This summer I have enjoyed taking my son to the local movie theaters to see cheap kids movies they play on weekend mornings. It sounded like paradise at first; sit in a comfy air conditioned theater with my 2 year old as we share popcorn and enjoy some animated movies for just a few bucks.
As kids do, he made it a bit more complicated than that. I never expected that he would refuse to sit his entire first movie. Or that he would drop his pacifier under the sticky seats. Or would tell me for the first time in public ever that he needed to use the restroom, and once there refuse to even sit on the toilet.
Even with these bumps in the road, I have loved taking my son out to see movies together. Not only are they a great outing away from the summer heat, but a perfect way to let him learn about going to theaters and enjoy some mom-approved movies. But let me give some advice to anyone anxious about taking their kids to movies:
Prepare your kid. Tell your child exactly what a movie theater is and what you do there. I told my son it was a big room with lots of seats and a huge tv to watch, and that excited him. I also told him it would be dark once the movie started, and that’s why you have to stay in your seat. I even found pictures of the Minions sitting in their seats for him to model.
Get some snacks. Most kids movies run about 90 minutes long, that’s such a long time for a kid to be quiet and still, so have snacks to keep them (and you) happy. If you plan to visit the snack bar, tell your kid and make it sound like a special treat. If not, don’t even mention it! You don’t want to deal with the disappointment of hearing tales of fresh popcorn and candy and then not get any. I had my diaper bag stuffed with a variety of my kid’s favorite snacks, just in case, and usually have to get a couple out.
Be familiar with the movie you are seeing. Don’t just check out the ratings, PG films have the potential to be scary or violent in the eyes of a little kid. Personally, I like to see the movie myself and decide if my kid can handle it. If that won’t work, at least check out a few trailers or reviews.
Don’t go to a packed theater! The 8 pm opening weekend showing is no place for a toddler’s first movie experience. Test the waters on a weekday afternoon or find some morning showings that are specifically for young children. I found that there are mostly moms with young kids and the occasional day care group at these, so everyone is pretty understanding.
Be flexible and patient. Even after telling my son to sit “like a good Minion” he refused to sit most of his first movie. Thankfully, he’s only 3 feet tall, no one was within a few rows of us and he didn’t run or climb. I let him stand, but he could only have snacks while sitting. The next movie, he sat the entire time (some of it was in my lap, but it’s progress). If your little one is a little out of line, but not being a disturbance, play it by ear and use your best judgement.
Snuff out disasters, but give it another try later. So your kid is wailing in the theater or covered in a half gallon of soda or decided to army crawl under every seat in the theater to find more Skittles or, like mine did once, is yelling “Not like Boxtrolls!” He or she isn’t the first (or last) kid to behave like that. Deal out the warnings and/or your style of discipline (preferably out in the hallway). If you have to, just throw in the towel and leave. Nothing lets a kid know you’re serious like leaving. We did not make it through the first hour of The Boxtrolls.
Enjoy it the best you can. Watching my son discover the wonders of a movie theater was so much fun despite all the stress. It was his first time eating popcorn, or sitting in a seat that might fold him up and it was the biggest “TV” he had ever seen. And letting him sit on my lap as he narrated The Iron Giant, “Uh oh, robot eat train tracks!” was so cute.
In the end, it wasn’t all about taking a break from the summer heat with a cheap, relaxing outing. It was about sharing my interests with him in one of my favorite settings and introducing my kid to new films and characters he had never seen before. He still talks about Snoopy dancing, and pretends to be a robot eating metal. Kids don’t stay little for long so I’m glad we made some fun summer movie memories. Even if he did get stuck between the seats during Shaun the Sheep.
“Every day feels like summer with you!”