We recently took our twin boys to the movie theater for the first time to see Disney’s Frozen. They had just turned 2 1/2. We’d toyed with the idea for months, but were unsure whether the boys were ready to sit through an entire movie in a dark theater. Ultimately, we decided to take a shot—and it was a success! Other than a very brief freakout when the lights first dimmed, the boys (and we) had a great time.
Of course, we did take some steps to ensure success based on research I had done and suggestions from fellow parents. If you think your child may be ready for his or her first movie experience, read these tips for making it a great one!
1. Do a trial run. Before heading to the theater, see whether your child can sit through an entire movie at home. Dim the lights, make some popcorn or another snack, and tell him he needs to stay in his seat and try to stay quiet. If he gets up frequently or continuously talks loudly, he may not be ready for the theater.
2. Prepare your child for what’s to come. Tell your child exactly what will happen when you get to the theater. Explain that there will be lots of people sitting in rows of seats, and that everyone will need to stay in their own seat. Tell her that the lights will go out when the movie is ready to start, and that she’ll first have to watch some previews for other movies. Explain that the volume will be loud. You should also talk about the movie you’ll be seeing, describing the plot and characters in simple terms. You could even watch a trailer for the movie online if possible.
3. Pick an appropriate movie. Remember that even Disney films can frighten or upset small children, like when Mufasa dies in The Lion King or when the monster sneaks into kids’ rooms to scare them in Monsters Inc. So, do as much research as you can on a movie before you take your child to see it. Keep an eye out for themes or characters that may rattle him. Determine whether the plot and characters will interest your child, and note the movie’s run time—most very young children don’t have the discipline or the attention span to sit through a two-hour movie.
4. Time it right. Choose a matinee or another early showing, when the theater will likely be filled with families with young children. Avoid picking a time that will cut into your child’s regular nap time or meal time, as you don’t want her to get cranky or fidgety. Get to the movie early enough to visit the concession stand, use the bathroom, find a good seat, and get settled, but not so early that your child will get restless while waiting.
5. Choose good seats. If possible, pick a row in the center of the theater, not too close or too far away from the screen. Try to find seats on or near the aisle, so you can easily leave the theater for bathroom runs or if your child gets frightened or needs to stretch his legs. If he’s potty trained, remind him that he is not trapped in the theater and should let you know if he needs to go!
6. Have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand. We got the boys their own kids’ combos with popcorn, fruit snacks, and water. They were in heaven! We also made sure we had their straw cups and juice on hand so they wouldn’t get thirsty. Be sure to pack wipes to clean up spills!
7. Dress your child appropriately. Even if it’s hot outside, you might want to put long pants and socks on your child to make sure she doesn’t get cold in the air-conditioned theater. Don’t forget a sweater or sweatshirt!
8. Prepare for the possibility that you’ll have to leave early. No matter how ready your child seems or how much you do to prepare him for the movies, you may just end up having to leave early if he gets too frightened or can’t stay settled. So, you’ll need to be OK with the possibility of making an early exit and losing your money. If that happens, be sure to reassure your child that you’re not angry and that you’ll try again when he’s a little bigger. Then continue to practice watching movies at home.
How old were your children when you started taking them to the movies? How did they do? Leave us a comment and let us know!