When Should You Introduce Your Kids to Star Wars?
Parents who are Star Wars fans (and even parents who aren’t) face the same difficult choice: When do you introduce your little one (or ones) to the universe you hold so dear? Most of us will agree that Star Wars is a communal experience; we all remember not only what it was liking experiencing Star Wars, but who we experienced it with. With that in mind, Star Wars parents often find themselves eager to extend and re-create those happy memories with what we cherish most of all. Our children.
In the following discussion, StarWars.com contributors Jamie Greene and Michael Moreci talk about what it was like introducing their own children to Star Wars and offer helpful advice to parents — casual and obsessive alike — looking to welcome their kids to a galaxy far, far away…
MM: Let’s start with the basics: When did your oldest child first encounter Star Wars?
JG: The first time my daughter ever saw Star Wars, the original, was on the big screen. There’s an AFI theater near here, and they were showing A New Hope. She was probably three at the time? I took her, realizing she was three, but thinking she’d be blown away — I mean, it’s Star Wars. And she was blown away. It’s this beautiful old theater, it was a packed house, and we had great seats. She loved it. Afterward, we didn’t race home and watch the other films. I spread it out a little bit. Her initial exposure was on the big screen, the way it should have been, the way most of us were introduced to Star Wars. But what really made her a fan, what really brought her into the Star Wars universe was [Star Wars] Rebels. She was obsessed with it, she fell hard for Rebels, and we used that as a stepping off point for exploring the universe. After Rebels, we watched the movies, dug into the books, started The Clone Wars, and she really became a big fan.
MM: Did you find that Rebels, in a vacuum, delivered the Star Wars experience for a first-timer?
JG: It sucked her in. She hadn’t seen all the films, but she knew the story. We have a lot of the books and stuff from the original trilogy, and I intentionally held off on showing her the films because I wanted her to keep the magic in her head. She had built up in her imagination what these characters and events looked like. And I knew once she watched the movies they’d become the ultimate vision; they’d replace what was in her head. It was a magical place, alive in her imagination, so I held off showing her the films. But, getting to Rebels — I think it did work. My daughter connected to it, she connected with the characters, and she really wanted to watch the movies then.
MM: I honestly can’t believe how good Rebels is. It’s such good Star Wars.
JG: It is! Rebels came at the perfect time; it was before The Force Awakens, and we were all hungry for Star Wars, and it was great. Now, what about your kids, have they seen the movies?
MM: My older boy, who’s five, has seen A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and bits and pieces of The Force Awakens. I remember when The Force Awakens was announced, and I immediately did the math in my head to see how old he’d be when it came out. I wanted him to experience it, and with me, so bad. I knew, though, at four years old he’d be too young. I still showed him the trailer, and his mind was blown. He was like “What. Is. This?” He wanted to watch it again and again, and it shows the magic that trailer captured, and the magic The Force Awakens captured, as well. So, as we were waiting for that to come out, I tried introducing him to The Clone Wars, but I was reminded of how dark and violent The Clone Wars is.
JG: A lot of clones bite it.
MM: A lot of clones.
So, I decided to skip right to A New Hope. He was about four at the time. I knew there’s some tough scenes in that movie that, as a parent, you have to cover a little one’s eyes, but nothing too bad. I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face when the crawl start to roll. He was there. It was something he’d never seen before. There was space and robots and aliens, and he didn’t know what it was, but he was in love. There were questions the day after, and more questions, then more and more. The curiosities that it sparked — “what does utinni mean?” — were endless. Still, I had to be judicious. We’re careful about age appropriateness, and there’s a fine line between our desire to share something with our kids that we’re so passionate about and doing so when they’re ready.
JG: I agree.
MM: Obviously, we’re both looking at Star Wars through our very passionate lens and wanting to share that experience with our kids. But what would you recommend for a parent who isn’t a Star Wars fan, or just a casual fan?
JG: For parents who aren’t super fans, if it’s a five or six year old, I’d start with Rebels. Any older, start with The Force Awakens.
