Parents have been asking me about how to make the first trip to the movies with a child a successful one. Let me see if I can screen out parental concerns and shed some lights, camera and action on this topic.
First, you need to determine whether your toddler or preschooler is ready to sit for 90 to 120 minutes in a dark theater. While some children may be ready to do this at age 3 or 4, others may not, due to a fear of the dark or of loud noises. A good tester is to do a trial run and stream a movie at home. Make sure your child will sit still and watch that movie for at least 60 minutes. If so, they’re probably good to go to the cinema.
Prepare your child in advance for what the experience will be like. Explain that they will need to stay in their seat, that the lights will go out, and that the volume will be louder than when you watch movies at home. You could even describe what the movie is about, the characters, and maybe even watch an online trailer for the film together.
The movie selection is also important. You want something that has a G rating and is very child-friendly, so do a little research in advance. A shorter animated feature usually does the trick. Don’t arrive so early that your child is restless even before the film starts, although a trip to the bathroom before the film begins is always a good idea. Most young children are more alert and at their best earlier in the day, so the first screening is usually your best bet as a parent.
Seating location is important too. Sit so that things on the screen don’t get bigger than they already are. Sitting on the aisle allows you to make an easy exit for bathroom breaks or a walk around the lobby if your child is restless.
As to refreshment battles, think ahead and decide if you are going to buy anything and what you will buy. This way, you can (hopefully) avoid a tantrum when your child sees the candy counter and wants something you don’t want to buy.
If your child doesn’t stay still or starts to cry in the dark, don’t worry about it. It just means that your child is not ready yet, and it will only be a matter of time until they are.
Hopefully tips like this will be just the right ticket when it comes to knowing more about what to do and when to take your child to watch their first movie in a theater.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.