Taking the kids to France? My favorite way to get my family in the traveling frame of mind is to stock up on great books that take place in our destination and have family movie nights before the trip. Here are some of my favorites for Paris and France. I really encourage you to try some films with subtitles – as long as your child can read, it really opens up a broader world of film and helps adjust them to being in a place that doesn’t operate in their native language. Be sure to check with Common Sense Media and other sources to make sure they are appropriate for your children. These are my favorites:
Kids’ books that take place in France
Madeline. A classic, with lovely images of Paris landmarks.
Dodsworth in Paris. Great for younger kids to be able to connect to the city.
The Magical Garden of Claude Monet. This whole series is a fantastic introduction to artists and their work.
Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris. The Geronimo Stilton series is a lot of fun and a great transition between little-kid reading and bigger kid reading.
Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels #11: We’ll Always Have Paris. I am amused that Geronimo Stilton – already semi-graphic – has a full-blown graphic series, but since my n0w-10 year old will read ANYTHING if it’s in graphic form, I am a fan (Shakespeare graphic novels, anyone? Seriously… he’s read them all).
Magic Treehouse: Night of the New Magicians. Mary Pope Osborne is the queen of destination literature for kids. She does an incredible job of candy-coating education. Great backgrounder for the Eiffel Tower.
Mission: Paris. Fun way to engage kids in sightseeing – before the trip, they can identify what looks most interesting to them; during the trip, it will engage them even in places (museums) that they might otherwise think are boring.
You Wouldn’t Want to Be Joan of Arc! I adore this series. Silly, gross and educational, it’s perfect for kids to learn about history and other lands. They LOVE these books and read them over and over.
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Secret Agent During World WarII! Of the huge number of the series that we have, this is my kids’ favorite.
The Mystery at the Eiffel Tower. Carole Marsh is the perfect author to read after Mary Pope Osborne. Her books really transport the readers to the destination. We read these to our kids for years during our travels.
Asterix. Loved by French kids, Asterix is funny while kids unintentionally learn about France (and other destinations if you continue the series) during the Roman Empire.
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. Perfect to flip through before seeing Notre Dame in person.
Castle. Really cool before visiting any castle in Europe.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I loved this book as much as my kids did – unique and layered while still being simple.
Family movies that take place in France
~Movies for young kids and up~
The Red Balloon. And old classic that still works. It’s sweet and short with almost no dialogue, and even young children may find themselves captivated by this tale of a boy and his unlikely friendship with… a balloon.
Aristocats. Classic Disney with classic Parisian landmarks.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A favorite photo of my 10 year old is up in the Notre Dame bell tower, reenacting this movie.
Ratatouille. I had forgotten how enjoyable this film is until we watched as a family before our Paris trip. We were all smiles afterwards, and it even inspired by 12 year old to experiment more in the kitchen!
Madeline. Your child will recognize landmarks all over Paris from this cute story, and maybe it’ll get your family to form two straight lines!
Hugo. As much as I loved the book, I thought there was no way the movie version would live up to it. It did. I had flashbacks to the film when we went to the Musée d’Orsay and the Gare de Lyon to catch our train.
The Triplets of Belleville. Unique, a little bizarre, not much dialogue, it shows a quirky side of Paris.
~Movies for tweens and up~
My Mother’s Castle. I thought my kids might be bored by these two films, but everyone loved it. This and the next one are autobiographical stories from the childhood of Marcel Pagnol, beloved French writer.
The Chorus (Les Choristes). The whole family enjoyed this French film! Funny and sweet, it gives an accurate glimpse of French village life.
La Guerre des Boutons. Another fantastic slice of village life. This is the film that convinced my then-9 year old that maybe French-speaking kids would be ok.
~Shows/Movies for teens and up~
Lupin. Great fun; modern take on a venerated French book series about a charming serial thief.
Call My Agent. This may be more for the adults in the family, but it’s a clever, funny look at a talent agency in Paris. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Emily in Paris. I almost hate to recommend this; it’s pretty silly. BUT it does have gorgeous scenes of Paris and will get you excited to explore the City of Light.
Da Vinci Code. Our twelve year old loved this movie and was very intrigued by the Louvre and its potential secrets after seeing it.
The Monuments Men. We loved this film of a little-known aspect of World War II – the role that the battle over art played. My 12 year old in particular wants to watch it over and over.
Midnight in Paris. Delightful and fun way to connect to an earlier age in Paris.
Les Misérables. Excellent, atmospheric. Our boys remained engaged the whole time. In English.
La Boum. Fun 80s coming of age movie.
There are many more lists, but these are the ones I endorse! What would you add to this list?
As a member of the Family Travel Association‘s Travel Agent Council, I specialize in families and have access to the best tools and insights in the business. My goal is to make it easier and less intimidating to travel with kids. Contact me today to discuss your goals, and we can come up with travel plan that will be a perfect match for your family.