Taking Tots to the Theater

by LJ Dovichi

My husband and I took our three-year-old, three-feet-of-fun to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda on Friday. He loved it and sat enthralled the entire time from the previews to the end credits. After the movie he talked animatedly about his favorite parts, reenacted some awesome Kung Fu, and played in the arcade for about half an hour and then we went home.

We had a perfect movie going experience. It wasn’t always that way.

Three-feet was two and a half years old when the third Shrek hit the theaters. He loved Shrek 2 (but really who didn’t? Especially Puss ‘N Boots) and could even sit and watch the entire movie. We thought it’d be a fun to take him to Shrek the Third. So we did.

What a nightmare. We took him at the worst possible time, way to early, and tried to make him stay for the show — basically we did everything wrong. He’d missed his nap (oh how I miss naptime) so he was tired and cranky, we went fifteen minutes early, before the previews even started, as we’d done before we had Three-feet, and shockingly, when he got bored, wanted to leave, and started fussing, we tried to make him sit, be quiet, and stay still. We finally gave up and left with a screaming child twenty minutes into the actual movie.

We thought well maybe he just didn’t like the movie which was why he wouldn’t sit and watch it. Nope, we rented it when it came to DVD and he sat through the entire movie spellbound and it quickly replaced Shrek 2 as his favorite.

When Horton Hears a Who came to the movie theaters we endeavored to try again. This time Three-feet was older, now three, and we had a new plan of attack. We would take him to the earliest showing and avoid the crankiness. We would still go early (old habits die hard), but I would hold our seats, and my husband would take Three-feet to the arcade until the movie started. We were also prepared to up and leave at any moment’s notice.

Our plan worked like a dream. We talked up the movie before we went, showing Three-feet posters and pictures — getting him excited. He’d given up his naps by then, but we still went to the earliest showing because we still had surly afternoons sometimes. We got a big tub of popcorn (Three-feet’s favorite food) and then I went and held our seats and the boys found me when the movie started.

At first I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I think Three-feet might’ve remembered the horribleness of our last theater trip as he wanted to leave when the lights went down. But I’d thought of that, thus the big tub of popcorn. So I sat him on my lap and bribed him into trying out the theater experience with yummy buttery goodness — “You catch more flies with honey…” had echoed in my mind in my mother’s voice. By the time the popcorn was gone, Three-feet had succumbed to the allure of Dr. Seuss’ animated world and sat on my lap the whole movie.

We’d inadvertently created a monster that day — now the kid asks me every day if we can go to the movies. He was beyond delighted when we told him we were taking him to Kung Fu Panda. We still went to the earliest showing, we still hit up the arcade prior to the start of the movie (I’m neurotic about getting to the theater early), but now the glory that is movie popcorn is a treat not a bribe. Although I don’t know if he’d still want to go as bad without it.

Tips for a successful trip to the theater:

Attention span. Before you even think of taking your little one to the movies make sure they have the attention span to enjoy it. If your little one can’t sit through a feature length animation DVD at home then there is no way he’s going to sit through a theater experience. Why waste the money.

Build up. Talk the theater and the movie up with your child. Get them excited about the whole experience. That was something we’d neglected to do the first time around so Three-feet didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. I think it makes a difference. If your child is jazzed by the idea of going you’re more likely to get better results.

Early shows. Go to the early shows, the earlier the better. Kids are always at their best when they’re well rested. They listen better, have better attention spans, and are capable of sitting somewhat still in a theater seat.

Arrival time. I hate navigating a dark theater and being forced to sit in the only seats not taken. So, if you’re like me then you like to go early. There is nothing wrong with going early as long as you don’t expect your little one to sit in his chair from the time you get there until the movie starts as well as the entire movie. So have someone hold your seats for you and go play until the movie starts. It’s one thing to find your way through a dark theater when you don’t know where you’re going for crap seats, it’s another when you know where you’re going and have the pick of seats you want.

Snacks. Concession stands are a nightmare. They’re expensive and lets face it all the food is junk — well everything except movie popcorn. That stuff is gold. So make sure you enjoy a healthy snack or a light meal before you go. Hungry children are cranky children and popcorn just isn’t that healthy or filling to substitute a meal.

Bathroom breaks. Kids hate missing things to go to the bathroom. Three-feet-of-fun makes me pause his movies so he won’t miss a thing when he runs to the bathroom for movies he’s seen a hundred times but in a theater you can’t do that. Take the pressure off of pee time. Make a special trip to the bathroom before the movie starts and then only have a small beverage so that their little bladders can make it until the end of the movie.

I hope these tips help for you first-time-movie-goers with munchkins. I wish I had someone fill me in on the secret before I had tried to take Three-feet to his first movie. May your first times be more pleasant and fruitful than mine was.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 3:15 pm and is filed under Uncategorized, Parenting, Child Development, TV and Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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