As a grandparent, you’d probably agree with Doug Larson’s quote–
“Few things are more delightful than grandchildren fighting over your lap.”
…unless that means you have to read Red Fish, Blue Fish or watch Teletubbies one more time.
Okay, not all grandkids are that age. But no matter how old they are, you want movies and books that you both enjoy.
Need ideas? Read on for some favorites.
(Thankfully, many of these can be found in your local library or for digital download. Because different books and movies can have the same title, I’ve linked to the ones I describe. But neither Frontida nor I receive any benefit if you choose to purchase them.)
Because “No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.” –Roger Ebert
When you need a quiet afternoon, there’s nothing like grabbing popcorn and popping in a movie.
And some of the oldies are definitely goodies!
I’ve ranked these by the youngest grandchild who would probably understand them, but I guarantee you won’t be too old for them.
Any and all ages:
- Air Bud—For the love of golden retrievers. (I’m betting it sparked all those dog YouTube videos I can’t stop watching.)
- Homeward Bound—The one where the animals talk. There’s an older version that has a human narrator, but this remake, with Michael J. Fox, is hysterical—except for the parts where you’re bawling.
- Up—The perfect team of a young boy, a senior citizen, and, of course, a dog. (*Squirrel)
Elementary school and older:
- Swiss Family Robinson—One of the classics, it’s entertaining without hyping up your little ones.
- Princess Bride—Also a classic, although a modern one. Only problem is you might find you’re quoting the movie for the next month. “Inconceivable!”
- Hachi—Bring along a box of Kleenex. Or maybe two. It’s all about loyalty. And it’s a true story of a dog and his human.
- The Blind Side—No dog in this one. But it’s about football and family. And it’s also based on a true story.
Middle School/High School and older:
- Unbroken—This one is fantastic—but it isn’t easy—hence the age suggestion. The true story of Louis Zamperini, it takes him from his rise as an Olympic runner through survival as a WWII POW. And in between, being stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
- Hacksaw Ridge—Again, true history from WWII. And bravery that you won’t soon forget.
- Rear Window—For something lighter, try classic James Stewart in a cozy mystery—Show your grandkids he did more than It’s a Wonderful Life.
- The Gods Must Be Crazy—To think it all started when someone littered! Full of slapstick at its best, an African tribesman comes face-to-face with crazy 1st-world “civilization.” (Seriously, my mom didn’t like many movies—but she loved this one!)
Of course, sometimes you need to turn off the box and take the grandkids through an adventure in pages.
Because “when I was your age, television was called books.” –Grandfather on Princess Bride
Want to hear a fascinating fact? When kindergartners have been read to at home, they’ve heard one million more words than those who haven’t.
And it obviously doesn’t just help their learning.
There’s also all those snuggles while reading. Even when they’ve grown up, there’s still something that connects when you’re reading stories together.
And you don’t even have to be in the same room.
So grab a blanket and a couch (or the phone or Zoom), and share one of these.
Growing up, I mistakenly thought picture books were for babies.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I now ask for them for birthdays for myself— and more than one adult guest has been caught reading them for fun—even when they didn’t have children with them.
- The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt)—This hilarious book looks at life from the eyes of a crayon.
- The Dot (Peter H. Reynolds)—Ever had something you didn’t think you could do but someone believed in you? This is that story.
- The Aminal (Lorna Balian). No, I didn’t misspell the title. And if you ask for it in the library, they’ll look at you funny. But it’s a wonderful tale proving that old game of Operator—where gossip gets bigger and stranger the further it’s passed along. This book isn’t always easy to find, but it’s a treasure when you do.
- How to Read a Story (Kate Messner)—Just fun. And also educational. (Perfect for the grandparent that likes to get into the telling.)
- Once upon a time, the End (asleep in 60 seconds) (Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt) Proof that some picture books are made for adults. Especially those with grandkids that always want one more story.
- Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Julia Rawlinson)—Absolutely gorgeous. And such a sweet story, you might end up wiping some tears before you’re done. It’s about loyalty and care and friendship…and how scary change can seem.
Kindergarten and Up
- Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang (Mordecai Richler)—My 2nd grade teacher read this book to me, and I never forgot it. Decades later, I asked for it for my birthday, and my high school kids loved it so much, they keep putting it on their own bookshelves.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)—Needs no explanation.
- Chocolate Fever (Robert Kimmel Smith)—The perfect example for your grandchildren as to why they can’t eat chocolate for breakfast.
- How to Eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell)—Your grandsons will love it!
2nd Grade and Up
- Dear America series and My Name is America series—Love history? You’ll want to grab these. And there are tons to enjoy. Dear America has girl leads; My Name… has boys.
- Narnia Series (C.S. Lewis)—You can’t go wrong with the classics.
- The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool (Margaret Gray)—Forget the perfect prince/princess stories you know. This one will help your grandkids see what’s really important.
- On the Run series (Gordon Korman)—Another good one for boys with on-the-edge-of-your-seat action.
- Frindle (Andrew Clements)—Something about Clements’ books always entertain. In this one, a student proves what’s in a name.
- Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo)—Our kindergarten teacher actually read this one to my daughter, and she loved it. But many children may understand it better if they’re a little older.
Upper Elementary and Up
- True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)—One of my kids’ all-time favorites!
- Pictures of Hollis Woods (Patricia Reilly Giff)—It’s about family, love, and the need to know someone cares.
- Hachiko Waits (Lesléa Newman)—The book that came before the movie (Hachi). Yes, you’ll need the same box or two of Kleenex.
- Out of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper)—I believe every parent, grandparent, and teacher need to read this book. Especially if they know anyone with special needs. (Warning: You’ll want to throttle one character.) I once told a 6’7” man that the book would make him cry. He apparently thought, “yeah, right.” But after he read it? He told me, “I forced myself not to cry. But I stared out the window for a long time.”
- The Shadow Children series (Margaret Pederson Haddix)—Imagine a world where it’s illegal to have more than two kids. Here’s the story of the “third” children—and how they survive.
Middle School/High School and Up
- Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)—Some people say this book starts out slow. But if you keep reading, you won’t be sorry… Pimpernel is the predecessor to Zorro, Batman, and all things brilliant-secret-superhero.
- Nothing But the Truth (Avi)—Another must read, this time by parents, grandparents, teachers, and news reporters. It’s the fact that sometimes just knowing something happened doesn’t actually give you the real story.
- Lord of the Rings (J.R. Tolkien)—especially for fantasy lovers. You’ve seen the movies, now read the books.
High School/College and Up
- Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)—Yes, it was a book before it was a movie. And the book takes you through his final adventures.
Time to Checkout
Again, the great thing about movies and books is you can share them whether the grandkids you’re together or apart. And it gives you something to talk about after.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list.
So let us know in the comments if there’s a book or movie that you and the grandkids can’t get enough of.
And once you read or watch one of the ones above, come back and let us know what you thought.
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.