Introducing our children to the films that have influenced our lives can be both a hugely rewarding and terrifying experience. Let over-enthusiasm get the better of us by introducing a film too early and the child could be put off for life – disaster. We decided it was time to introduce three-year-old Tilly to Star Wars. Picking through the films carefully we put the DVD on and got a reaction we never expected.

starwars

My first cinema memory is of going to see Return of the Jedi. Assuming I saw it on release I must have been around five-years-old. I never looked back, accumulating a vast array of (sadly long since disposed of) Star Wars toys, like many children in the 80s. I loved it. The excitement was still there years later with the anticipation of the prequels, while the latest film has modernised the franchise and achieved a whole new degree of cool.

We are an unashamedly geeky family with a passion for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Game of Thrones and many others. Some of these our daughter won’t be seeing until she’s an adult but Star Wars has always felt like one of the safest options when providing Tilly an introduction to the world of geekery. Nevertheless there’s a certain anxiety in deciding at what age this education should begin and in what form.

Star Wars does on the outside bear many of the hallmarks of being child-friendly. Anyone around my age will undoubtedly recall owning the action figures. Then there’s Lego. These days the traditional action figures and craft seem to matched in at least equal numbers with yellow-faced block equivalents. Okay they don’t go as far as offering Star Wars Duplo but we seem to be in a pretty family-friendly space here.

Star Wars for small children

So which of the Star Wars films should we use to begin our education in geekery. ShireMum and I cast our minds through the films to recall what might be some of the less suitable scenes…

The Force Awakens

It is a brilliant film but sadly I have to rule this one out immediately. Intense, dark and featuring “scenes that may upset some” as the people on the telly say, it’s fair to say that there’s a bit too much going on that could either lead to nightmares or awkward questions in young children. I’ve love for Rey to become a role model for my daughter one day but for now let’s move on.

The Phantom Menace

Jar Jar Binks. Love him or hate him. Okay, we all hate him, but surely he’s just the sort of annoying character that indicates a film suitable for small children. A major goodie is dispatched though while the baddie is separated from his legs. Both are very cleanly done but may lead to awkward questions from a curious child.

Attack of the Clones

Things start to get a bit darker here as an older Anakin heads on the slippery slope to the dark side. His mother dies, leading to the mass slaughter of sand people, albeit off camera. The level of fighting steps up including injuries to Amidala, while Boba Fett’s father gets his head removed care of a lightsaber, albeit disguised by the helmet.

Revenge of the Sith

Getting seriously dark now, there’s a case of first degree burns and the dispatch of nearly all the good guys ever including the younglings. Definitely out of the running until Tilly has graduated from the Padawan academy.

A New Hope

Now then, this is more like it. The original films are surely wonderfully wholesome. Classic scenes abound and any deaths are largely limited to anonymous stormtroopers and exploding ships. And Obi Wan doesn’t really die anyway. There is the matter of Luke’s uncle and aunt’s scorched skeletons but I have to admit I never noticed that as a child. Just hope they don’t get too attached with any of the rebel pilots as they don’t fare too well. Poor Biggs and Porkins.

The Empire Strikes Back

There’s snow, there’s clouds, oh and Luke gets to sleep in a dead Tauntaun’s stinking guts. That might lead to questions. There’s implied torture, which can probably be overlooked, although the carbon freezing scene might be a bit uncomfortable, not least for Han. Then Luke gets his hand cut off. Still, like all gruesome moments in the original films they are fleeting and can be missed easily, plus Luke is back with a hand again by the end so all is well.

Return of the Jedi

Things heat up here but it’s not too bad, after all we have those cuddly Ewoks. True, they initially want to eat our heroes for dinner but that’s sorted quickly enough. What do we have then? Well the Rankor gobbles a green piggy guard at Jabba’s Palace and of course the fat slug himself gets seen off by Leia with the aid of a chain around the neck. Yoda dies in the style of all first-rate Jedi masters, leaving no work for the undertakers, meanwhile some Ewoks get clobbered and mourn briefly. The Emperor is a bit scary of course and we have another lost hand albeit a bionic one before his Sithness gets dispatched down the lift shaft. There’s not much to cause worry on the whole.

