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Cinematters - Cheaper by the Dozen


By Kelly Parthen and Shannon Payette Seip

Full-size family struggles to put first things first

Your daughter has plans to celebrate her cousin's birthday Saturday night. However, Saturday afternoon she gets a phone call from her pen pal, who is in town to surprise her. Your daughter has been waiting to meet her pen pal for years, but she also knows her cousin is counting on her to celebrate. Your daughter is torn--with whom should she spend her Saturday night?

The newly released film Cheaper by the Dozen shows why it's important for families to focus on top priorities when making tough choices. And our activity, "Dime a Dozen," will help you bring the lesson to life.

In the movie, the Baker family lives in a small Midwest town where Tom (Steve Martin) coaches a local college football team. When Tom is offered his dream job--head football coach at a large university--he promises his upset children that although they'll be uprooted, they'll be happier after the move because he'll make more money and the big city will be exciting.

As soon as the family moves, Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) sells the book she's been working on and is whisked off by publicists to New York. In the meantime, Tom tries to juggle press conferences, football games, and family life. When his kids start to suffer in an increasingly unhappy and hectic household, Tom must decide if his dream job is worth the sanity of his super-sized family.

Family Activity: Dime a Dozen
Play Dime a Dozen to learn how to use good "cents" when you're trying to balance the important things in life.

Talk with your family about why Tom Baker wanted to move. Why didn't the kids? Discuss a time your family disagreed on major life changes--from switching schools to remarriage.

In the film, what were the benefits and downsides of a new upscale lifestyle for both the parents and children? What factors did Tom Baker consider when deciding whether to quit his dream job?

Ask your children if they could have anything they wanted, what would it be? What would they be willing to do to get it--extra chores to earn more money? Waking up earlier to train for a sport? What would they have to give up? Would it be worth it?

Materials needed:
Muffin pan
Muffin cup liners
One dozen dimes
Colored markers

Play Dime a Dozen to learn that when you feel pulled in a dozen directions, it pays to put your priorities in order.

Look at the week ahead and brainstorm together 12 events or goals your kids want to accomplish--from getting an A on Friday's spelling test to playing a new video game at a friend's house. Write each priority on the base of a muffin cup liner and place in pan.

Give your kids one dozen dimes. Explain that the coins represent their time and energy for the week. Place the muffin pan on the floor and have your kids step five feet back. Have them throw the dimes all at once and try to get them in the liners.

When the dimes fly all over, it's a great chance to point out that when your focus is scattered, you might waste time that could have been spent on more important things, like the priorities in the tins.

Gather the dimes and put the pan on the table. Now have your children look at all the muffin liners and decide which events and goals are most important. Put more dimes in those tins. The coins do not have to be equally distributed.

Have them put the priority planner pans on their desks. Once a week they should add different liners and rearrange the coins. The next time they can't decide where to focus their time, have them look at which tins have more dimes and are therefore bigger priorities. Just like Tom Baker, your children will learn to make choices that are right on the money.

E-mail your comments or ideas to [email protected].

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