We say this a lot, but we think it’s worth repeating: It’s important to get involved in your kids media lives -– and your kids will love it too (within reason!). But helping them become critical media consumers can be easier said than done. What’s a sure-fire way to stay involved with your kids’ media picks and create an opportunity to discuss them? Host a family movie night!

Some tips for making it work:

Schedule it. Make it a regular date and time and don’t break it. Turn off cell phones and ban multitasking during the show.

Take turns choosing the movie. If you’ve got little kids, pre-select a group to choose from (to avoid watching Care Bears IV over and over again). If you’ve got teens, tell them you’ll watch anything they choose as long as they return the favor when it’s your turn. Enforce a “no complaining” rule.

Location, location, location. Hang a sheet in the backyard, rent a projector, and sit on beach chairs to celebrate a classic like The Wizard of Oz. Or take family movie night on the road during vacations or at the grandparents’ house (Singin’ in the Rain, perhaps?).

Make it a theme night. This can be simple or elaborate. Eat popsicles with March of the Penguins or make food art with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Dress in costume for A Princess Bride, or learn a few magic tricks before Harry Potter.

Talk about it. When credits roll or the next day, make time to chat about what you watched. Kids might be interested in learning more about animation or Hollywood history. Visit the library to follow up on interests piqued by the movie. Talking with kids about how movie characters handled fictional situations can be a subtle way to reinforce your family’s values or get kids to open up about their lives.

Written by Sierra Filucci for Common Sense Media

parent co is seeking writers to pay for original submissions