SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Teamwork.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Trustworthiness; Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5-8; MPAA Rating — G; Animated Drama; 1995; 81 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com.
“Toy Story” is a film about toys coming to life when nobody is looking. Woody, the favorite toy of a young boy named Andy, gets replaced by a fancy new birthday present, “Buzz Lightyear”. Woody tries to get rid of Buzz, only to find himself on an adventure in which he must save Buzz from destruction. On the long journey back to the toy box, through a series of challenges, Woody and Buzz become friends.
This movie is highly engaging for children, and also entertaining for adults. It poses the question that so many children wonder about. “What if my toys come alive?” It demonstrates the importance of friendship, perseverance, and respect for property.
When Buzz Lightyear first appears, Woody tries to push him behind the dresser. Buzz falls out of the window instead. This is not good conduct and Woody is ostracized by the other toys who think that he tried to push Buzz out of a window.
imagination, rescue, mission, cowboy, astronaut, toys, replaced, rejection, jealousy, laser, infinity, rocket.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Which character was your favorite? — If you could have any of the characters in the movie as a friend, which would you choose? — Why is that?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
Why did Woody hate Buzz?
How did Woody come to be Buzz’s friend?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
If your toys came awake when you left the room, who would be the leader?
If your toys came awake when you left the room, which toys would be best friends?
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is a song in the movie. What do you think it takes to be a good friend? Who are your good friends? What do you like most about them? Talking About It — Good friends have fun together. They take care of one another and look out for each other. They make their friend laugh even when the friend is sad. They listen to each other’s problems.
2. Friends are supposed to trust each other; so why did the toys stop trusting Woody even when he was telling the truth about not trying to push Buzz out of the window? Talking About It — Woody did a lot of things that made the other toys suspicious of him. They knew that Woody was jealous of Buzz and they saw him doing things to undercut Buzz. Then they saw Buzz fall out of the window after Woody was trying to make him fall behind the dresser. Later, when they saw Woody trying to rescue Buzz with the RC car, they realized that he hadn’t meant to hurt Buzz after all. The toys forgave each other and were happy to be friends again. This tells us that trust and friendship can only go so far and you can lose a friendship if your friend thinks you are doing something wrong.
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
→ Take this opportunity to learn more about your child’s friends, by asking what kinds of things they like to do together, what their favorite game is, and why he or she likes that person.
3. Think about what Sid did to the toys. Why is it important to respect other people’s property, as well as your own? Talking About It — The Golden Rule tells us that we should treat others in the same way we would like them to treat us. Since people usually care about their property this means that we should treat the property of others in the same manner that we would have them treat our property. Tell your child that accidents do happen (accidentally breaking a toy, for example) and that the best thing to do is tell the child who owns the toy or an adult about it right away, apologize, and help clean up.
→ The Golden Rule is basic to morality and ethics. Here is a modern formulation of the Rule. Have your child memorize this or another version. Repeat it to your child often when a decision about how to act must be made: “In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you.” Show your child how to apply it in his or her own life. Let your child see you apply the Rule in decisions that you make.
4. While Woody didn’t actually intend to knock Buzz out of the window, was he still responsible for Buzz’s fall? Talking About It — Yes, at least partially. Woody was doing something that was wrong: trying to push Buzz so that he fell behind the dresser. Then something unexpected happened and Buzz fell out of the window. Woody was at least partially responsible because Buzz wouldn’t have fallen out of the window if Woody hadn’t been trying to make him to fall behind the dresser.
→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.
5. After Buzz fell out of the window did Woody take responsibility? Talking About It — At first, Woody didn’t accept his role in Buzz’s fall. But eventually, he took responsibility for his actions and tried to bring Buzz back home.
→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me!” — This is the theme song for the movie. It’s great to play for kids in the car, during playtime or to use as a sing-along. You can also read the lyrics together. Point out that friendships do change, new friends come along, and people adjust.
2. Toys and games from your childhood — If you have any of your childhood toys still around, share them with your child (old games, dolls, blankets, etc.). Compare them to similar toys from today. If you don’t have any old toys, see if you can find some pictures of old toys online. This Old Toy has a huge toy database, searchable by year. Teach your child how to play some of the games that you used to play, such as jacks, handball, hopscotch, Cat’s cradle, etc.
3. Toy Statues — Play the Toy Story Statues game with your child. It is designed to get kids in grades K – 2 moving and thinking creatively.
Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for Woody, Buzz and the other toys. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a bedtime story developing some of the themes in “Toy Story”. If you read the story at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time.