MM: Not A New Hope?
JG: I want to, but there’s long stretches of talking in that movie. It has a different pace than modern movies, and kids who aren’t used to that kind of movie could get bored. Many kids will watch it and love it, but kids used to that quick-edit style of storytelling might get very antsy. Especially younger kids. The Force Awakens and Rebels are both phenomenal Star Wars stories that will suck you into the universe, and they have a great modern storytelling sensibility. They’ll keep today’s kids engaged.
MM: The Force Awakens is a terrific starting point. If you know the context, your experience is enriched by it; if you don’t know the context, you don’t need it. We’re big readers at my house, and I think any of the books made specifically for kids is also a good way to start. 5-Minute Star Wars Stories, which gives snippets of each movie, is especially terrific.
Now, there’s always an aspect of violence that I know most parents wrestle with. It’s far tamer than so many other genre movies and shows, but violence is still present. Personally, I always justify Star Wars and the violence and intensity with its strong, clear message of hopefulness, friendship, what the Force means, things like that. All those elements counterbalance what we, as parents, might be apprehensive about. Star Wars presents conflict in a positive way; there’s something more profound happening, and that’s what makes me comfortable bringing my kids to Star Wars.
JG: I agree. I don’t want to say Star Wars is black and white, but the bad guys are painted as the bad guys because they’re clearly more violent. The good guys use violence, but only as a last resort and always for interests much bigger than themselves. It’s never just violence for violence’s sake. There’s always something greater, and I think that’s something important for kids to see. We always tell our kids that “violence is never the solution,” and I wish that was true, but the reality is the world we live in has violence. And shielding kids from that and saying “there is no violence” isn’t setting them up to learn the right lessons. The right lessons to learn, and I think Star Wars does this well, is to explain that violence can be an answer, but it has to be used at the right time and for the right reasons.
MM: Switching gears, let’s talk about Forces of Destiny, the series of animated shorts that were recently released. We’ve watched them all, and my sons have loved them. They’re so much fun and capture the Star Wars spirit while, in some cases, filling in some fun untold stories — like, how’d Leia get that dress on Endor? And, of course, there’s the giant wink to the famous deleted scene where the stormtroopers invading Echo Base get hilariously attacked by a wampa. And now we finally know how the wampa got there!
There’s also the wider issue of gender, which has been the topic of much discussion. I don’t want to fan those flames, but I’ll say this: My two boys couldn’t care less. They never asked where Luke or Han was or what Anakin was up to. Kids just want Star Wars stories, and Forces of Destiny delivered in a major way (particularly the episode that featured the Ewoks, which my kids have demanded we watch about 100 times—because, “yub nub”).
JG: Totally. Star Wars is universal and for everyone. As my kids are fond of saying: There’s no such thing as “boy toys” and “girl toys.” We can all play with all the toys. Why not? The same goes for stories, characters, and fandoms in general. We don’t see Luke as a “boy hero” or Leia as a “girl hero.” They’re heroes. Period.
That being said, we’re positively thrilled to see Forces of Destiny shine a spotlight on many of the characters who happen to be female. There are a lot of really great characters living in the Star Wars universe, and I love that Forces of Destiny is driving home the fact that the franchise is for everyone. Like your kids, neither of mine asked where Han or Anakin were. They were just excited to see more Star Wars stories about characters they love and haven’t seen enough of.
MM: And that’s really what not only Forces of Destiny has given us, but it’s what every arm of Star Wars has delivered since its revival. From movies to books to video games, even animated shorts, we’re getting Star Wars stories that can be easily cherished by longtime fans and new fans alike. It is a good time to be a Star Wars fan, as a parent and as one of those lifelong fans. I get to experience it through my perspective and through the eyes of my children, and I’ve been loving every moment of it.
Are you a Star Wars parent? Tell us your story of introducing the saga to your children in the comments below!
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).
Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is set to be released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.