When’s the best age?

You’ve been eager to take your toddler to her first movie for a few months, but how do you know she’s really ready?

And what back-up plans have you made if she has a meltdown? We talk to parents who have made that first brave step into a movie theater with a young child.

The jury is out on what age is the perfect age to take your child to her first movie. We talked with real moms to find out how they handled the decision, and discovered that the answers were as unique as the kids themselves.

During infancy

Many parents went to the movies with their infants in tow — not so the baby could watch the movie, but because babies sleep, and sleep often. Babies are often content to be held or nursed during a film and if they fuss, parents plan ahead and sit near an aisle in the back for easy escape.

Usually once babies become mobile and less content to sit with their parents quietly is when movies become less desirable for both the parent and child. “We went a lot when he was an infant, then had a period of no movies when he was mobile and uninterested,” shared Tara, mom of one. “He saw Cars around his first birthday and there's been no turning back. He loves movies and going to theaters. We have journeyed to new, old, outdoor and even dinner theaters.”

Age 2 or 3

The consensus for going to a movie for the child’s sake seemed to be between age 2 and 3. Kayla, mom of one, waited until her little girl could sit through a movie at home before she took that first step into a theater. Some theaters have special showings for smaller children, also. “We took her right after she turned 2,” explained Charlene, mother of two. “It was part of AMC's sensory-friendly films so they are allowed to get up, walk around and talk a bit if they want or need to, and the lights aren’t completely down. She did well; she sat for the first half and then was walking around.”

Vicki from Canada agreed. “We go all the time!” she told us. “Lyra loves the movies. We've been taking her since Olive was born, shortly after her second birthday.”

Others go knowing that their kiddo may not last through the entire movie. “We just took Daphne to her first movie for her second birthday,” said Jenna, mother of two. “She lasted about 45 minutes and she didn't really care about the movie itself. When she started to get a little too rambunctious, we just left. No big deal. I wasn't expecting her to last through the whole thing.”

Special situations

“I found a drive-in movie worked well for us,” said Christina, mom of four whose oldest child has autism. “I only had them all in a theater once; we sat in aisle seats and sat closer to the front so that everyone could see easily. Also making sure everyone was fed and getting there close to start time so they didn’t get bored before it even started.”

Ideally each parent will evaluate when their particular child is ready for the big screen. It can be overwhelming for a small child — loud noise and music, low light and a big room potentially filled with people. With an escape plan in mind (and knowing your child’s unique quirks) you will be able to enjoy a movie, and perhaps start a family movie-going tradition.

Tell us

How old was your child when you first took him to the movies?

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Comments on "Hello Hollywood: Your child’s first movie"

Beth September 18, 2012 | 4:07 PM

Lots of good comments here. My parents didn’t start taking me to the movies until I was old enough to sit through a film, but I guess things are different today. Kudos to Lauren who pulled off taking her 4-month-old to the theater with no crying fits. It is also important to point out that the type of film being screened also factors into a decision of whether or not to take your kids to the theater. Finding Nemo is obviously going to have a lot of children in the audience, so normal kid behavior is more likely to be tolerated at this film than it would during a grownup movie.

Laurel September 18, 2012 | 12:00 PM

I think the idea of a drive-in movie is perfect! It still gives the little ones a chance to move and run around and not affect anyone else. But I think it is different for every kid. Try it out at home first, then make it a really huge deal to do to the theater and they will not want to disappoint. It is a really fun family memory!!

Leslie September 18, 2012 | 11:00 AM

I agree with Hayley that if you can be sure you're kid will not cry and cause commotion, then they can go. Don't ruin the movie for everyone. If there's a chance your child will throw a fit, higher a babysitter!

Hayley September 16, 2012 | 10:38 PM

If your kid can sit through a whole movie at home without whining or crying, you're probably in the clear. And if they start crying, they get to go home. No questions. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the movies with people carting their crying kids in and out. Really ruins the movie for everyone.

Katie September 16, 2012 | 1:00 PM

I agree with Lauren that toddler's probably shouldn't be in movies. If I took my toddler to the movies I would worry about if they were gonna start crying the whole time. I don't see the problem in taking an infant though as long as it's during nap time :)

Lauren September 14, 2012 | 2:14 PM

Great article!! I just took my 4 month old to her very first movie two days ago. She did just as hoped - slept through out the entire thing and on the way home. I don't plan on taking her when she's a toddler, though.

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