I am a toddler mom. One could say I have learned as much about what not to do as I have what I should do. Raising a toddler is similar, I imagine, to what it would be like to tame a wild animal. Toddlers long to be free. It is why they are always running everywhere and screaming like banshees. I seriously questioned my own sanity when I considered taking my toddler on her first trip to the movies.
We have watched plenty of movies together, of course. But, I wanted her to have the experience of watching a movie in a real movie theater. I thought how fun it would be for her to sit in the big chair and see the big screen. It all sounds good, in theory, but there a few tips you may need for your own survival and that of your fellow movie goers.
How to Survive Your Toddler’s First Trip to the Movies
Tip #1: Role Play
I highly recommend role playing before doing anything new with your toddler. Of course, it is difficult to create an experience like going to a movie theater outside of an actual theater. However, you can still role play what it is like to sit quietly and watch a screen.
I explained to my daughter that it is important to remain quiet while watching a movie at a theater because other people want to enjoy the movie, too. We practiced saying, “Shhhh” and sitting quietly in our seats. Setting the expectation before you go can make all of the difference when you actually arrive.
Tip #2: Timing is Everything
Your toddler’s first trip to the movies is not something that you do spur-of-the-moment. This experience requires planning. I highly recommend planning your trip on a weekday, rather than a busy weekend. This event will be stimulating enough without having to worry about fighting a crowd. Also, check to see if your local theaters offer a discount day to save some much-needed cash!
Matinees are a great time to go, but you want to ensure that you allow plenty of time either before or after nap time. Trust me, you never want to be out in public too close to nap time. It is a meltdown waiting to happen.
Tip #3: Get Dressed Up
There was a time when going to the movies was a big event. For my toddler’s first experience, I wanted to turn back the hands of time when people still got dressed up for the movies. Plus, my husband and I have not seen a movie in the theater since Batman: The Dark Knight.
Allowing my daughter to get dressed up helped to solidify the idea that this was a special experience. It is like when we adults get dressed up for a first date. There is something about putting on your finery that encourages you to put your best foot forward. You stand a little taller and are on your best behavior. Don’t worry about buttery fingers on their fanciest clothes. They will grow out of that outfit soon anyway!
Tip #4: Get Popcorn!
What is a movie, really, without popcorn? You must get popcorn. However, skip the butter and avoid the greasy fingers everywhere, as mentioned above. Popcorn is delicious and keeps those little fingers busy. Also, skip candy and soda. The last thing you need is a toddler on a sugar rush in a confined space. You also do not want to do the aisle shuffle every five minutes for trips to the bathroom. Popcorn is a treat enough, do not overdo it.
Tip #5: Have an Exit Strategy
We all know that towards the top middle of the theater is ideal seating. However, with a toddler in tow, you must consider your emergency exit strategy. Know your exits and your quickest path out. If disaster strikes, you need to get out fast. If you are a toddler parent, you know that toddler tantrums can happen at the drop of a hat. You also know that toddlers do not have a mute button or volume control switch. Be ready to move, if the needs arise. Think stealth.
Tip #6: Bring a Distraction
Since I have not been to the movies since the early 2000’s, I did not realize or remember the amount of previews preceding the feature presentation. There were over thirty full minutes before the movie actually began. These minutes are like dog years for a toddler.
I have several books and alphabet games loaded onto my phone for just such an occasion. Do not be afraid to resort to your back ups while your wait for the movie to begin. You do not want to arrive late and potentially find a less-than-ideal seat, as mentioned above. So, come with a back up plan!
Tip #7: Go Animated or Go Home
This trip to the movies is not about you seeing the latest action flick. Save that for date night. Do not think that a G-rated live-action flick is going to do it for your toddler. A bunch of people talking on an enormous screen spells b-o-r-i-n-g to your toddler. Don’t do it. Go animated or go home. We saw
We saw Moana and it was truly adorable. It was bright and colorful with plenty of singing and action. Plus, it was great girl-power princess movie. As a mom of a daughter, I loved the story. Moana is the hero and she saves herself. No prince needed!
Tip #8: Have Fun
A positive attitude goes a long way in parenting a toddler. Rather than expecting the worst, expect the best. Of course, you want to have your disaster plan in place, but believing that your toddler can be on their best behavior goes a long way towards making it happen.
It is also important that you have fun. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the animated entertainment. If your toddler sees you enjoying yourself, he/she will emulate your behavior. This should be a fun-filled activity for the whole family. Hopefully, it will be a memorable experience…for all of the right reasons!
A Final Tip
Just in case you think that perhaps your toddler is not quite ready for the full movie theater experience, you can create the same magic at home. Grab your toddler’s favorite animated adventure and some blankets and cozy up for some family fun. Check out my recipe below for stove-popped popcorn. I love using coconut oil because it has amazing health benefits, but it also adds a great sweetness to this salty treat.
Do you have any great tips for surviving your toddler’s first trip to the movies? Please comment and share below!