Endlings Explores Family Themes

It’s a rare film or television show that appeals both to young children and to adults. Endlings (Hulu) is one such show. It’s excellent.

Set in the near-future, the show tells the story of a man who cares for four foster children, each with a unique set of problems. This is the thread with rich themes of building family and dealing with loss that will keep adults as well as children interested. The second-layer story involves a space alien who travels around the galaxy picking up the last surviving members of species heading to extinction. In this future, elephants are in big trouble. The humans and the alien join forces to save exotic animals (mostly escaped aliens) and to thwart the meddling of a woman with darker motives.

The production is high quality, and the acting is consistently good—especially that of Neil Crone, who portrays the foster father. I genuinely enjoyed the entire series (two seasons), and I felt good letting my six-year-old absorb its thoughtful and positive messages.

In Praise of Lego Kits

Lego kits help kids develop spacial reasoning, learn to patiently follow detailed directions, and grasp some basics about mechanics. They provide a great opportunity for parents and their children especially at younger ages to work on a project together. And kids end up with fun toys.

Various themed lego kits (dinosaurs, space exploration) also present an easy segue to lessons about science.

Although some of the kits recommend ages 7–12, my son started working with them (with adult supervision) at age four. Just be sure kids have gotten over putting small objects in their mouths! Use at your own risk.

A couple of my son’s favorite kits involve dinosaurs and spaceships (paid links). One thing I really like about the T-Rex kit is that it has some interesting hinges and ball joints to allow movement.

Films for Kids

Here I briefly review films that my family has enjoyed and that I think are great for kids.

Coco, Disney+, disk (paid link)
Coco is a strange but wonderful film that draws on traditions surrounding the Day of the Dead. The mythic background is that, after people die, they enjoy an afterlife so long as people living still remember them. Our hero is a young boy who, wanting to explore his love of music, visits this land of the dead in search of an ancestor who was a great musician. But things are not as they seem, and the boy must race against time to put right past wrongs. The film explores the value of family and the importance of doing what you love. The animation is amazing; my five-year-old was enthralled.

Mary Poppins, 1964, Disney+, disk (paid link)
This is one of the absolute all-time great musicals and children’s films. Although I also enjoyed the sequel, to my mind nothing can match the magic of the original film, led by the amazing Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The story is a simple one of a father learning to relax a bit and enjoy time with his children. The songs and performances are excellent, and animation blends perfectly with the live action.

Pete’s Dragon, 1977, Disney+, disk (paid link)
I rewatched this film with my five-year-old and had forgotten how violent it is! It shows threats of child torture and enslavement, child abuse (a teacher beats a child in class), and public drunkenness. It also has some wonderful songs and a great story about friendship and family. The basic story is that Pete, having run away from a brutal family that had enslaved him, finds a new home with a kind woman who runs a lighthouse. Oh, and Pete has befriended a dragon that can turn invisible. When a snake-oil salesman comes to town, he sets his sights on capturing the dragon. We paused the film a few times to discuss child abuse, drunkenness, and snake-oil products.

I’ll add more entries here over time.

Image: Dejan Krsmanovic