Exploring Lightyear with Children

As long time fans of Toy Story, my children were excited to learn Buzz’s backstory. They watched as Buzz and Alesha diverted their Space Ranger to explore an uncharted planet, got into trouble, and struggled to figure out how to fix their mistakes. I noticed how the film explores significant spiritual themes such as relational connections, overcoming fears, paying attention, and finding purpose.

If the kids in your life are chanting “to infinity and beyond”, invite them to reflect on Lightyear with you using one or more of these activities:

Special Handshake: Buzz and Alesha have a ritual when they meet one another.  Buzz holds out his finger and says, “to infinity,” and  Alesha, touching her finger to his, replies, “and beyond.” This gesture represents their commitment to the Space Rangers’ mission and is also a sign of their close relationship. Invite children to think about the values that are important to your family or group, such as being kind or seeking justice.  Brainstorm a simple saying (“practicing kindness everyday” or “eco-warrior forever”) that represents this purpose, and then develop a handshake to accompany it. Use this handshake to remind each other of what you believe. 

Relationship Web: As Buzz works to save people from Zurg and his robots, he discovers he needs to count on his friends: Sox, Izzy, Mo, and Darby. He also reflects on the other people and things that make up his support network, including Alesha, her wife, and his robot autopilot, I.V.A.N. Encourage children to draw a picture of themselves and then add all the different people and pets that support them. Use lines to connect everyone together in a giant web of relationships.

Beyond Fear: Space scares Izzy. Yet the only way she can save Buzz from Zurg is to take a spacewalk. Sox provides the reassurance and information she needs to be brave and rescue her friend. Talk with children about things that are scary. Then ask: What do you need to hear when you feel afraid? Who helps you overcome your fears?

Personal Log: Buzz often speaks into the recorder on his arm, recounting events for the space log to help him stay focused. Invite children to pretend that they are recording a personal Captain’s Log, using a phone app or notepad. Ask: What do you notice going on around you? What needs do you see? What ideas do you have about responding to those needs? Share your logs with one another and explore ways to put your ideas into action together.

Infinite Stars: Gazing at the stars provides Buzz, Alesha, and Izzy with a sense of excitement, purpose, and sometimes, fear as they imagine infinite possibilities for the future. Invite children to go outside with you. Look at the stars together in silence. Then ask: What possibilities for yourself can you imagine? What do you see as your purpose?

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