Taking Kids to the Movies

Dear yayas,

At what age is it okay to take kids to the movie theater? I feel like people are all over the map with this one. Some friends have said they feel like kids ruin the movie experience for others (including during kid movies!). Another friend says that it’s too loud for kids under 5. My older son (6) really wants to go see a movie or two this summer and we would have to bring the baby (8 months). Would you take two kids this age to the movies? Is there some sort of social norm I don’t know about? 

– Maybe a Movie

I have an active boy and we have tried going to the movies at ages 2, 3 and presently at 4. Only now is he enjoying the movie and staying in his seat. Kids movies are full of enthusiastic children. I learned to sit near the aisle, so my child could move and groove as needed. – Bernie

I’m not aware of any social norms other than it’s polite to whisper in the theatre and if your kid is screaming, it is probably better to take them out until they are quiet. I have three kids ranging in age from 14 months to 4.5 years old. We have gone to the movies quite a few times. Our theatres offer $1 movie events in the summertime, so we decided to try it out last year. (It was only a $1, so I felt like if we needed to leave, it wouldn’t be a total waste). I was so worried the first time we went. I brought ear protection for the girls and baby in case it was too loud. I had all my stuff neatly gathered in case we needed to bolt. I, too, was worried my kids wouldn’t sit through it. And what if only one had to go to the bathroom? I mean, it was just me and three kids! But you know what? They did great! The baby mostly nursed and took a nap. The older girls were engaged and thrilled with the popcorn. And I prepped them for it before hand. I told them all the “what” and “why” of movie theaters plus the rules for our family. I told them what a movie theatre was, that when we go we all stay together & that we will sit together in a row of seats. I explained about the movie, that it’s dark and the movie takes up a whole wall and that we are there to watch it, not run around or climb on seats. Then I explained the order of things. First we go to the bathroom (because it’s good to go before the movie AND before you get popcorn because we don’t want to take food into the bathroom). Then we stand in line for popcorn. Then we find our theatre number. Then we find our seat number. Then we sit down quietly. I asked them to whisper their questions. I also went with a friend and her kids, just in case we needed to switch off for a bathroom break. It helped us feel more prepared. Also, know that as the parent you probably aren’t going to be watching a lot of the movie, since you’ll be more focused on your kid and teaching them about the movie theatre. I spent a lot of time whispering about keeping their feet off the chairs in front of them and encouraging them to stay in their seats. There’s a learning curve for going to the movies just like anything. I vote go! And if you’re worried about the loudness for the baby, maybe just take your son on a one on one date for those two hours and leave baby with a sitter. Have fun! – Lori Beth

Hi Maybe a Movie, Go enjoy the movie! Feed the baby, maybe let the baby nap, and let your oldest enjoy the treat of a movie with you. I’m not aware of any social norms you’d be breaking. Have fun! – Cortney

This is one of those decisions that has no one right answer – just the one that’s right for you. Personally, I would not take an infant to the theater not because of social norms, but because of the loud volume being uncomfortable and potentially damaging to an infant. With that said, you could also bring ear protection for your infant if he/she is the kind that would sleep through “anything.” I also know that I would enjoy the experience more with my older child if we were there 1:1 and didn’t have to worry about possibly leaving mid-show. For me, the positives don’t out-weigh the negatives for taking both of them. – Diana

Hello Movie! I’d say any age is appropriate to take a child to the movies, depending on the child. The first movie I ever took my oldest son to was Toy Story 3, he was almost 4 years old. His baby brother was only a couple of months old. I wasn’t sure how it would go so I took my mother along. But, it went great. The baby nursed during the movie and slept through the entire thing in my arms and my almost 4 year old loved it. Having said that, fast forward several years and my 5 1/2 year old, the youngest of three, was just recently capable of sitting through a movie at the theater without bugging me the entire time asking me how much longer it would be. So, it depends on your children. Also, I’d advise a late morning or early afternoon show. The theater tends to be almost empty on a weekday and you might be less stressed. I say you should go for it, but if at all possible take another adult in case the baby has any issues, needs to be changed, starts crying, etc. Otherwise, just let your older son know that if there is an issue he may have to leave the theater with you for a few minutes. You could also do a dry run at home and see how the 8 month old does. Is the baby going to sit still and watch the screen, or nurse or take a nap? Or will the baby be trying to climb down and crawl around on the floor and cry if not allowed to? You know your children best, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the movies with your kids, just some things to consider before planning your outing. I hope you get to enjoy a couple movies with your 6-year-old son! I absolutely love taking my kids to the movies! – Lorelei

I don’t think it’s good to take babies to the movies. It’s too loud even for young children. We went to drive-ins when my children were young and the little ones would fall asleep. I would think age 6 or 7 for movie theatres and even then be very selective. Why not rent a good old Disney cartoon or a classic musical and have movie time at your home? – Grama Claire Bear

I loved the drive-ins! Mom would pile us all in (and the neighborhood kids) along with cooked hotdogs in a big pot and the buns steaming warm on the top lid. With frozen Shasta sodas (15 for $1 back then!) just frozen enough to be slushies. We would play on the playground (underneath the movie screen) during intermission. I remember the pillows and blankets and making beds on the car roof! I don’t remember the movies we saw. I think that Grama Claire Bear’s idea of movie time at home is great for babies and little ones and that you make it an “special event”. Maybe put the TV facing outside and build a fort under the stars (since there aren’t really drive-ins now!!!) – Taren

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