Thursday, March 15, 2012

Movie Geeks: Toddlers at the Movies

Since the birth of our son, my husband and I have longed for the day when we could take him to see his first movie at the theater.  Sure he went with us when he was very young, but the period between when he began to crawl and the time he was able to sit interested in a TV program seemed like years for a couple who consider themselves movie geeks.  I was one of those pregnant moms crazy enough to go see avatar in the imax when I was 8 months pregnant!  We naturally positioned ourselves in the center in order to get the best view, making frequent bathroom breaks a major no no.  Not only did I make it through the movie with only one bathroom break, but I also had a large drink with me that I finished by about half way through, talk about will power!  Anyways, now that Logan is turning 2, we decided it was time to try the movies again with toddler in tow.  The new adaptation of The Lorax provided the perfect opportunity for this.
The Lorax has been one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories since I was a child and one that I watched over and over as a kid.  I was very interested to see what this new version added or detracted from my fond childhood memories of the original story.

 Luckily I was please with the result as was my son who made it through the movie with flying colors, laughing at jokes and point things out that he recognized throughout the film.  How was his first movie such a success?  Here are the steps my husband and I took to ensure that we left the theater happy rather than embarrassed and ashamed at our attempt.

 First things first, make sure you choose the right time of the day.  For Logan, the time between 3 PM and 7 PM is his most relaxed.  He has had his nap and he is energized for the rest of the afternoon, expecting dinner around 5:30 to 6:00 PM.  This brings me to my second piece of advice; choose a non traditional movie theater.  Chunky's is a convenient little chain here in New Hampshire where the theater meets the drive-in meets a restaurant.  This is perfect for Logan because he can eat while watching the film which helps to keep him occupied and avoid boredom.  It is also packed with families making it a little more forgiving when your child decides to talk or gets upset in the middle of a show.  Most of the people understand and will not glare at you for the rest of the evening.
You could also look for theaters that host “Mommy-and-me” movies just for parents and their young children, (Chunky's also does this) so the rest of the audience will be extra understanding of your movie-goer trainee.
Another good choice would be the drive-in.  This set up works particularly well because parents can usually find a children's film and an adult film bundled together.  Do make sure the movie you are taking them to see is one that they will be interested in.  This allows your toddler to watch the first one and with any luck fall asleep while mommy and daddy watch the second.  This worked great the first time we went.  Logan sat and watched The Smurfs contently in his car seat, ate some snacks from the concession stand and fell asleep at the beginning of the second movie.  This cannot be guaranteed through, as my husband I will attest.  Because of the success on our first outing, we decided to go again one night and no matter what we did, Logan refused to fall asleep and was not happy playing with any of the toys we brought to distract him.  I remember finally giving up and letting my husband watch Captain America alone, while I strolled around with Logan trying to get him to sleep.  You win some you loose some, right!  On a positive note, because you are outside, your toddler can be louder and have toys to occupy himself during the show when they actually occupy him.  Even better, the one near us has a playground and food concession stand which makes it even more convenient for a restless toddler who needs an energy release.  I think the next time we go we will use the personal DvD player or even my phone as a distraction now that he is so fluent with technology.  Two years old and he can already work my Android without much trouble and he loves his Alphabet App!
This leads me to my 3rd and final piece of advice for taking your toddler along to a movie.  Be sure to arrive at a time that will ensure decent seats but not leave your toddler sitting and waiting for a long stretch.  If you know that there will be some down time, make sure you have items that will keep him engaged packed away in your purse.  My purse is always equipped with a sucker, his mini magnadoodle, some other small snack (usually goldfish or cheerios), and of course my phone complete with toddler apps and you tube!  (This is also a great secret weapon for waiting in restaurants)
And finally...If you do opt for the traditional movie theater, be sure to pick a week day afternoon, when your chances of disturbing other movie goers will be at a minimum and choose aisle seats so you can scoot to the bathroom or make a quick exit if necessary.  And if at first you don't succeed, wait a couple months and try it again :0)


  1. I'm always fascinated with what parents have to do to get kids to enjoy a movie. Wired's GeekDad column has a series where they break down how kid appropriate a movie is (Violence, toy tie-ins, and the best times for bathroom breaks).

    Chunky's is great with kids. I took my little brother to see the Hulk there years ago, and I took my nephew to see Green Lantern.

    Whenever Ashlee and I go to Chunky's, we get a kick out of the things kids say. Tangled in 3D was adorable when a little girl tried to catch the lanterns, and a boy next to us was WAY PUMPED for John Carter the other night. In a normal theater you just hear angry parents shooshing louder than the kid's were talking.

  2. We love Chunkys too even without Logan :0)
    We are definitely excited that he catches on to a lot of what's going on in the film, but it also means we need to be careful what we watch with him now!