Watch This, Do That: Back to the Future

Trying to escape a couple of Libyan rebels, a teenager goes back in time and has to work hard to keep his family together when the school bully threatens his parents’ first date. That’s the story of Marty McFly, Doc Brown and a fateful DeLorean car that has kept the DeLorean brand in American lexicon long after the car company fizzled out. The fun doesn’t fizzle in this story, though, and it’s a great time to introduce your kids to music from the ‘50s, sock hops and 1980s time travel.

Back to the Future teaches us about family, forgiveness, fate and most of all that your future isn’t written. After you’ve seen the movie, here are a few things to discuss with kids:

  • Stand up for the people you love. Marty befriended his dad when no one else in the school would talk to George. Even though “original 1985 George” is still picked on by Biff, Marty loves his dad and his family, so he stands up for him in school and at the dance. When George finally stands up to Biff, he gains confidence to write his own stories. It’s important to learn to stand up for yourself and your friends against bullies.
  • If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Doc tells Marty who tells George who reminds Marty that it’s OK to fail once or twice. Failure is how we learn, so know what your end goal is and put your mind to it. Keep trying until you accomplish your dreams, which might be writing a novel or developing a time machine.
  • Know your past to appreciate the present. When he arrived home, Marty had more affection for his parents and even his brother and sister because he knew he’d almost lost them. Learning about the past of his family – even seeing his uncle as a baby – helped him better appreciate how his family aged. Listen to parents and grandparents as they tell family stories and histories to better understand where your family is today.

Movie-inspired activities

Photo Credit: DIY Prop Shop

Now that you’ve seen Back to the Future, try these screen-free activities inspired by the movie.

  • Make your own flux capacitor. Will it send you back in time? Probably not, but this real-looking flux capacitor will keep your kids entertained for hours as they replicate the blinking lights and moving parts.
  • Talk to your future self. Let your kids write letters to themselves in three or five years. What do they want to remember about this year? Or what do they hope they would know by the time this school year ends? Put the letters away and set a reminder on your phone to open them in June or in a few years.
  • Sketch the future. Have your kids draw a picture or design a piece of art that they think the future will be like. What will be in houses, what will cars look like, what does music sound like? Let their imaginations go wild.
  • Visit the past. Let your kids hop on the phone with a grandparent, great-aunt or uncle or someone older than your generation. Ask them to talk about the past or pass on a family recipe. What was their favorite dance move in high school or what games did they play as kids?
  • Make a time traveler’s meal. Find recipe books at the library from different eras, and pick out foods to make at home. What ingredients were used by earlier generations that we don’t use as much today (lots of butter or shortening, maybe)?

Have a Watch This, Do That idea you want to share with our readers? Send your idea to with your suggestion for a movie. We’d love to share your idea on

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