Exploring Elemental with Kids

A few days ago, one of my children wanted breakfast for dinner, while another preferred Indian. The first argued that they can’t tolerate spicy food. The other declared that they hate eggs and will not eat them. Their disagreement made it difficult to plan a meal that everyone would enjoy.

How do different people with different wants and needs live together and get along? Pixar’s Elemental explores this everyday dilemma, as various characters learn to compromise and collaborate without sacrificing what makes them uniquely themselves. 

Calm like a candle. Ember has a short temper. When she gets really angry, she turns purple and explodes. Her father tells her to be calm like a candle. Invite children to pretend to be Ember when she is purple and angry, then pretend to be calm like a candle. Alternate between the two a few times, and then ask: How does it feel when you turn purple? How does it feel when you try to be calm like a candle?

Hospitality for all. Element City is a place where everyone can live, but the city seems more accessible to Air, Water, and Earth than to Fire. For example, Ember is not allowed to enter the Vivisteria Flower dome because she’s viewed as a fire hazard, and she has to keep her umbrella handy so the city water spouts won’t put out her flame. Brainstorm with children some ways that Element City could change to be more hospitable to Fire. Draw pictures of your ideas, or create a set of plans for a city that embraces ALL the elements’ diverse needs.

Exploring other cultures. Wade and Ember visit each others’ communities and experience unfamiliar cultures. They try each others’ favorite kinds of food, observe special ceremonies and customs, and notice the contributions each culture makes to the city. Share with children the names of some of the different ethnic cultures that make up your city or town and invite them to choose one culture to research. Look up basic information online and then learn more by talking with someone from that culture, visiting a museum, preparing a popular dish, observing a special occasion, and/or learning a few phrases in that culture’s language. 

Immigration woes. When Ember’s parents first arrive in Element City, their names are changed by the immigration official. They have trouble finding a place to live because the owners don’t want Fire people living on their property. Ember experiences hurtful jokes and frustrated looks because she is Fire. Ask children: When have you been treated badly because you were different? How did you feel? When have you felt uncomfortable around someone who was different from you? Why do you think you felt that way? What did you do?

Exchange a blessing. When Ember leaves Element City for her internship, she pauses before boarding the boat to bow to her father, and he bows to her in return. Ask children: Why do you think Ember decides to bow to her father? Why do you think he decides to bow back to her? Discuss a sign that your family or group might use to show appreciation and support for one another. Exchange your ‘blessing’ sign with each other.



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