Determine whether your kid is really ready. What’s the right age to take kids to their first movie? Well, it depends on your kid. Lots of kids see their first movie around the age of 3 or 4, but some parents wait until kids are a bit older, especially if they’re sensitive to loud noises or scared of the dark.
Choose the right movie. Obviously, you want something kid-friendly -– usually, animation fits the bill. But also look for movies that are slower-paced or shorter than the average blockbuster. These kinds of movies aren’t always playing in the mall theater, but keep your eye out for special screenings at art house theaters, special theaters like Alamo Drafthouse, churches, or schools where they show classic kids’ movies on the big screen. Here’s a list of great first movies to watch at home or at a special screening.
Skip the ads and trailers. Lots of theaters show a slew of commercials before the feature. Kids younger than about 8 aren’t able to distinguish advertising from content. Also, movie trailers are often louder and faster-paced than the movie itself, which can be a scary introduction to the theater.
Plan it right. Most little kids are at their best earlier in the day, so a theater’s first screening can be a great time to go — and it’s usually filled with other kids who won’t care if your kid talks through the whole thing (for older kids, teach movie theater etiquette — no talking, no devices, no getting up for no reason). Make sure kids are well fed, and decide ahead of time if you’ll be buying popcorn or candy so you don’t have to negotiate in the theater. (And if you buy popcorn, make sure you have water –- that popcorn’s salty!)
Go with the flow. You won’t be the first parent who’s left a theater with a screaming, crying, or otherwise overwhelmed kid. Yes, you might feel like you wasted your money on tickets, but you don’t want to force your kid to sit through something they’re not ready for. On the other hand, sometimes a short break in the lobby will be enough to prepare your kid for one more try.