Thursday, 5 January 2012

How to survive the cinema with a two-year-old

After making my New Year's promise to my children, I fully intended this post to be about my plan.  My plan to do things differently and make this year count.   Instead, I'm finding myself writing about yesterday's trip to the cinema with my little girl.  A bit of light writing relief before things get serious, I suppose.

Yesterday was the first time that Sophia had stepped inside a cinema.  She's two-years-old but soon to turn three and, up until now, my husband and I had thought she was too young to sit through a whole film.

This past year, Sophia's attention span when it comes to films has steadily increased.  The first movie she watched was "Toy Story" and she became hooked on it.  She went from viewing just the start, to dipping in and out of the film and then to watching it in its entirety.  Her library of favourite films started to increase; the Toy Story trilogy, "Finding Nemo"...and, most recently, "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

So, what did we go to see at the cinema?  Can you guess?

That's right, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked".    If this hadn't been showing at the cinema, I'm not sure I would have taken Sophia.  But it was, so I did.

My husband stayed at home with Dexter making it a girls-only trip.  We got there in good time so Sophia could browse the pick 'n' mix without being rushed.  We bought our refreshments, visited the ladies room and then took our seats.  Sophia jumped slightly when the trailers started playing because of the noise, but she wasn't scared by it and proceeded to tuck into her sweets.
The film was 1 hour 27 minutes in total and that was about long enough.  Sophia definitely wouldn't have been able to sit still for any longer than that.  She started getting distracted about two-thirds of the way through the film actually, but that was fairly easily managed by switching seats.

My top tips for surviving a cinematic experience with a little one are:
  • I don't think there's a specific age that's most appropriate for a child's first visit to the cinema, all children develop differently after all.   If a child is capable of sitting and watching a film, then it is likely they will be able to do the same at the cinema. 
  • Pick a film you know they will like.  This can sometimes be tricky but we knew we were safe choosing a Chipmunks film because Sophia loves the first one (slightly less keen on the second but she finds Alvin hilarious). 
  • If you're not sure if your little one will enjoy a particular film, play them the trailer on YouTube and see what they think.  We did this with Sophia to make sure she'd enjoy the film. 
  • Plan your cinema trip on a weekday in school term-time.  It's so much quieter that way and less chance of a crowded auditorium. 
  • At the cinema, there should be one adult for each small child.  Our trip would have been a lot harder if I'd had Dexter to look after too. 
  • If your child has sensitive ears, take some ear muffs with you for them to wear until they are used to the sound of the film.
  • Choose seats with a good view of the screen.  This doesn't necessarily mean paying extra for premium seats.  I accidentally did this but found Sophia's view restricted by the bigger chairs, despite using a booster seat.  The standard seats offered a much better view because the seats weren't as tall. 
  • Be prepared for toilet breaks.  Sophia had six or so during the entire film, half of which were false alarms.  It was fortunate I chose aisle seats. 
  • It's virtually guaranteed that your child will get a bit bored during the film.  It doesn't mean they're not enjoying themselves, I think it's just a lot for them to take in on their first visit.  Sophia got restless about two-thirds of the way through the film although I think part of that was to do with having her view obstructed.  Once we had changed seats she wasn't too bad. 
At what age did you take your child on their first trip to the cinema?  Do you have more advice to pass on?


  1. Ha ha, I remember the days well.. but my top tips for younger ones would be: to never go expecting to see all the film, don't go for 3d films until at least 5/6.. they may look appealing bust most children won't wear the glasses for over 5 mins and then the film is unwatchable without. Finally, go and just enjoy and take whatever comes and make the most of it, as they get older they won't want to sit with you anyway !

  2. Don't let them hold the popcorn! Unless you want to eat it off the floor. Personal experience? Yes! And never take my own advice ...

  3. Love the movies myself - although honestly watching them at home is easier. Three Autistic kids in a movie theatre can get a little dicey at times. And I agree with onlyfivefingers too -adding that these 3D films don't really mix with little kids vision / neurology either. Anyway, sounds like fun for you girls and good memories.

  4. Thanks for sharing you tips, neither of mine have been to a proper full screen film showing yet, they have however watched a 3d thing of happy feet in an aquarium which squirted water, blew wind etc, which was a real treat :) x

  5. QueenofBiscuits.8 January 2012 at 20:31

    The booster seats look really uncomfortable, you know most cinemas have 3 sections of seats, I tend to find an aisle seat on one of the side sections gives an unobstructed view of the screen for little ones without the need for a booster seat.

  6. QueenofBiscuits.8 January 2012 at 20:44

    Oh and most cinemas do kids showing at the weekends which are only something like £1.25 per person or £2.50 but adults go free, whilst they are not current releases it's quite a good (and cheap way) to introduce children to the cinema. So far my 3 yr old has seen Winnie the Poo, Gnomeo and Juliet and The Lion King.

  7. You are so good! How you managed to get through that trip amazes me! The film I mean, not your 2 yr old, that's a breeze in comparison ;)

  8. Great tips! We often talk about taking our three year old, but we haven't braved it yet. He only sits still in front of the tv if he's tired anyway, and then he tends to fall asleep, so not sure that he's got the attention span. Six toilet breaks!


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