Taking your child to the movies for the first time can be a positive experience for everyone involved. You may even be looking forward to seeing your kids’ movie theater experience play out — it is exciting, after all. These parent-tested tips can help make your first family trip to the movies fun for everyone.
How to Know Your Child Is Ready for the Movie Theater
Every child is different, as most parents know quite well. Gauging when your child is ready for their first trip to the movie theater is less about milestones and more about your child’s unique personality.
For some children, seeing their first movie in theaters is possible as a toddler as young as two or three years old. For others, it might be best to wait until they’re five or six. Here are some things you can look for if you’re wondering if your child is ready.
They enjoy watching movies at home.
Their attention span is mature enough for a full-length feature.
They’re able to understand, to some degree, what happens at a movie theater.
You’re confident they can go to the potty in a public restroom.
They’re familiar with being in places that require quiet (school, libraries, church, etc.)
They have favorite movies or shows at home that capture their full attention.
You’ve had successful experiences with smaller outings like dinner, the zoo, or a museum.
You may have other children in your family still not ready for the theater experience. In this situation, you may want to divide and conquer as parents and take the other children to an equally exciting event.
Make Your Child’s First Movie Experience a Positive One
Now that you know your child is ready for that first trip to the theater, you can start planning the event. Chances are, things won’t go perfectly. But these parent-tested tips should help you plan a mostly smooth experience for you and your child.
Wait for the Right Movie
One of the best ways to ensure your child will be excited about the movies is to choose a film they are actually interested in. You may have to wait until that perfect film comes out. A good rule of thumb is to prolong the experience until your child voices wanting to see a specific movie.
If you don't want to wait for the perfect new film to debut, you might try a local dollar theater featuring a film your family loves or go to a special holiday movie screening instead.
Make a Mock Theater at Home
“Practice makes perfect” really applies to so many aspects of life. You can prepare your child and let them practice going to the movie theater at home. Show one of their favorite films, darken the room as much as possible, and practice being quiet throughout the whole film together. Don't forget the popcorn and snacks!
Prepare for Potty Trips
You might miss half the movie because of potty trips, and that’s okay. (If your child is enjoying a large Icee from the snack bar, you might miss more than half.) If you’re mentally prepared for the potty trips, you’re much less likely to get frustrated when it’s time to go again.
Try to get to the theater early so you have your pick of the seats. This way, you can choose seating on the end and close to the door for smooth potty-break exits.
Get the Wiggles Out Before the Movie
One of the hardest things about getting kids to sit and watch a movie is the actual sitting part. It’s tough to sit still at a young age for a long duration of time. You might consider some intentional movement early in the day or before the movie to help your child release some of that energy.
Spend some time at the park earlier in the day.
Have a dance break in the parking lot before you go inside the theater.
Walk around the mall to burn off some energy before the showing.
If the weather is nice enough, spend some time by the pool before the movie.
If you choose a movie showing during the week, especially at an early time, there will be smaller crowds to navigate around in the theater.
Set the Standard for the Snack Bar
The snack bar is going to look like Disney World to your child if it’s their first time inside the theater. Who wouldn't be awestruck by an endless stream of candy and popcorn? You might want to have a conversation about how the concession stand works, what and how much they are allowed to have, and how to stick to your family’s budget before you walk through the doors of the lobby.
Bring Noise Reduction Earmuffs
You know your child best, so you know if overstimulation from the loud sounds of the theater might be a bit of an obstacle. Obstacle or not, you still want to give your child an enjoyable movie experience. Grab a pair of noise reduction earmuffs so your little one can still experience the theater without feeling overwhelmed.
Have a Backup Snack
Snacks are a mom’s best friend. Though you’re probably planning on grabbing a bucket of popcorn before the feature begins, you might need some backup munchies. Halfway through the movie, when your little one is getting antsy, a surprise treat they weren’t expecting can help settle them and keep them happy until the credits roll.
Layers are another extra you might want to have on hand for those chilly theaters. Bringing a blanket or your child's jacket keeps them comfortable when the AC is blasting.
Be Okay With Leaving Early
It’s okay if your child doesn’t make it through the entire film. In fact, you might want to expect it. The hour and a half spent in movie theater seating might feel like a lifetime to your little one, and it’s okay if you need to leave early. Ducking out before the end of the movie isn’t a defeat, it’s just a boundary for you and your child to leave the experience on a positive note.
The First Movie Trip Doesn’t Have to Be a Drama
With the right planning and giving yourself (and your child) plenty of grace, this first trip to the movies can be mostly drama-free. Make your plan, hold on to it loosely, and set realistic expectations for your family as you check off this fun milestone.