Fuss-free Films: 5 tips to make your child's first cinema trip stress-free
My seven-year-old loves to go and watch movies on the big screen, and it's always something that we consider a treat, especially when it doesn't happen very often. With a toddler in tow, it means we've hardly ever braved the cinema because the thought of taking two young children to the cinema filled me with dread; anyone with a toddler who simply doesn't sit still will know what I mean. I had managed to put this outing off for quite a while, but over the past few months, the time had come to take my toddler on his first cinema trip.
Lots of questions ran through my mind: would he sit through the whole thing or cause havoc running up and down the aisle? Should I plan it to fit his mid-day nap and hope he would drop off mid-film? Could he accidentally get hold of the popcorn and choke? Would he just scream, cry and fly off on one of those unpredictable toddler tantrums? With so many factors which could go wrong, it easy to forget that he could equally sit happily engaged for the whole time and I would have had nothing to worry about.
I do think as with most new experiences that researching beforehand and being as prepared as possible is key, so if you're planning on taking your child to their first cinema experience, here are 5 tips you should bear in mind.
5 tips for taking your kid to the cinema for the first time:
Make sure your child is readyA cinema can be a strange environment for a child, firstly it’s dark, can get very noisy and the screen is much larger than normal. If your child is sensitive to loud noises or is anxious about the dark, it’s probably best to wait until they are a little older as you don't want them feeling uncomfortable from the start.
Pick the right filmEven when you follow the guidelines when it comes to age-appropriate films, it’s still a good idea to have a read of the general storyline before going to watch. I know my eldest was in shock after the somewhat dramatic start in the first Paddington film, something which had never been apparent in any of the books we had read prior to going to watch it. You want their first film to be something gentle and heartwarming with enough of an engaging storyline that is easy for young children to follow.
Have plenty of snacks and waterEven if you do decide to pick up some popcorn for yourself or older child before going into the cinema, do still make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks and water in your bag as these are key for helping to keep your kids sitting in their seats. These come in especially handy if you hit a slow part of the film and they are starting to lose interest. Another tip is you could also encourage your children to watch the whole film with the promise of something nice afterwards, such as a hot chocolate or ice-cream, sometimes a little bit of bribery in these circumstances can really help!
Pick an aisle seatAs adults we usually opt for the middle of the row to be as central to the film as possible, don't make that mistake with your kids. You want to be as close to the aisle as you can should they need to go to the toilet or are just getting to unsettled and need to stand or have a quick 5-minute walk. That way you cause as little disruption to the rest of the cinema-goers and you can get in and out of your seat quickly.
Don’t be embarrassed to leaveIf your child is really not enjoying themselves, is distressed, unengaged or you feel the film is unsuitable than don't feel bad or embarrassed to leave, you certainly won't be the first parent to do so and it’s better than putting the rest of the cinema goers through constant crying and upset. Also, all your child may need is to have a quick walk to the bathroom or just a bit of fresh air and may want to return to the film. If you do have to leave don't make your child feel bad, its a bit of a trial and error when it comes to these things so you want to keep it a positive experience. If it does go well and they are not too sugar-high from snacks you could celebrate with an ice-cream or something fun.
If things don't go right the first time, don't panic! There are so many factors that go into a good cinema trip and you can always just wait another month or so and try again. Look out for special toddler-friendly screenings too, or special cinema events designed to help introduce children to the cinema - Peppa Pig's My First Cinema Experience is a great example!