Do you like going to the movies with your family? Have you tried taking your toddler to the movie theater to watch a movie?
I loved going to the movies with my family when I was growing up! Although we love doing more active adventures, when it is rainy outside or snowy or we just want to relax a little bit together, watching movies can be a fun option!
Just like most activities, going to the movies with a toddler is the most successful if you prepare ahead a little bit!
I think of going to the movies as a life skill. Obviously it isn’t the most important life skill out there… but for families that enjoy that sort of thing, it is important for kids to learn how to go to a movie and sit and be respectful and quiet.
Here are 6 tips for taking toddlers to the movie theater that can help make the trip a success!
If you have additional tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
When I used to teach my students with special needs, we would practice every aspect of going to the movies before we went. Waiting in line, paying, finding our seats, sitting quietly, eating snacks quietly, going to the bathroom ahead of time, staying in our eats, etc. With my little kids, we try and go some of the same things!
2. Have low expectations!
I always go into a movie expecting that I will be walking the halls at some point with an energetic or grumpy toddler. I am always pleasantly surprised when that doesn’t happen, but I am always prepared for it. Sometimes we will bring two cars just in case one of us needs to leave. My husband and I usually take turns, so one of us will stay with our other kids if one of us has to take the toddler out or home during the movie.
3. Skip the previews!
The previews are much longer than they used to be. They usually take 20 minutes, so one of us will usually walk around with the toddler till the movie officially starts and get energy out. Otherwise they are always done with the movie about 20 minutes before it ends.
4. Make a smart movie choice
This relates to both the time of the movie and the type of movie you pick. Pick something your child is a little bit familiar with. Try and watch the preview ahead of time or a related movie ahead of time. This will help them get excited and have something familiar to associate with when they arrive and start watching. Make sure you are OK with the language and humor in the movie. Toddlers often repeat new words or phrases that they hear. If you don’t want your child to be repeating it, don’t take them to the movie with that word/phrase in it.
Timing is important with movies too! Make sure your kids aren’t super tired and ready for bed. Try hitting up earlier movies.
5. Go to a Matinee!
This goes along with the last part of tip #4. Go earlier in the day to movies! There are always more kids, so yours won’t be the only loud one. Matinee prices are also cheaper. If there is a dollar movie near you, try that too! There is no use shelling out tons of money if you don’t need to.
Some movie theaters offer movies at a reduced price during the summer. These are often targeted to younger children and are great times to go and practice! If a movie is $1 per person, it is easier to leave if your child is being crazy! Some movie theaters offer Sensory Saturdays (or other days) where sounds aren’t as loud and lights are partially on. These are great for children with special needs and toddlers. Some movie theaters have special showings for parents with little ones. Ask at your theater and see what is available! You may even be able to convince a theater to offer special showings for little ones if you join together with a group of moms and ask.
Some moms have also mentioned that sing a longs at movie theaters are a really fun experience as well! They are very kid friendly.
6. Bring or buy snacks!
Some theaters allow parents to bring in food for toddlers. Some don’t. Either way, snacks can save the day! We like to buy a big popcorn for our family to split. We get the movie trays and then dump popcorn on one for each kid (4 of them) so that everyone has their own popcorn stash. We also usually get one drink to share. My friend Kelly Jensen recommended bring paper cups from home to easily split the large drink up with multiple kids. I think I’ve even heard of moms bringing cups, lids, and straws (the type you can buy at Smart & Final) so that each kid has a lid. I usually will bring a sippy cup for my toddler.
We also usually get the kids a candy treat to split at the theater since I don’t like to sneak food in.
Have you taken your toddler to the movies yet? At what age was their first visit? Or what age do you plan to try going to the movies?
I took my oldest to a movie when he was around 2. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience. We did a lot of walking across the aisle in the back row of the movie theater. I think my other kids went when they were 2.5 to 3. Most of them couldn’t really consistently sit through a full movie until they were 5. My current youngest (age 3) just went to her 2nd full length movie last week. She has a bit of a longer attention span than some of my others.
Each kid is so different though! Some of my friends take their kids starting as babies and never have an issue!
Is it super important for my kid to be able to go successfully to the movie theater? Not really! It is up to each family to decide what works for them. Some want to take kids at younger ages while some want to wait. For some families with large age ranges, it is nice if the family can do an activity together like this and make it work for all ages.
Do some families really enjoy going to the movies together? Yes! So if you’re one of those families, these tips are for you!
Some other suggestions people have shared include bringing a transition object or small toy, taking them to theaters that have reclining seats (so they can play with the buttons), and bring favorite snacks!! Lots of snacks!
What are your tips? If you’ve taken your child to the theater, how have you made it a successful trip? Or did you learn anything from any bad experiences?