Parents have been asking me some moving questions recently. What is the right age to take their young child to the movies? How can that trip be a successful one?  Well, let me see if I can screen out parental concerns and shed some “lights, camera, and action” on this topic!

What Does Ready Look Like?

First, you need to determine whether your toddler or preschooler is ready to sit for 90 minutes to two hours in a dark theater. While some children may be ready to do this at age three or four, others may not, or may need to wait longer due to a fear of the dark or of loud noises. A good test is to do a trial run and download a movie at home. See if your child will sit still and watch that movie for at least 60 minutes. If so, they’re probably good to go.

Prepare Your Child in Advance

  • Explain that they will need to stay in their seat
  • Let them know that the lights will go out
  • Share that the volume will be louder than when they watch something at home
  • Describe what the movie is about and a little bit about the characters
  • If possible, watch a trailer for the film online together

How to Select the Right Movie

  • Choose something that has a G rating and is very child-friendly. A shorter animated feature usually does the trick. 
  • Read about the movie in advance.
  • Don’t arrive too early – this can make your child restless before the film even starts!
  • A trip to the bathroom before the film begins is always a good idea.
  • Go earlier in the day. Most young children are more alert and at their best at that time.
  • Choose your seats wisely – too close can make things look bigger than they already are. An aisle seat allows you to make an easy exit for bathroom breaks or if there is a need to reduce restlessness, to take a walk around the lobby.
  • Don’t worry if your child doesn’t stay still or starts to cry in the dark. It just means that your child is not ready yet. In time, they will be.

Refreshment Stand – Plan Ahead

As to refreshment battles, think ahead and decide if you are going to buy anything. If the decision is yes, plan and communicate what you will get. This will help prevent a tantrum when your child sees the candy counter unexpectedly and wants something you don’t want to buy. 

Hopefully, tips like these 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 University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5.

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