I haven’t seen a movie in an actual movie theater in awhile. When I say “awhile” I actually mean a super long time. Like, before our son was born…and he’s going into kindergarten in the fall. Pretty sure it was Toy Story 3 (and, man, did I bawl!).

But this doesn’t mean that our family doesn’t watch movies. Our older son (and, now, our daughter, who insists on doing EVER-Y-THING he does and more) sees old Disney movies at his grandparents’ houses and we have a handful of family-friendly fare we keep on hand.

By far our kids’ new favorites (and, in turn, our new favorite) are usually high quality (no scary stuff), just the right length, super inexpensive, and fit into our schedule wonderfully. We just pop some popcorn, pull up some blankets and pillows, and dive into PBS Kids Family Night every Friday on the PBS Kids channel. (You don’t even need fancy schmancy cable for it – just the super basic version, which is what we have. ;-))

You may think anything PBS is kinda lame, and if you’re not into their kids’ shows yet, it might not be for you. But our kiddos each have their favorites – our daughter Harper LOVES Daniel Tiger (and don’t tell him we know, but our son Hadley still does, too!), he prefers Wild Kratts, they both love Arthur and Sesame Street, and we all love Odd Squad (especially my husband, to be honest).

So, each Friday at 7pm we know that they’ll be offering an hour-long movie (which is the PERFECT length for their attention spans and bedtime) that’s essentially a super long version of an episode of one of our favorites. Now, if we happen not to be excited about the offering for that week, we’ll either do a family activity together outside the house that evening or watch an old movie that our kids enjoy. Either way, we’re putting in some solid, relatively relaxed family time.

My favorite moment so far came the Monday after we’d had our first “Family Movie Night.” Hadley was getting ready to go to pre-K that morning and said excitedly, “I can’t wait to ask Connor* what he did for Family Night!!!” as if it was a holiday and EVERYONE celebrated it. It was definitely a teachable moment but also showed how important our Friday night ritual became to him pretty quickly. It really has been a way to relax and come together as a family at the end of a hard week.

It’s so cool to see the love of PBS programming that my husband and I appreciated as children (and now as adults when we enjoy programs like Sherlock and Downton Abbey – may it rest in peace – or American Experience and Antiques Roadshow) being loved and embraced by our own kiddos now.  

Is there something that you do as a family – whether it’s a game night, a “no devices allowed” policy, or a super simple movie night – that helps you all unwind and appreciate each other on a regular basis? We’d LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments!

*Not his real name.