How to Make an Adventure Movie With Your Kids

Got a future actor in your household?

Do your kids have a favorite movie they’d love to act out?

Making a movie with your kids can turn an ordinary day into a memorable adventure.

It’s not only fun for everyone involved, but you’ll create a lasting memory with your kids.

In this article I’ll show you, step-by-step how to create an adventure movie with your family.

Outdoor adventures: How to create adventure movies and turn an ordinary day into a lasting memory with your kids.

Why a Movie?

You can make a movie just about anywhere, and you probably have everything you need right at home.

On our most recent vacation, my wife and I went to visit family in Oregon and then took a drive to Redwood National Park in California. My family and I are Star Wars fans and we shared with the kids that Redwood National Park was the shooting location of the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi.

And then something magical happened: My 9-year-old son asked on the flight over, “Dad, can we make a movie in the park?” We agreed, and the idea quickly spread to our kids’ cousins.

kids posed like star wars actors

The principal actors posing for their publicity shot. No trees were harmed in the filming of our amazingly fantastic movie.

A day trip to a national park that, let’s be honest, wouldn’t have been extremely exciting to our 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, turned into an exciting trip filled with action, adventure and lots of props.

The great thing about making a movie with your kids is that you can make it as complex as you have time for.

Planning, filming, editing and then posting to YouTube can all be completed in an hour for a simple movie. More complicated movies will take longer, but that’s all dependent on how much time your kids want to spend on planning and getting costumes.

What You’ll Need

  • Smartphone or tablet to take the video
  • A plan
  • Location to film
  • Actors (your kids)
  • Crazy-fun costumes (optional)
  • Props (probably not optional)
  • Access to the Internet to post the video on YouTube for family and friends (optional)

Preparation Time

This could vary, but allocate at least 15 minutes to plan your movie and gather costumes and props from around the house.

Activity Time

Again, this could vary. A simple movie can be completed in an hour.

Location

Anywhere you choose for the setting of your movie.

#1: Draw It All Out

When you decide to make a movie, sit down with your kids and storyboard the movie. Some simple questions to get the creative juices flowing are:

  • What is the movie about? Keep this simple. Try to boil the plot down into one or two sentences such as “The good guys need to steal the plans and then rescue the princess to save the day.”
  • Who are the characters in the movie? Each person in the movie can act out a role. List the characters and ask your children to draw a picture of their character.
  • What era does the movie take place? Pin down this detail and ask your kids to start thinking about what can make your movie feel like that time and place.
  • Think about what type of props and costumes you will need for the movie?

For our movie, the planning stage took place fairly quickly with the kids talking the plot out during the ride to the national park.

#2: Scout Your Locations

No matter if you’re going on a luxurious vacation or a staycation, a little bit of imagination can go a long way. A local park, lake, creek or similar outdoor area can make for a great movie location.

family at beach

We filmed our final scene at the beach.

Depending on the complexity of your movie, you might need several locations. In my kids’ Star Wars movie, we filmed in the national park and also at the local beach for the final battle.

The good thing is that you can film inside if it’s raining or you can film in the backyard or anywhere. It’s all up to you and your kids. Be creative.

What I would encourage is to think differently and choose a location that your kids have never visited before. Not only will your children learn about a new place, but they will also need to figure out how to stage their scenes in the location.

Another reason why parks work so well is that you have more room to work and less chance of disturbing other people.

#3: It’s All About the Props

When our children shared the movie idea with their cousins (3 boys), the Star Wars theme went over like blue milk at a Tatooine breakfast—they loved it and immediately started to dig through their toy boxes for props we could use.

For your kids’ movie, here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Pull out old Halloween costumes.
  • Take a trip to a Goodwill store and buy some old clothes.
  • Dig out the face paint. ‘Nuff said.
  • Visit local yard sales or flea markets for old toys.

For the movie our kids made, a few light sabers, blasters, an old Halloween Darth Vader costume and a special Princess Leia hairdo for my daughter were all that was needed.

child actors in tree

An old Halloween costume + some toys we already had = instant movie props.

