Find the Right Time for Your Child's First Trip to the Movies

Find the Right Time for Your Child's First Trip to the Movies

Is there a kids’ movie out that you’re dying to see? Maybe you’ve seen a preview for a movie coming soon and you’re wondering if your child is ready. I cherish memories of taking my children to the movie theater. My oldest daughter’s 4th birthday party was at the premiere of The Princess and the Frog – and her 9th birthday was at the premiere of Frozen. 10 giggly little girls with buttery popcorn and a big screen is pure, innocent magic. COVID definitely changed our family’s movie habits, but we still love a good movie in the theater.

Sure, the concessions are stupidly expensive and we could stream the movie to our own TVs later, but there’s something wonderfully nostalgic for me about watching movies in the theater. Sometimes the magic and nostalgia are worth the money.


little girl with popcorn in movie theater

If you’re questioning whether your child is ready to see a movie in the theater, here are some things to consider!

1. Is your child at least 2 ½ - 3 years old? Obviously, this is a parenting choice you are free to make! You know your child best. Personally, my children were in NO way able to sit through a 80-90 minute movie before the age of 2 ½. Honestly, it would have been just as much punishment for them as it was for me!

2. Does your child sit and watch most of a movie at home? If movies hold your child’s interest at home, this is a great gauge of whether they will be able to sit in a theater for a full movie.

3. Is your child afraid of the dark or loud noises? Fear of the dark and fear of loud noises are very normal developmental fears at younger ages, or in children who have experienced trauma. BUT, definitely not conducive to a movie theater, where you have no control over the lighting or volume. If your child still has some of these fears, consider postponing his first trip to the movie theater.


girls laughing in movie theater

Tips and Tricks to Make Your Child’s First Trip to the Theater a Success:

1. Does your hometown have a “cheap” theater? The movies playing at these theaters have often been out for awhile, and sometimes are even old classics! The upside of taking your child to the cheap theater first is that the tickets are only a few dollars! That way, if you have to bust out of there mid-movie, you won’t be out $25+! Cheap theater’s a success? Your kiddo is definitely ready for a new release!

2. No cheap or dollar theaters in town? No worries! Consider attending a matinee for your first movie. The seats are cheaper, and you’re likely to encounter other mamas with kids – just trying to do their best and make memories. You’re likely to find much more understanding nods and glances at a matinee than an evening movie.

3. Purchase your tickets in advance. Most theaters now offer the option of purchasing tickets in advance - with the option of selecting your seats ahead of time. Want to snag an aisle seat in case you need a quick escape? You can plan days ahead of time to get the exact spot you want!

4. Think long and hard about your movie choice! Animated movies are the obvious choice for a child’s first movie, but even a movie like The Little Mermaid has a truly frightening villain in Ursula. Try to get your hands on some reviews ahead of time to gain a sense of whether your child will be entertained by the movie or frightened.

5. Leave enough time for everyone to use the restroom at the theater before showtime! If your child doesn’t want to (or isn’t able to) sit through previews, you can even get there right at showtime and still have 10-20 minutes of previews. This will hopefully save you from missing part of the movie later!

6. Consider your packing list! If you have been a mama more than an hour, you probably already have a set bag of items that you carry around with you everywhere you go. That bag will likely suffice for a movie, too! Include obvious items like diapers, wipes and a change of clothes, but also a sippy cup, snacks, lovey, and headphones in case of noise sensitivity.

7. Finally, be okay with “regrouping” in the lobby, or leaving the theater altogether if needed. If you attempt a movie and it’s just not going the way you hoped, be okay with just walking out. There’s a precious Bluey episode in which Dad Heeler takes Bluey and Bingo to the movies for the first time. Bluey is worried that the movie will be scary and Bingo is just running amok in the theater. In the end, everything works out, but it’s a great depiction of a child’s first movie. And let’s be honest: I get a lot of parenting tips from Bluey. Whether your child’s first movie is a dream or a nightmare, it’s okay. Kids mature at different rates and have different preferences, and that is OKAY.

What would you add to this list? Do you have a favorite kids’ movie?


Family in Movie Theater with Snacks

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