering presents to the children of the town, and things begin to change… . Here are some suggestions for activities around this film:
- Ask children to imagine that they are one of the children living in Smeerensburg. Challenge them to write their own letter to Klaus, telling him how they have been good, what gift they would like and why.
- In the film, Klaus has carved alcoves into a tree trunk for a family of figurines. Ask children to draw or make their own version of this, complete with everyone that is special to them.
- In the film, Klaus says, ‘A true selfless act always sparks another’. Ask children to name as many selfless acts that happen in the film that they can think of. Have they made any selfless acts themselves in the past? Or are there any that they could make?
- If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is a quiz sheet of ten questions about events in the film that can all be answered correctly by watching the film carefully!
Arthur Christmas (2011)
In this festive film, Santa’s rather accident-prone son, Arthur, sets out on a mission to deliver a present that was left at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Ideas for activities related to this entertaining film are listed below:
- Encourage children to draw pictures of, and write a short description about, each of the members of Santa’s family: Santa himself, Mrs Santa, GrandSanta, Steve and of course, Arthur. What characteristics do they each have? How are they similar? How are they different?
- In the film, Arthur is particularly fond of his slippers. Unfortunately, he loses them during his adventure. Ask children to use their artistic abilities to design him a new pair!
- Arthur encourages his family to play ‘Christmas: The Board Game’. Challenge your children to design and make their own version! They will need to think about: what the board will look like, the aim of the game, how it is played, and any extra items they might need, such as counters or question cards.
- If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is an anagram puzzle where children need to unscramble sets of letters to reveal each of the nine reindeer’s names.
Stick Man (2015)
This heart-warming film is based on the book by Julia Donaldson. One day, the character Stick Man sets out on an unintentionally long journey, and tries his hardest to make it back to his family tree for Christmas. Listed below are some suggestions for activities you could do related to the events in this animated short film:
- Ask children to imagine that they are a member of the Stick family - either Stick Man, Stick Lady or one of the three Stick children - and write their diary entry for Christmas Day.
- During his year-long adventure away from home, Stick Man is used as many different things - can children name them all? Stick Man also carries out several good deeds for the animals and people he meets along the way - how many of them can they remember?
- Unleash your children’s creative side and get them to draw a new portrait of the Stick family after they are reunited to hang in their family tree. You could also challenge them to create their own family from nature - maybe the Leaf family, or the Stone family?
- Throughout the film, as the viewer we see many different animals. Challenge children to watch the film carefully and note down as many different animals as they can. If you choose to download the Activity Sheets set, there is a word search puzzle containing all the animals from the film.
Activities for ANY Film
If there’s a particular film being played on repeat in your house, or you just want some activities for any TV or film time, set one of these fun challenges to give a new dimension to their watching habits:
- Turn the sound off and challenge your child to describe what is happening in the film. Ask children to imagine that they are helping a blind person experience the film, so they need to use as much detail as possible for each scene. You may wish to play children a few short scenes using Audio Description to get them started.
- Once the film has finished, challenge children to retell the story in their own words. There are lots of ways they could do this: as a cartoon strip; as a digital book; as a written recount; as a series of drawings; or as a storyboard.
- Challenge children to write a review of the film. How many stars out of five would you give it? What was the best bit? Which characters were in the movie? Who was your favourite character? Alternatively, they could record a vlog review giving their opinion to share online with friends and family.
We hope this has given you some ideas for how you can make Christmas TV a little less guilt-ridden and a lot more educational. If you have any ideas of your own for how to turn film-watching into learning experiences, we’d love to hear from you! Give us a shout on social media or share your children’s work with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!