When I was young, it was a right of passage to go to the movie theater. It meant that you were past the baby phase and Mom and Dad believed you were old enough to watch TV on the big screen. I remember the excitement of sitting in the big chairs, the smell of buttery popcorn in the air and the thrill of the digital sound. My family would always go early to get good seats and the anticipation would nearly kill me as the minutes felt like hours. Finally, the lights would dim and the movie would begin and the wait was all worth it.
The First Step – Knowing When They Are Ready
Knowing when you child is ready to take a trip to the movie theater is an individual decision. Some children are capable of sitting for a two hour period at young age, where as others, get distracted easily and feel the need to run around. You shouldn’t attempt the theater until you are sure they can sit for majority of the movie without disturbing those around you. The average age for a child’s first trip to the movie theater usually falls between 3 and 4, but can be later if the child is afraid of the dark or has a sensitivity to loud noises.
Make The Right Choices
When choosing our child’s first movie, be sure to choose a movie that is age appropriate and playing at a good time in your child’s daily schedule. Choosing a movie that is too scary or too mature for them will cause boredom and ruin the entire experience. If you choose a movie time slot that is during nap time or past their bed time, they may either sleep through the movie or become cranky and irritated. Many theaters offer “Mommy and Me” or “Stars and Stroller” showings which are the perfect time to introduce your little one to the theater going experience as everyone there will be in the same boat.
Planning Ahead – The Secret Weapons
Once you have decided its time to take the plunge and visit your local cinema, you should plan ahead. Dress your child in comfortable clothing and include a sweater in case the movie theater becomes cold. If your child is nervous, consider bring a stuffed toy or blanket to help comfort them in this new environment. My favourite secret weapon is snacks. Whenever I took my kids to the movie theater I would buy popcorn and a secret snack. They would have access to the popcorn right away, but as the movie went on and I noticed them getting restless, I would occupy them with the secret snack (i.e. 2 or 3 smarties at time) randomly throughout the movie.
When taking a young child to the movie theater its important to remember this is not an individual experience. You may be in a packed theater or surrounded by other viewers who are excited about the movie. It is important to teach your child good movie theater etiquette (i.e. no talking, throwing food, feet on seats, etc) and be prepared to leave if your child becomes a disturbance. A quick walk around the lobby or trip to the bathroom, may be all your child needs to get through rest of the movie.
The movie going experience is an exciting one, but don’t be discouraged if your child isn’t ready. Give them a few months and try again! One day your child and you will be able to enjoy this bonding experience together!