[Note: this is another in a series of cross-posts from our friends at Common Sense Media. The opinions included in this post are perfectly reasonable, but as geeky parents, I’m sure many of us have our own ideas about this very important subject. Please feel free to discuss in the comments; we’d love to hear from you!]
Ever since that first menacing star destroyer loomed across movie screens in 1977, kids of all ages have been enamored with the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and all their friends (and enemies!). Even kids as young as 2 and 3 can name all the franchise’s major characters — which often tempts parents who also grew up loving the movies to plan a Star Wars movie night.
But not all Star Wars movies, TV shows, games, and apps are the same when it comes to intensity and impact. The silly fun of Lego Star Wars is a lot easier for younger elementary schoolers to handle than the sight of Anakin Skywalker crawling out of a bubbling pit of lava in Revenge of the Sith, for example.
If your family is ready for lightsabers and the Force, here’s a quick age guide for enjoying Star Wars with your kids. Keep in mind that all kids are different, so assess your child’s ability to handle peril and conflict before you make the jump to hyperspace.
Age 6: Your padawan is ready to begin with the basics; nothing too scary.
- Watch: Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (TV show)
- Read/play: Star Wars Journeys: The Phantom Menace (interactive storybook app)
- Discuss: Did you notice any violent moments/scenes when you watched/played these titles? Do you think they’re important to the story? How could the Star Wars stories be told without them?
Age 7: Training continues: Kids are ready for the first (original trilogy) movie — plenty of action, but it all works out OK — and some fun apps.
- Watch: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (movie), Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars (TV special)
- Play: Angry Birds: Star Wars (app), Angry Birds: Star Wars II (app)
- Discuss: Who do you think are the best role models in the Star Wars universe? Why? What makes them admirable?
Age 8-9: The original saga concludes, the prequels begin, and the story expands in more new directions. Action and peril get more intense; characters are more conflicted.
- Watch: Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (movie), Star Wars: Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (movie), Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (movie), Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (movie), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV show), Star Wars: Rebels (TV show)
- Play: Star Wars: Tiny Death Star (app)
- Discuss: Talk about the hype surrounding the Star Wars franchise. Is it deserved? What’s the appeal?
Age 10-11: Get in on the action: Games and the Internet bridge the gap between the kid-friendly movies and the edgier Revenge of the Sith.
- Play: Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (game), Kinect Star Wars (game), Star Wars: Commander (app)
- Visit: StarWars.com (website)
- Watch: Spaceballs (movie — a fun parody with a few iffy bits)
- Discuss: How is video game violence different from movie violence? Does one have more impact than the other? How does it affect things when characters are cartoony (such as Lego mini-figures) vs. real people?
Age 12: Beware the Dark Side: The final movie of the prequel trilogy is extremely intense.
- Watch: Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (movie)
- Discuss: How does Anakin deal with anger in this movie? What are some other options for managing frustration and disappointment? What are the two sides of the Force?