There's nothing worse than going to the movie theater and finding yourself seated next to a wailing kid perched on the lap of a parent who insists on staying put. Nothing, that is, except for when that kid is yours, say Circle of Moms members. One of them, a mom named Cassandra, wants to know at what age you can begin taking a child to the movie theater with a reasonable expectation of having a pleasant experience.
Many parents first attempt a trip to the movies when their tots reach preschool age. "Two or three is where they start staying awake for the whole movie and pay attention," says a member with the screen name "Medic Mommy," though she herself started taking her kids when they were months old.
Others point out that a successful visit to the movie theater has less to do with your child reaching a specific age and more to do with your specific child. As Christine R. explains, "If [your child] can be quiet and sit still (so that she is not disturbing other people) and enjoy the movie, take her. If you have to leave during the middle of the movie, then leave." In other words, "you won't know until you try."
Here, Circle of Moms members share five tried and true strategies for making those attempts successful.
1. Have An Escape Plan
Be prepared to be distracted and for the possibility that you won't make it through to the credits, say Penny C. and Julie S.
Penny has been taking her daughters to the movies since they were about three, and while "they have never been any trouble," she does make sure to sit near an exit, "just in case."
Julie points out that this is a better alternative than forcing an antsy kid to stay the course. "If [your child] gets bored, leave and don't stress yourself..."
2. Go When the Theater is Uncrowded
Ginny B. recommends avoiding packed theaters, in which people are not likely to feel indulgent towards a disruptive child, and in which your ability to make a quick escape will be compromised. "If you really feel unsure about it you could always wait until the movie has been out for a little while so it won't be so crowded."
For a new release, several moms recommend early showings, when the theater is less likely to be crowded and it is more likely that there will be other kids in the audience. As Laura S. explains, "go to the earliest showing your theater offers. Make it around the time the movie is released (same week). You're more likely to have a theater full of kids, and then it's not such a big deal if your son makes noise. Definitely don't go to a night movie when a lot of adults will be there."
Some theaters offer special shows just for parents with young children. Jocelyn S. has found a "Stars and Strollers" event at her local theater. "The volume is lower and there are more lights on and you can bring your strollers in," she says. "I've heard of some groups out there who organize a movie and all the moms and their kids go together."
3. Pack Snacks
When a member named Nicky took her three-year-old to a movie theater for the first time it went better than anticipated, and the key seems to have been food breaks: "I swear we made at least three trips to the conssesion stand for snacks," she laughs.
It's no surprise then that several moms suggest bringing and offering frequent snacks or other attention diverting items, like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, to keep your child from hopping out of his seat. On Jen B.'s first try, which went well, she brought lots of snacks and drinks. "We had to get up a few times, but it wasn't too bad."
4. Pick the Right Flick
It's just not a good idea to bring a preschooler to the potential Oscar winning docudrama you're dying to see. As Sabrina C. shares, "If it is animated and something kids will be at, then go for it. . . . I wanted to take my kids to the Twilight series but I didn't because I wouldn't want another adult to do that and ruin it for me."
Many moms echo this point, explaining that your child will be much more likely to focus for the duration if he's enjoying the movie. "Make sure it is a movie he will like — mostly animated," says Lynda B., and don't pick something that will scare or baffle him.
Another bonus of kids' movies, as Julia S. points out, is that the parents in the audience usually cut one another some slack: "Most other parents understand [that] if it is a children's movie some children will get excited and not sit still."
5. Do a Test Drive at Home
Practice makes perfect. And if a preschooler can't sit through an entire flick at home, it isn't going to happen at the movie theater, says Lynda B. "My son was three when he first went to a movie and he loved it," she says. "Prior to that he could not really sit still through a movie at home. But three was the turning point for him."
Do you take your preschooler to the movies?
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