#4: Action! Film a Lot

Listen to your children. In our family, we soon discovered that all of the kids wanted to act in the movie. No one wanted to do the filming, so that was delegated to me.

Depending on the ages of your children, their attention spans will waver after a certain period of time. The important thing is to focus on working with your children to complete the project.

Having lofty plans with multiple locations and everyone feeling stressed about finishing the movie isn’t recommended (unless you like meltdowns and lots of tears).

For the movie our kids made, we wanted to make certain to keep the plot simple so that we could complete the project quickly and have something to show their cousins when we returned home.

We walked around the amazingly tall redwoods and they acted out their scenes. I made sure to film everything. Yes, there was a lot of running around and them tearing through the forest at breakneck speed but with the park being so large, we did not bother any other visitors and I was able to get plenty of footage to work with.

redwood trees

Be sure to include some scenery shots for transitions between the action shots.

All in all, it was a great balance between having a too-structured plan and being too lax. Between the filming in the national park and then on the beach, we had more video than we could ever need.

#5: Putting It All Together

Once we came back from vacation, my son and daughter worked together to pick the scenes they wanted and, to my surprise, they even filmed some new scenes and worked on creating a hand-drawn map that they wanted to include in the movie.

After the scenes were chosen, roles changed in the movie-creation process. My daughter dropped out of the project, but my son, being older, liked the challenge of wanting to learn how to use iMovie on the iPad.

screenshot of imovie software

Screenshot: My 9-year-old son used the iMovie for iPad app to edit our movie and make a 1-minute trailer.

My son and I sat together and figured it out.

Once he understood the basics, I stepped away from the project and let him take over. And that’s a good point to think about: Play to the strengths of you and your kids. Maybe your child wants to film you and is a better director. Go with it!

Depending on your family’s technological experience, creating the actual movie does not have to be complicated. If you have an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend iMovie. It’s an inexpensive app ($4.99) that is simple to use. And if you have an Android phone, Magisto-Magical Video Editor has received 4.5 stars out of 5 in the Google Play store. If you’re new to video editing, using one of these two tools is a snap.

Tools of the Trade

The tools listed below are suggestions for what you can use to make a movie.

iMovie is for Apple products. The app is $4.99, easy to use and a solid movie-making tool. You film, edit and post to YouTube all in the app. Nice and simple.

Magisto—Magical Video Editor is a highly rated movie app for Android smartphones. Easy to use and allows you to post to YouTube.

GoAnimate allows you to create movies using animated characters. You’ll want to sit with them at a computer and go through creating your animated movie together. The free version has kept us busy with our kids for hours, thinking up goofy scenarios to put the animated characters through. When you’re finished, you can share the video on YouTube and all laugh at the silliness you made.

How to Use GoAnimate is a great tutorial to help you learn how to use GoAnimate.com.

Vine is currently only an iOS app for your Apple device. The videos you create can only be 6 seconds long. It became extremely popular after Twitter purchased the service. Simply hold your iPhone, film by touching the screen with your finger, take your finger off to stop filming. Both of my kids have made amazing animations. It’s a great tool to use without any need for planning.

YouTube allows you to share all of your videos with friends and family. Remember, there are privacy settings, so you can designate a video as unlisted and email a direct link to family.

Film, edit on the device, add music, opening and closing titles and then upload to YouTube. It’s easy to do.

#6: Releasing the Movie to the World

After the movie is completed, simply upload it to YouTube. If you’re concerned about your kids’ privacy, set the permissions of the video to unlisted and then email the link to family and friends.

You could select the movie to be private, but then your family members would need a YouTube account so that you can grant them access to see the movie. Again, the permissions options are all there, you simply need to decide if you’re comfortable with sharing the video online.

My kids made one movie and then a trailer to share with all our family and friends. Here’s the trailer:


#7: Celebrate the Love

Everyone took part in the movie-making process and then something wonderful happened.