Cartoons

Star Wars Rebels is probably the best known of the current spin-off cartoons and is action packed but clearly toned down children. Younger children may find the plot tricky to follow but there’s nothing to worry about that I’ve seen so far.

Star Wars Lego: Droids Tales is a recent discover of ours and a great option for both children and adults alike. The slightly convoluted plot of each episode engineers C3PO telling the story of each of the films, which deftly avoids any of the troubling elements of the original films and do so with a large dollop of humour. A great choice.

Introducing Star Wars: Our Experience

We opted to start with the Phantom Menace. Possibly not the best decision in hindsight as Tilly found the amount of dialogue dull. Trying one of the original films didn’t fare much better at first. It was only when we showed Rebels that she had an accessible entry point. It was then we had the Eureka moment as we discovered Droid Tales on the Disney XD channel. Here C3PO explains each film briefly and simply; as ideal an introduction to the films as there could be. As hoped, Tilly then asked to watch the films again and this time watched them through.

Tilly asks questions when watching the films. Lots of questions about what is going to the extent that we often want to yell TORONTO BOSH and run out of the room. Still, it’s extremely positive that she’s taking an interest in the films and wants to understand what’s going on. Happily, she also hasn’t commented on any of the scenes we had potential concerns about, I can only assume because they’re depicted in a way that can easily be overlooked by younger viewers, so well done George.

Some scenes do creep her out but it’s ones we never would have expected. In particular, Dagobah. Yes, that’s right, the swampy home to a small hermit who turns out to be the greatest Jedi master of all time. Well apparently it’s the spookiest and scariest part of all of the films. Everything else be it the people-gobbling Sarlacc pit, wicked Emperor, desert world, snow world or forest world are all fine and dandy.

Beyond the films, Tilly has also begun to apply her new found Star Wars knowledge in play (resulting in no shortage of enthusiasm from ShireMum and me). “Daddy: be a Jedi” has become a request for imaginative play and when we’re practicing reading she will inevitably want me to spell out Luke, Chewie or Vader (I’ll get onto him in a minute.) Tilly has also just been allowed to play with mummy and daddy’s full-sized lightsaber, which has taken her interest to a brand new height of excitement, although she’s quite wicked with it. Were it a real lightsaber, daddy would undoubtedly be finely diced up by now.

Yet I also detect an attraction by my daughter to the power of the dark side. Darth Vader appears to be her favourite and we know she’d much rather had a red lightsaber to wield given the choice. Given that she tends to favour the robber in games of cops of robbers this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As and when we get on to buying Star Wars toys, I expect the dark side figures are going to be favourites.

What has been your experience of introducing your children to favourite films? Are they Star Wars fans at a young age? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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15 thoughts on “Star Wars for preschoolers

  • 14 June 2016 at 9:39 am
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    Super post! We are star wars OBSESSED in our house too. Like you, my other half grew up with Star Wars, I was a fan a bit later, in my late teens, but he loved it from childhood. Our eldest is called Luke, but not because of star wars but it does seem apt and your youngest (who is 2) is called Ben, again a mere coincidence!
    We showed the original films to our eldest when he was 3 (Daddy’s choice) and actually, we are lucky as he has a personality that can deal with it all fine. Our middle one, Zak, however, is 6 and still can’t watch anything except Lego star wars. I guess it depends on the kids personalities to a certain degree.
    Super post though and I’ll be off to share!
    #twinklytuesday
    (Gem @ Life Is Knutts)

    Reply
    • 14 June 2016 at 8:51 pm
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      You’re right, it undoubtedly suits some children more than others. Fortunately Tilly is unfazed by most things on screen so has taken to it young

      Reply
  • 14 June 2016 at 12:33 pm
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    For us the cartoons came last – I only showed her the movies after books and toys. TBH I never intended to show here them until 5-6, but it ended up happening much sooner when she was 2. We’ve never looked back…

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  • 14 June 2016 at 5:01 pm
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    It’s always a treat to read another Dad’s account of getting the offspring to like Star Wars. How you do it is up to you, although personally, I think starting with The Phantom Menace is the classic mistake a lot of parents make these days. Why? Well…

    1. Showing it in release order actually makes more sense in the overall narrative. A New Hope is all exposition and world-building. It introduces characters and explains backstories. The Phantom Menace and the other prequels assumes you are familiar with the universe, and that you know about Jedi, The Force, The Clone Wars, etc. The reveal of Yoda in The Phantom Menace is nothing compared to the incredible reveal in Empire when the annoying little goblin turns out to be the big shot Jedi-master Luke is looking for.

