Taking Tots to the Movies: Helpful Hints
By Dedicated Dad
‘Tis the season for long winter breaks and holiday outings. In our family, matinee trips to the movie theater were a big December tradition. Whether it was a Disney classic or the original release of A Christmas Story (hopefully I’m not dating myself), big screen spectacles always bring back fond memories. And now, as I plan time off with my own three-year-old son, I am eagerly anticipating his first trip to the Cineplex. It is important, however, to remember some key guidelines before handing your toddler his first “golden ticket.”
It’s loud, it’s dark and it can be very overwhelming -Betsy Bozdech
Betsy Bozdech, an executive editor at the advocacy organization Common Sense, provided us with some great hints to maximize the movie experience of a child 5 years old or under.
Hint 1 – There Is No Perfect “Age” For the Movie Theater
“All of the time we get asked, ‘What age can I take my child to the movies?’ The truth is there is no perfect age,” Betsy told us. “Some kids are ready earlier than others and it is really up to the parent to know their child and what might scare them. You also have to consider the environment. It’s loud, it’s dark and it can be very overwhelming.”
Hint 2 – Prep Your Child for Their Movie Experience
Bozdech told us she first took her daughter to the movies at age 4 and, prior to that, preparatory steps were involved:
“My daughter’s first film was Frozen and we prepped her by buying the read-aloud book/CD combo. That way, she was able to understand the characters and storyline before we saw the movie. It also helped to address some of the scarier material ahead of time.”
Hint 3 – Watch Out For Trailers
Betsy brought up a good point about the danger of movie trailers. Even though you may be sitting down for a family-friendly “G” film, there’s a chance a preview may pop up with questionable material. Bozdech specifically mentioned The Good Dinosaur, which has a few abrupt reptile moments.
“Trailers can be risky,” she explained. “That’s why we recommend arriving to your movie after the trailers are over, to avoid any unplanned surprises.”
Hint 4 – Timing Is Everything
If you’ve got a child under 5, naps probably still play a role in the daily schedule (I know for me they do). Betsy recommends keeping that in mind before selecting your movie time. Planning a screening close to a bedtime can lead to crankiness and severe tantrums, especially if the film is over 90 minutes.
“Always try to time your movie right,” Bozdech told us. “And if things get difficult, it never hurts to have some snacks or creature comforts on hand.”
Hint 5 – If You Have To Leave, Leave
And finally, we get to the “What If?” scenario, as in “What do I do if a full-blown meltdown occurs?”
According to Betsy, there’s nothing wrong with just taking your child and leaving the theater. Don’t try and push things by forcing them to remain in their seat (and angering every other patron in the theater).
“You should always be prepared to leave if things get difficult,” she explained. “If you force a kid to sit through a movie they’re not ready for that will just delay the next time you go and potentially create a negative association for your child.”
Hopefully these can help the next time you contemplate a family Cineplex outing. And if you have your movie outing hints, share them in the comments below!
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