Is My Child Ready For The Movie Theater?

by | Aug 20, 2019 | Family, Tips

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by Lisa Edwards, Parent Coach

Movie PopcornOne of my favorite pastimes is to go to the movie theater.  I enjoy all types of movies, and I couldn’t wait until my children were old enough to enjoy the magic of movies with me.  But how do you know when a child is old enough to go to a theater and actually enjoy the movie. The answer is …it depends. 

 One of my favorite pastimes is to go to the movie theater.  I enjoy all types of movies, and I couldn’t wait until my children were old enough to enjoy the magic of movies with me.  But how do you know when a child is old enough to go to a theater and actually enjoy the movie. The answer is …it depends. 

Popcorn text overlay- taking kids to the movie theater

 My own children have reacted very differently to movies.  My daughter was ready by the age of 4 and loves attending any movie.  By the age of 10 she was ready to move from animation to live action. On the other hand, my son didn’t really enjoy movies until around 9 years old.  When I would take him, he would switch positions in his recliner chair about 1000 times and I could feel the glances from others around us.

 So how can you determine if it is the right age to take your children?  Here are a few ways to make this easier for you as a parent and set your child up for success! 

How does your child handle movies at home?

Before even going to a theater, have a “practice” movie night at home with a new movie.  Turn out the lights, cuddle into a comfy seat, and have a snack, so the experience is similar to what they may have at a theater.  Is your child engaged in the movie? Are they able to sit during the movie without needing other stimuli? My son was always unable to watch any TV shows or other movies without constantly playing with toys at the same time.  Although he paid attention to the movie and knew what was going on, it was just difficult for him to sit and attend to the movie completely. This was an indicator that a movie theater maybe wasn’t the best option.

the right time For the Movie Theater

Did you know that some movie theaters have specific showing for children with special needs?  Yes, there are some showtimes that are available where the lighting is dimmed, the sound maybe quieter, and you can expect more movement in the audience.  This is a great time if your child has any sensory issues. Check your local theaters to determine if there are any other special viewing arrangements that might be a better fit for your child. 

Other than that, I have found that matinees tend to be good times for families, and those attending family movies in the afternoon are a little more patient with extra noise, or movement.

Are they ready for down time?

If you have tickets for an afternoon show, plan active morning with lots of movement or opportunities for children to be outside getting lots of fresh air.  Be aware of when your child is usually ready for downtime. If your child tends to be raring to go at 1pm, but slows down around 3:00, then plan for a later afternoon showing.    If they tend to have down time after lunch, make sure to get to an early matinee. Also, if you have tickets for an afternoon show, plan an active morning with lots of movement or opportunities for children to be outside getting lots of fresh air.  Although rainy days are good for a movie, if children are cooped up inside all day, they may not be ready to sit still for long periods of time. 

Prepare them for what will happen

It is always great to prepare children before a new experience.  Make sure to let them know about the darkness and loud volume in a theater.  Give the expectations beforehand that they will need to try to refrain from any talking, or only using a whisper voice.  Let them know what to do if they need to go to the bathroom. Perhaps you can have a silent cue between the two of you. And if you go to a theater with recliners, help them understand they are not a toy.  This is coming from a mom that has had to hold her hand over the controls of her child’s seat through most of a movie. You would not believe how loud those seats are if you are moving them back and forth constantly.  Fun, but loud. 

Snacks are your best friend

Have plenty of snacks ready to go.  Sliced apples, grapes, or quiet crackers are always a good choice.  I always like to go to a gas station before hand and let the kids pick one treat, like a big sucker or ring pop.  They can’t have these special treats until after the movie has started and it usually keeps them busy for a long time.  I also sometimes keep them until midway through the movie or when they start to get restless. 

Be prepared to leave

As with anything with a child, you never know how the experience will go.  Be prepared for whatever you can, but always be prepared to leave. Yes, you spent money on these tickets, and one of your children may want to stay, but the other needs to leave.  Always respect the others in the theater and know that it will be better for your child to leave when they just can’t handle it any longer. 

Unfortunately, for one situation I witnessed, a child just couldn’t handle being in the theater any longer.  Besides the disruption I experienced with these parents constantly, shushing or yelling at their child, you have to think about what that child’s experience was.  They weren’t having any fun and now they are leaving with the memory of getting punished or yelled at throughout a movie. I doubt that this child will want to go to another movie anytime soon. 

Conclusion

When is a child at the right age to go to a movie theater?   It depends. Let your child show you that they are ready for this experience.  Don’t try to rush the experience and prepare so that this can be an enjoyable experience for you and your family. 

When did your children start enjoying movies at the theater?  Do you have any tips or tricks that help your young ones?
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