Who doesn’t love going to see a movie at the theater? The big screen. The smell of popcorn. The box of gummy bears. The screaming children.
Wait, backup. Screaming children at a movie theater? No, thank you.
Most of us like to head to the theater on our rare and magical date nights with the spouse. We don’t really like bringing our kids to one. Watching a movie on Netflix is so much easier.
However, there is something special about sharing that first big screen movie with your kids. And it can become a fun family outing if you do it right.
So here are 10 tips for taking your kids to the movies!
- Set Your Expectations Low. Nope, even lower than that. If it’s their first trip, it will be a disaster. You will probably leave early. You will not know how the movie ends. There may be tears. They may be yours. You will question why you thought this was a good idea. Don’t expect much when you take your kids to the movie theater until they have been at least a half dozen times, if not more.
- Choose a Matinee or Discount Day. If it’s going to go south, why waste the money? Who wants to spend $25 to see half of Toy Story 4? I sure don’t. Every theater has a discount day, or a cheaper early showing of a movie (matinee). Many theaters even have summertime programs so you can take your children to the movie for as low as $1. Those are the movies you want to go to. They will be full of children anyway so when yours is acting out, they will blend in. And when you have to inevitably leave, you won’t feel like you lost any money.
- Pick a Movie That Interests Them. If they have been excited for the new Lego Movie, go see that! If you are excited for the live-action Lion King movie, but your two year old couldn’t care less, don’t see that. You will only end up seeing half of the movie before having to leave. There is nothing worse than seeing half a movie, or leaving during a pivotal scene. I will still never know how Storks ended. Or the Lego Batman Movie.
- Arrive Early. As much as it pains me to sit through 20 minutes of previews, arriving early allows you time to get your tickets, get your snacks, go potty, find your seats IN THE LIGHT, get situated, go potty again, open up every juice container and snack, and go potty a third time. Trying to do all that in a dark theater with a child is not easy. And feeling rushed with a young child is stressful. It will make them stressed out too. And then they will want to leave.
- GO POTTY. Always make a trip to the bathroom before the movie starts. They will have to go again, but at least you will be starting on empty when the movie begins.
- Splurge on Snacks. Snacks are a critical part of a movie going experience. And I am a bit of a rule-follower in that I don’t like bringing in my own food. Movie theaters make their money on those overpriced boxes of Jujubees, so buy them. Most theaters offer a kid’s snack pack too, so if you can get one of those, go for it. They often include a drink, a candy and popcorn. Your kids will love it.
- Let Your Kid to Need to Move Around (within reason). Sitting still for two hours is hard, especially for your child. Picking a kid friendly movie means your child can move around with little to no judgement (there are always judgers out there, but ignore them). Kids need to move. As long as they are not disruptive or making noise, it’s okay if they need to stand up or switch seats. This is the age when they are learning how to behave. When they start getting unruly, that’s when you step out.
- Don’t Judge the Parents Who Have Kids that Need to Move. If you are at a discount kids movie, or even a regular kid’s movie, do not get mad that the 4 year old in front of you is antsy. And if they start talking, and the mom is shushing them, be understanding. She’s doing her best. But honestly it’s a kids movie, see number one above.
- Be Ready to Leave. Your child will probably look at you at some point and tell you, I’m done. And if you’ve only spent $2 to be there, then guess what? You’re done. Just call it for what it is. You can try to encourage them to stay. You can ply them with snacks and maybe they will make it to the end. But if you have a two year old and they sat still for 30 minutes, consider that a win. It’s okay to leave. Don’t force it. Don’t ruin the movie-going experience for them. Just say, “okay”, grab your stuff and go.
- Have Fun. This is supposed to be fun. Not stressful. If you feel stressed out, try to remember why you are there. Going to the movies is a treat. It also is a learning experience for your kids. But in the end, it’s fun. So enjoy your time, even if it last 20 minutes. Eat that popcorn. Let your kid dance to the music. Just, enjoy.
We love going to the movies in the summertime. Now that my son is five years old, we have already made it through an ENTIRE movie at the theater. It’s taken me a long time and many attempts to reach that point but it was worth it in the end!
Happy Movie Going, parents!