S and I love loved going to the cinema, when we were dating and before #JasperBean came into our lives, our weekends and evenings would be filled with cinematic experiences. Heck, our first date was at the cinema! Whether this was psycho-thrillers, chick flicks, war documentaries or secret cinema experiences, we never considered this as a treat. Now with a toddler in tow, this has become a rare treat because I never was brave enough to bring an unpredictable bundle of energy to the big screen. Anyone with a toddler that doesn’t keep quiet or sit still will know what I mean. However, we decided to take the bull by its horns and take our toddler to his first cinema experience.
Like with any first time experiences, my mind was racing with every possible question and scenario. Would he sit still? Is he going to enjoy the movie? Would he be scared of the big screen and dark room? Will he ask numerous questions and make annoying noises? Should I plan it so that he’s just had a nap or before? Would he fall asleep if it’s during his nap time? Is this what I want? Have I packed enough snack? Or would he have the popcorn and possibly choke? Would he have a meltdown and start screaming? All this time, I was so focused on something going wrong that I never contemplated that it could all go right!
Nevertheless, I believe all my questioning and worrying has resulted in me learning a thing or two. So here are my tips on making your first cinema experience more enjoyable and relaxing.
We went to see Ferdinand at the Odeon cinema over their preview weekend and to celebrate the release, they gave away a free plush keyring to every child who went. #win
Look for cues that your child is ready for the big screen
Watching a movie in the cinema is VERY different from watching TV at home. It’s dark, loud and big! This can be quite intimidating and scary for a child. So if your child is sensitive to bright lights and loud noises, then it would be best to leave this until they’re a little bit older. The environment has to be comfortable for them to enjoy and sit around for the next 2 hours. We had a little bit of experience watching live shows like the Paw Patro Live Show at Wembley, so we knew the bright lights and noise wouldn’t scare him. However, live shows encourage kids to shout and interact with the characters on stage, so being quiet through the movie was still going to be a challenge.
Choose a movie that they will enjoy
This sounds pretty obvious, but like all trips that involves children, you need to tailor it to their needs. Otherwise you’re going to have a messy day that no one will enjoy and won’t be attempting again anytime soon. Check out the storyline and read up on some reviews if possible. Don’t just rely on age appropriate guidelines as these are too general and do not give you enough information to make an educated decision.
Tell them all about what is going to happen, what they can expect and get them involved. Like the previous point, you want to choose the right movie for them, but let them have some say in what they want to watch. This way, they are more likely to be engaged and feel in control. Get them excited and make this a positive experience. The first time we encountered “Ferdinand” was at the Hamley’s Toy Parade on Regent’s Street, London. There was a giant Ferdinand float that #JasperBean was very hesitant about, but at the same time fascinated. There were giveaways, special viewings and Ferdinand mascots, so he kind of knew what to expect. We also clocked on the fact that he would like it because he kept on watching the trailer on youtube on repeat!
Remember, you can continue to interact with your child during the movie. Ask them questions, show your emotions, just keep it between yourselves.
Choose an aisle seat
Me and S usually would pick the seats that are in the middle so that we get the full benefit of the big screen. But with cinematic advances, this is no longer necessary, PLUS you really don’t want to make this mistake if you have kids with you. Potty breaks, mini walks, leg stretches, whatever it may be that means you or your kid needs to leave their seat means sitting by the aisle will cause as little disruption as possible.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks!
Wherever you go, always, always have lots of snacks and water with you. You would have heard me piping on about this on our travels and packing essentials. So here I am again, repeating this mantra – Pack as much snacks and water as you can carry. A hungry, frustrated toddler is not going to listen by any stretch of the imagination and the only magic you can muster is providing them with their favourite snacks. Oh, and keep some of those “forbidden” snacks in your bag/pocket for emergency! You never know, you might need to break out the Chupa Chups, chocolate bars or whatever floats your little ones boat.
Look out for toddler friendly screenings
A lot of cinema’s in the UK do toddler friendly screenings which means they are much more cosy, have dimmed lights, instead of dark and don’t mind you making some noise. Everyone in there will probably be experiencing the same thing as you – the same worries, hesitations and panic. So don’t worry, you’re not alone!
Prepare to leave
This is their first cinematic experience, so don’t be embarrassed or frustrated if you have to leave before the movie finishes… or if you’re only 10, 20 minutes in. Sometimes, with kids, things just happen. There could be a million and one reasons why, but if you sense that your child is upset, disengaged, anxious etc, or you don’t think the movie is right for them. Just calmly get up, collect your belongings and leave. Walking away is much better than trying to power through the movie with an agitated, unhappy, or screaming child, your fellow cinema-goers will thank you for that too.
Maybe they just need some fresh air, fingers crossed that they would want to go back in and continue watching. However, if that is the end of your experience, then leave it at that. Don’t make it hard on your child, they don’t need to feel bad about what happened. There will be a second, third, fourth trip to the cinema. One bad experience does not mean every experience will end the same. Always end with a hoorah! You’ve taken the first step towards a new adventure and that is something to celebrate!
Need more tips for your first cinema experience? Of course!
- Pick a time that doesn’t coincide with naps or energy bursts.
- Go for normal 2D screenings, 3D glasses and funny eyes are too much of a hassle. Plus you save some money, so you can go get an ice cream to celebrate your first cinema experience!
- Skip the previews, your kid is probably not interested. Use that time for potty breaks, dance and sing alongs or whatever you want to release some energy before entering and sitting for the next 90+ minutes (fingers crossed).
- Bring a toy or a lovey/blanket for comfort.
- Most cinemas have booster seats, grab these at the foyer or ask for one well beforehand, especially if you’re going on a busy day.
- If required, let them sit on your lap.
When was the first time you took your kids to the movies? What did you see? Did they enjoy it? Did you enjoy it? Ferdinand is on general release from today, 15 December 2017 in 2D and 3D.
Thanks for reading and until next time…
Love, MsMamaBean x
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