By working together to make one movie, our family not only had a great time and bonded together working on the project, we also inspired our children to make other movies on their own.

child actors peeking from behind tree

Making a movie together is something the kids will never forget.

Once they realized that they could think up an idea and then make it become reality, the floodgates opened and they had a blast thinking of other ideas to film and create.

Some Final Thoughts

No matter if you’re on vacation, it’s a rainy weekend or you’re stuck at home in a blizzard, coming together as a family to create a movie is a lot of fun for everyone involved.

What do you think? Leave your comments, questions and pictures in the box below.

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About the Author, Ron Vitale

Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella’s Secret Diaries young adult fantasy series for teens, and Director, Electronic Communications at Temple University. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.SelfEmployedKing.com/ Mike Kawula

    Just recently started doing videos for fun w/ the kids and it really gets the creativity going. So many great apps available via iTunes to make action fun filled videos. Love the quality of your skit – Looks like it was fun!

    Have an Adventurous week! Kawula Family

  • Ron Vitale

    Mike, Thanks so much. I wanted to put as much into making the movie as I could so that the kids could really learn what it takes to put on a movie. They had a blast and we parents had a great time too!

  • http://www.SelfEmployedKing.com/ Mike Kawula

    Thats great Ron. Have your kids check out the ActionFX app (free one). Can do some really amazing graphics.

    Have an Awesome week ~ Mike

  • Ron Vitale

    Mike, thank you. I’ll have to check that out. I appreciate your passing the tip on.

  • deannagibbons

    My kids would absolutely love this. They have made several movies with our neighbors in our neighborhood, but I love the idea of going to a different location.

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    The sky is the limit for locations, Deanna. When you think about parks, trails, cities, there are so many amazing combinations and possibilities. Let us know if you and your kids make an adventure moving of your own!.

  • Holly Chessman

    This is a great idea! My kids love making movies and it’s something that you can really do with children of all ages. You can add still pictures and text and all kinds of funky effects in addition to the video footage. Fun!

  • Tica24

    Don’t forget: you need permission to post photos or videos that have other children in them, such as your friends. My daughter and her friends create movies with their 18-inch dolls so no children are actually in the movie.

  • Jennifer Ballard

    Fantastic article, Ron! Thanks for being part of My Kids’ Adventures from the very start. I can’t wait to go make a movie with my boys.

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  • Chris Sabbarese

    How fun is this? Great project and idea Ron. My kids just discovered the iPad for recording their own video this weekend. I’m sure this will give them other great ideas!

  • Ron Vitale

    I agree with Deb. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or sunny or where you are. It can be as big or as small as you’d like it to be.

  • Ron Vitale

    Holly, thank you! My 9 year old now loves making movies on his own and it’s always great to see what he comes up with.

  • Ron Vitale

    You make a very good point. For this article, I made certain that I reached out to my wife’s cousins to confirm that everyone was on board in having their kids’ pictures there. That’s another reason why I love the GoAnimate tool: You can use avatars to represent characters in the movie.

  • Ron Vitale

    Chris, happy to help out and share this with everyone!

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    This is an excellent point. Thanks for an important reminder.

  • Shelley Lovett

    What a super idea … so much fun and great memories. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Steve Gardner

    Outstanding, Ron. Great combination of inspiration and instruction. My wife and I, as grandparents, have talked about doing something like this, but you have definitely pushed us over the edge. Can’t wait for next month’s visit!

  • Ron Vitale

    Steve, thank you! I hope you and your wife have a blast with this. It’s a lot of fun and really easy to do.

  • Randy White

    I do this with my three year old daughter.. she loves it, so do her fans at Day Care! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptPvFmwLg2c

  • KirstenNelson

    Oh my gosh! I have a couple of little Star Wars fanatics who will be all over this like Ewoks on roasted marshmallows! The Grandparents (who live 800 miles away) will thank you :)

  • Pingback: 10 Amazing Do-It-Yourself Halloween Costumes for Kids | My Kids' Adventures



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