5 Tips for Your Kid's First Trip to the Movies

Taking your kid to the movies for the first time can be a treat -- or a total disaster. Follow these steps to ensure that a good time will be had by all.
Sierra Filucci Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two Categories: Early Childhood, Screen Time
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two
5 Tips for Your Kid's First Trip to the Movies

Before you had kids, a trip to the movies was a no-brainer. You liked the actor or the movie poster was cool, so you went. Simple. But if you have little kids, you have to put a bit more thought into a visit to the multiplex, especially the first time you go. Here are some tips for making the first venture to the theater a success.

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.

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About Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women's and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley.... Read more

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Comments (11)

Parent written by Jsivaches

Wait until they're at least 5 and choose a peaceful / slow movie; you don't know how many fantasies I've had about turning around and slapping some stupid parent that took they're baby to a horror movie and the dumb baby won't shut up. Also be sure to tell them beforehand to whisper so others don't hear "mommy? What's that?" Or "why did they do that?" The entire movie. I've been on both sides of that tracks and it sucks on either side.
Parent written by anthonyd1

Thank you for the great advice. We are taking our daughter to see Minions tomorrow and its her first movie. So we are hoping it goes well.
Adult written by LoveLikeWhitney

Sierra, I couldn't respond directly to your post, so I had to do it separately. I think some of your suggestions are great. However, I am the person who will look at you when you don't take your noisy kid out of the movie I just paid $11 as a student in college to see. It's not that I don't like kids (sometimes it's even a teenager or an adult!); it's that noises like that are highly distracting to me and I find it rude that some parents think it's okay to not take their kid out at that point. Knowing this about myself, I have made it a point to go see any "kids" movies I want to see late at night, usually around 9 or 10. Even these times aren't safe. There are always parents who will drag their young kids to the theater that late, for reasons I don't understand. I don't think it's fair to say that we should have to wait for the movie On Demand. If your kid can't sit through a movie without making constant noise, they shouldn't be there and you should remove yourself from the situation.
Adult written by Ben Jammin'

Very well said, we saw Finding Dory last night (late) and had incessant screaming with zero action from the parents. I am the person that will say something, or go talk to that parent, which backfires 99% of the time. I've been told 'you don't know what it's like to have a kid', to which I reply: 'you don't know what it's like to not have a kid'. Of course it's difficult to have a kid, but usually, it was your choice, and you shouldn't expect strangers to endure your hardships, let alone share them. Common sense...?
Adult written by alliep

If your kid is screaming in the theater, take them out. I hate it when parents have kids screaming and they do nothing about it. It's not the kid's fault, but the parents have a responsibility and out of respect to other people who have made a purchase to view a product, please take your child out of the theater if they are crying and yelling. That's just the polite thing to do.
Adult written by newtoit

Thank you Sierra for excellent article! Lots of useful, fun tips. I will recommend your blog to everyone I know:)
Kid, 12 years old

You said "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." Did you know that movie critics/ older kids that want to watch a new animation film because they actually appreciate media and want to critique it wouldn't want a bratty kid talking through the entire film? If I wanted to say, watch a new Pixar masterpiece (Not stuff like Cars 2, that movie is a toy commercial), I wouldn't want some little child blabbering through the whole movie. You aren't the only people in the theater, you know. EDIT IN RESPONSE TO FIRST COMMENTER: Whoops, forgot about that part of the article.. heh. But in at least one theater out there there is somebody whose's time is so filled up he has to see it in the morning. (Eh?)
Educator and Parent of a 8 and 9 year old written by Sierra Filucci

I would always recommend that parents do their best to be respectful of others in the audience. But for moviegoers who expect to attend a kid-targeted movie without the "blabbering" of a child in the theater, I would say, good luck! You can always wait for the movie On Demand or go to a late-night showing.
Adult written by Animated Angel

To the 12 year old who wrote about the annoyance of small kids in cinemas responding to part of the article: While you are right in places, coming from an animation enthusiast/student who wants to watch a work of art presented on the big screen without a small child screaming in the next seat (I am not against children, I just hate certain loud noises). However, I think maybe you should read that paragraph again. It says to take your small kids earlier in the day, like around 9 - 10. So, I suggest maybe, if it bothers you, maybe try to avoid those times and go in the afternoon or the evening.
Kid, 9 years old

In order to watch movies from Disney if you think it will be loud, try doing it in a small movie place.