It was a new school year. Tom and Alex were excited to be in the same class, even though they weren’t sitting next to each other. Both boys had sandy colored hair, blue eyes, and freckled faces. They did many things together and in the same way: at baseball they were both very good at catching the ball but they couldn’t hit very well; they both laughed and giggled most of the time in the same way; they both were good readers; and their clothes were a mess, most of the time in the same way, because when Tom got muddy, Alex was muddy, too, and when Alex had grass stains on his pants, Tom had pants with grass stains as well. Some people thought they were twins, but they came from different families and they weren’t related at all. Every evening before a school day, Tom and Alex spoke on the telephone and planned what to play at recess the next day and what food to bring in their lunches, in case they wanted to trade.
So far, the school year looked like it was going to be fun. Ms. Howard, their teacher, said that the class was going to be doing lots of science projects . . . starting with making models of volcanoes that erupted using baking soda and vinegar! Tom and Alex looked at each other and grinned. To do their project, they’d need to make the mountain out of clay or something like it and use twigs for trees. Then they’d have to paint the mountain and the trees and the lava . . . and then they’d have to experiment with the baking soda eruptions. It would be a real mess. Usually, they were scolded for making messes, but this time it would be for school.
Just as reading time was about to start, the classroom door opened and the school principal came in with a girl peeking out from behind her dress. “Ms. Howard,” the principal said, “this is your new student, Anna-Lisa.” She nudged the girl forward, and Anna-Lisa stepped shyly into the classroom.
“Welcome, Anna-Lisa!” Ms. Howard said. “We were just talking about our next project . . . making our own volcanoes!” Anna-Lisa’s eyes brightened and she grinned. “Why don’t you take that empty seat next to Alex?” Ms. Howard said, showing her where to sit. “What do you like to be called by, Anna-Lisa?”
“Just call me ‘Anna’,” the girl said and sat down next to Alex. They waved “hi” to each other, and then turned back to listen to Ms. Howard’s lesson.
That day at recess, Tom was waiting for Alex out by the slide, where they always met for recess. He couldn’t understand why Alex wasn’t there and hoped that nothing bad had happened to him. He was just about to leave to check the nurse’s office when Alex ran up with Anna by his side. “Hey, Tom, sorry we’re late! I was just showing Anna around the playground. I even showed her that mud puddle we’ve been working on.”
Anna nodded and said, “It’s really cool!”
Tom glared. The mud puddle was a secret project. How could Alex go and show it to Anna without even asking him? But Tom decided to spend the rest of recess playing and not worrying. After school, Tom sat by the flagpole where he and Alex always met after school to walk home together. Alex was late again, and again, Anna was right behind him. “Tom, I’m going to walk Anna home. She lives over by the park. But you can come with. And then we can walk to your house.”
Tom yanked his backpack off the ground and swung it hard onto his back. “The park is completely in the wrong direction from my house! Forget it, I’ve got something to do and I’m walking home without you. Without EITHER of you.” And with that, he stomped away.
(If your child isn’t sleepy, you might want to pause here and ask what he or she thinks about the way Alex is acting. What about Tom, what is he feeling? What should Alex do?)
A couple of days passed and Alex was spending most of his time with Anna. They played at recess together. They had a play date after school. They were even doing the volcano project together! Tom started to get jealous that his friend was spending so much time with someone else. Pretty soon Tom got fed up, and whenever Alex would try to talk to him at recess or in the classroom, Tom would just walk off.
One day, Alex came over to Tom during free time and said, “Listen Tom, I know I haven’t been a very good friend to you lately, and I’m sorry. I really like being friends with Anna, but you’re my best friend, and I don’t want you to be jealous. I’d like to spend time with both of you.”
Tom was still angry and he just turned on his heel and walked away. He was really angry with Alex.
Tom’s mother had noticed that he had not been happy the last few days. She also noticed that he wasn’t playing with Alex. One night at supper she said, “Tom, Alex hasn’t been around much. Is he alright?”
Tom said, “I don’t like him anymore.”
Tom’s mother came and gave him a big hug. “Are you sure? You and he were close for so long. The two of you didn’t have a fight, did you?”
“No, we didn’t have a fight. He’s got a new friend, Anna, and he plays with her all the time.”
Tom’s mother said, “Well, sometimes our old friends get new friends. Why don’t you try to be his friend, just a friend who is not as close as the two of you were before? It won’t be the same as it was before, but I bet that Alex still wants to be your friend, he just wants to be Anna’s friend, too.”
So, the next day, Tom challenged Alex to a race, and suggested that Anna be the starter. Then Alex asked Anna and Tom over to his house that weekend for a play date and suggested that all three of them work on the volcano project together. Alex and Tom were never taken for twins again, but they remained friends. Tom even got a new friend; her name was Anna.
BRIDGES TO READING
There are a host of Toy Story related books. Check at your local library or search for “Toy Story” on Amazon.com. For another story about toys coming to life, try reading “The Nutcracker”. There are many books about the story of “The Nutcracker”. In many cities the ballet of “The Nutcracker” is performed each Christmas.