    2. Kids get drawn into A New Hope very easily. It takes the first-time viewer on a fabulous journey. You’re WITH the droids, and then you’re WITH Luke. Luke asks all the right questions and acts as the audience in the adventure. There is no person that acts for the audience in the prequels. Kids get quickly bored by The Phantom Menace if they’re not already emotionally-invested in the Star Wars universe.

    3. I know several people who tried to introduce their kids starting with Episode 1, and then despaired as their kids couldn’t give a shit about the other films. That’s because the prequels aren’t very good. I found that if they start with the classic trilogy and then move on to the prequels, the kids will forgive the prequels’ wooden shoddiness. As a result, my daughter loves Episode 2. If she hadn’t previously worked her way through the other films, she would have given up after two hours of Jar-Jar’s cavortings.

    Introducing kids to geek culture is essential good fun for all the family. Now we have stuff to talk about on long car journeys together! Carry on in this vein, and… well… anything is possible
    (here’s my account of trying to get our kid into the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    https://daddyburnsthesalad.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/experimenting-on-children/)
    I look forward to reading more on how you and your daughter enjoy films together 🙂

    Reply
    • 15 June 2016 at 9:48 pm
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      Had we realised that we’d have to grab her attention in the first half hour then yes we’d not have chosen Phantom Menace but we’re happy enough with how her interest in Star Wars is panning out. I’ll take a look at your blog too to see how your experiment is going! Thanks for visiting

      Reply
  • 14 June 2016 at 7:09 pm
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    My kids are obsessed with Star Wars thanks to my husband. Before my husband introduced Star Wars to my kids I had never seen any of the movies. Now I’m just as obsessed as the rest of the family!! Thanks for sharing #TwinklyTuesday

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  • 14 June 2016 at 10:14 pm
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    Facinating post! My daddy is a massive Star Wars fan and introducing me slowly, reading comics and hopefully taking me to Celebrations next month… hopefully. 😉 #TwinklyTuesday

    Reply
  • 15 June 2016 at 7:04 am
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    LOVE it! We are also an unashamedly geeky house. Lord of the Rings, GoT amongst so many I couldn’t name them all. I actually quoted “One must not simply walk into Mordor” to my son. The first thing I said to him. I’d been watching the extended trilogy during labour. Hope your young padawan continues to enjoy all things geek. #bloggerclubuk

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    • 15 June 2016 at 9:18 pm
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      Brilliant. Certainly a memorable line with which to introduce him to the world! Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  • 15 June 2016 at 8:57 pm
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    That’s awesome that your daughter’s favorite is Darth Vadar!! My dad took me to see return of the jedi when I was young. I woke up with nightmares about Luke’s had being cut off. And I remember him telling me so sweetly – but they gave him a new hand… he’s a big fan too! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #BloggerClubUK x

    Reply
  • 16 June 2016 at 1:59 pm
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    Mine was bored to death with Phantom Menace also, but liked A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. Those are the only old ones she’s seen, though we did go to Force Awakens and she liked it. Mine just turned five and didn’t find it scary, just a bit too long to be sitting still. Jedi was the first movie I saw in a theater also and I was determined she would have the same memory #briliantblogposts

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  • 16 June 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    Brilliant post and great rundown of all the films highlighting their suitability. Zach doesn’t tend to sit down long enough to watch films so we are still on the shortish Disney and Pixar movies. I also feel like it’s a bit soon to introduce him to Jurassic Park which is my absolute fave set haha! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Reply
    • 16 June 2016 at 5:35 pm
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      Jurassic Park would be great for the dinosaur lovers but it’s a bit gruesome in places, from memory. Thanks for visiting.

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  • 19 June 2016 at 7:01 pm
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    I’m guessing you are a big star wars fan. It’s nice that she’s taken such an interest in such an early age. I have to confess, I still haven’t seen a single film, but then I guess it was because I wasn’t interested in TV much as a child and now there’s so many of them!

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie

    Reply

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