If you’re like most parents, you’ve probably debated the idea of taking your toddler to the movies.
And at first, it seems a wonderful thought. Perhaps your toddler will actually love sitting in that comfy seat, staring up in awe as images flash across that massive screen.
But then a frightening thought hits you . . .
It’s the thought of your child throwing a spontaneous tantrum and attracting the irritated gazes of a hundred passionate movie buffs. This is enough to make any parent reconsider.
So, is it possible? Taking your toddler to the movies?
Of course it is!
But you probably won’t be able to show up at the theater and have a great experience without a little preparation.
So, pull up a reclining chair and get your popcorn ready. We’re going to show you how to maximize your chances at a successful movie date with your toddler.
1. Is Your Child Ready?
This is the biggest question that you need to ask yourself right off the bat:
Is my toddler actually ready?
There are a couple of follow-up questions that will help you answer this.
Does your child have a reasonable attention span at this phase in their life? If even your toddler’s favorite activities can only keep them occupied for about ten or fifteen minutes, they might not be ready for the movies just yet …
Does your child enjoy watching movies and television at home? If your toddler is more of the hands-on type – the type to gravitate towards LEGO® blocks rather than a TV show – you may have a tough time keeping them amused at the movies.
2. Choose the Right Movie
This should go without saying – pick a movie that your child will enjoy! (Dad … ) these first visits to the theater aren’t for you.
If there’s a TV show or movie that they really like, try out a film that is comparable. Ideally, picking sequels to their favorite films is a safe way to go. However, those opportunities can be rare.
The film’s length is important, too. If the movie runs for more than two hours, look elsewhere. We’ve never seen a toddler with that kind of attention span. You’ll already be pushing your luck with a film that runs for an hour or so.
We also recommend staying away from 3D movies. Though 3D seems like a novelty that would entertain them, it’s a lot to ask a two-year-old to wear those restrictive glasses for an hour and change. And if they’re not wearing the glasses, the movie will look blurred and may even give them a headache.
3. Select the Right Show Time
If you’re taking your toddler to the movies for the very first time, check out the weekday matinee show times. This is the ideal time for a trial run. The theater will be relatively empty in the event that kiddy chaos ensues.
And if you think that’s a good idea, let’s take it one step further …
See a movie that has been out for a few weeks already. The big box office numbers will have died down and less people (if any) will be in line to see it.
4. Don’t Forget to Go to the Bathroom Before the Movie
If junior is potty trained, plan to arrive at the theater a little early so that they can use the bathroom before the movie begins.
But things happen, and you might find yourself running late for some reason (or several reasons). If you’re not able to use the restroom in time before reserving seats, don’t worry. Your child might need a couple of bathroom breaks during the film anyway. And if they’re still in the process of potty training, it’s an absolute certainty.
5. Pick the Right Seats
When taking your toddler to the movies, it’s rare that you’ll get to choose from two hundred vacant seats; but nevertheless, there are areas in the theater where you should try to claim your spot.
First, consider the distance from the screen. Don’t sit too close. It makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience, especially for a young child.
Next, plot your “escape route”. There will likely be times when you and your toddler will have to step out from the movie. More often than not, these moments will be those bathroom breaks. Try to sit near an aisle – an area where you can slip out without disturbing the other moviegoers every half hour.
6. Bring Snacks
If you’re sitting in the theater without an assortment of snacks for your toddler, you’re in trouble. Code red.
Preferably, pack healthy snacks that your child enjoys, and ones that are manageable in a dark theater. However, it’s a good idea to keep an emergency stash of a few guilty pleasures, in case your toddler sees popcorn or candy and gets a little jealous.
Bring a good variety of snacks to keep your toddler amused. You don’t want to run out during the film!
7. Pack Small Toys
As good as the film may be, it still might not be enough to keep your child entertained the whole time. Bring a couple of small, quiet toys or activities, such as stuffed animals or sticker books.
We don’t recommend bringing anything that has multiple components. In a dark theater, it’s far too easy to drop a piece under the seats.
8. Bring Binky Along
If your toddler uses a pacifier, it’s not a bad idea to keep one stocked. Especially if your child gets anxious, intimidated, or just plain loud in public settings, the pacifier may be enough to keep them at ease.
This goes for other comfort items, too. Pack a bottle or blanket. These items might be the difference between a bad theater experience and a pleasant one.
9. Pack Hand Sanitizer
Movie theaters can be some of the filthiest places. There are hundreds of people (perhaps thousands) who visit the theater daily and there are plenty of germs floating around.
The last thing you want is your toddler getting sick, so bring hand sanitizer and rub a little into your child’s hands once you note that they’ve touched a few grimy objects.
THE MAIN EVENT
10. Skip the Previews
Now that you and your toddler have arrived at the theater, remember: you’re already pushing your luck with a film that runs for an hour and a half. Don’t feel as though you need to sit for the previews as well. Today, previews run for fifteen or twenty minutes, and that’s a long time for a little one.
Also, it’s unfortunate, but our experience is that the previews can sometimes be inappropriate for young children. Yes, they’re supposed to be matched to the film rating of the main feature, but we’ve often been disappointed.
If you’ve bought tickets for your weekday matinee showing, skipping the previews should work out just fine.
However, if you’re taking your toddler to the movies at a time when it could be crowded, skipping the previews might make it tough to grab good seats. If there are two parents with the toddler, have one parent save the seats, or leave a light coat or cheap item over your seats and duck out for a few minutes.
11. Take Breaks
Earlier, we said that multiple bathroom breaks may be necessary when taking your toddler to the movies. But even two or three bathroom breaks might not be enough …
There may be moments in the film when your child gets restless or upset at something, and you might need to step out with them. Just be prepared for these moments, and don’t get too invested in the film. You can always come back to see it another time!
12. Amuse Your Toddler
Amuse my toddler? Isn’t that what the movie’s supposed to do?
Very often toddlers feed off your reactions. So, if you look like you’re enjoying the movie, chances are that they will, too. At the very least, they’ll stare at the screen, puzzled as to why you’re so entertained. But that’s a start!
If there’s a funny part in the movie, laugh! If there’s a surprising part in the movie, look shocked! If there’s an exciting part in the movie, appear as though you’re engaged!
13. Be Prepared to Leave
So, you’ve planned your movie date, you’ve packed the right items, and you’re ready to make this an enjoyable experience for your toddler.
But sometimes, it’s just not going to go your way . . .
Despite every effort, your toddler might insist on kicking and screaming – because that’s what toddlers do. It might get to the point where you have to leave the theater, and that’s OK! As your child grows older, there will only be more opportunities to see a movie together.
And that’s our list of tips for taking your toddler to the movies!
We hope this little guide gives you the confidence to try it out sometime soon.
If you have any other tips that have worked for you, let us know about them in the comment section below.
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