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5 family movie night tips

Reserve time on your schedule for a

Reserve time on your schedule for a weekly family movie night. Pick a date, put it on the calendar and keep your commitment. (Credit: iStock)

The average parent spends less than 40 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their children, according to a survey by the A.C. Nielsen Co. Parents often find it difficult to walk away from work and household chores and concentrate instead on talking with their children. Unfortunately, as children get older, communication often grows more difficult.

So if you're looking for something fun to do as a family, why not plan a movie night? There are many ways you can create meaningful conversations around a movie. Here's how:

1. Reserve time on your schedule for a weekly family movie night. Pick a date, put it on the calendar and keep your commitment.

2. Pick a movie that is age appropriate for your youngest child, but still holds the interest of older family members. Check out the 100 best family movies on IMDb.com.

3. Prepare a movie-worthy snack together (find a recipe below). Enlist the help of your children in measuring ingredients, stirring and prepping the mix-in treats. Talk to them about their day.

4. Set the mood for movie watching by putting away cellphones, tablets and computers. Younger children may enjoy creating a nest of pillows and blankets on the floor. Walk the dog before the movie starts, turn off the lights and enjoy. Let your children know they -- and the movie -- have your attention.

5. Don’t stop when the movie is done: Use the plot or themes of the movie to spark a conversation with your children. Ask how they would have handled similar situations, what they found most amusing or what they think about issues the film addresses.

Looking for a sweet treat to enjoy during your family movie night? Try this recipe and be sure to give your kids a task so everyone can be involved in the kitchen.

Vanilla Caramel Corn Crunch with Mix-Ins
(makes about 20 cups)

Ingredients
- 12 ounces air-popped popcorn, or 4 (3-ounce) bags natural microwave popcorn
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (such as Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Mix-ins: Mini-chocolate chips, chopped M&M's, dried coconut, diced dried apricots or other family favorites (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

2. Pop the popcorn. After the popcorn has cooled slightly, ask your children to help discard unpopped kernels, then arrange the popcorn evenly in a large roasting pan. Place in the oven to keep warm.

3. Ask children to help measure and combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla paste and salt in a large saucepan.

4. Let an adult place the saucepan on the stove and bring the ingredients to a boil slowly. Boil for five minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly; do no burn. Stir in the baking soda and cream of tartar, which will cause the sugar mixture to rise.

5. Have an adult pour the mixture over the warm popcorn, stirring until coated. (Variation: For added flavor, coarsely chop one cup of your favorite nuts and add to the popcorn before pouring the caramel mixture over the popcorn.)

6. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

7. Let cool before serving to children. Create a buffet of mix-ins and let each family member create their perfect bowl of popcorn.

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