How-To: Hit Up A Movie With A Toddler

Alright, not going to lie: taking a child under the age of two to a full-on movie in a for-real movie theater is some serious business.

All the blog posts I’ve read on the topic say to wait until 2 1/2 or 3 at the earliest…but you know what? I think provided you follow some basic Laws Of Common Sense And Respect For Your Fellow MovieGoer (below) this is a to-each-his-own situation, and a) we really love going to the movies, and it’s a special thing for our family, and b) our son actually seems to have an unusually high attention span for anything involving motor vehicles (he can happily sit through the entirety of Cars when we watch it…over and over and over…at home).

So despite the fact that yeah, he’s a little young…to the movies we go.

The first time we tried going to the theater (above, I’m at The Croods with an obviously over-it baby) wasn’t the most relaxing experience of my life: Indy sat still for approximately fifty seconds (after which he became much more interested in seeing what was going on in the movie theater lobby), and then finished off the outing with some mid-mall full-body planking and top-of-the-lungs yelling. I have no idea how that movie ended. I think there was an earthquake involved.

The next movie we saw (Epic) was better, but there was still a fairly extended period during which Indy catapulted back and forth from one side of the theater to the other, with me hot on his tail. I think Colin Farrell was in that movie riding around on a leaf, but I can’t be certain. Beyonce was there, too. Did she sing? Ride around on leaves? Turn into a possum and do a little dance? Don’t know.

This time (Planes)? Great. (Well, greatish. Baby steps.)

Here’s what our experiences have taught us.

Know Your Child. Some kids can sit (relatively) still. Some cannot. If yours is the latter, maybe hold off for a little while; there’s no use making all of you miserable during an activity that’s supposed to be fun.

Pick The Right Time. Not naptime.

Get Prepped. We knew that Planes was coming out and thought it would be a good pick since Indy is obsessed with Cars, so for a couple of weeks prior we talked about airplanes, watched mini-movies about them on YouTube, and looked at pictures of them in books.

Go For A Morning Matinee. The emptier the theater, the better: ideally, you want to pick a morning matinee of a movie that’s been out for awhile (and there’s no rule that says that popcorn and Raisinets cannot be consumed at 10:30AM; you’re at the movies!).

Be Fashionably Late. You know what previews are? Fifteen fewer minutes that your child will be able to watch the actual movie. Plan to show up to the theater at the time that the movie is scheduled to begin; by the time you’ve gotten your tickets and concessions the previews will have finished.

Select Your Seat. Find an empty row on one of the side aisles, and sit at the outside edge with your child between you and the wall: it creates a contained space for him to move around in the event he gets fidgety.

Snacks Snacks Snacks. Bring more snacks than you can possibly imagine going into the body of one small human over the course of an hour and a half, and then bring more. Bring options. Bring drinks. And do not bring them out all at once: wait as long as you can before even introducing the idea of food and/or beverages, and then distribute them as slowly as possible.

Have Some (Silent) Toys. I brought a handful of cars in my purse, and during the expository lull in the movie’s second act I handed them over so Indy could drive them around on his seat and wait for the action to pick back up.

Know When To Make An Exit. Screaming = time to go. Now. (You’ll catch the rest on Netflix.)

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