Today, Katie Anne and I went to see our fifth movie of the summer together, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Since I've blogged and talked about how much we enjoy hitting the movies every week, several friends have tried taking their little people to the movies with mixed success. I've learned a lot about going to the theater with a two-year-old since my first trip to see Shrek the III this summer. So, I thought I'd post some movie-going-with-toddlers tips since Katie Anne and I are official movie goers now! Hopefully, these ideas can help some other movie watchers avoid some mistakes that I've made this summer.
Tip 1: If you're attending a free movie for kids, you need to arrive early - at least 15 minutes before showtime. The theaters fill up quickly, and I've seen many people get turned away at the door. The kids are so disappointed! Luckily, this hasn't happened to us, but I leave home an hour before the movie begins to make sure we're there before it gets full.
Tip 2: If you're attending a movie you're paying for, and you don't expect it to be too crowded, you should arrive as close to movie time - or even a little late - as possible. The worst movie time with a toddler is waiting for the movie to start and/or sitting through the ads and previews. Bring books - like the Sheep board book I've got on my lap in the picture - Magna-Doodles, sticker books, or other quiet toys to look at during the time before the movie starts.
Tip 3: Bring a big bag with supplies in it with you - the more supplies you've got, the better the experience will be. This is especially important for the free kids movies if you're alone - the big bag can save your seat for you while you go potty (see Tip 4), and seats go FAST in the free movies. Don't put your wallet, cell phone, etc. in this bag because you'll be leaving it unattended at some point. I bring a small purse with that stuff that I take to the bathroom every time, and the big bag just holds things that I don't mind getting stolen. (Although, of course, I hope that doesn't happen, but when you're by yourself, you've got to do something to hold your seats. At the free movies, a lot of parents do this, so yours won't be the only lonely bag. I've had absolutely no problems with this during the free shows - other moms or caretakers are really good about helping each other save seats during potty breaks. I would be more careful of this when it isn't a free family movie - maybe then I'd just use the blanket to hold our spots.)
In your supplies bag, you need:
*A warm, cuddly blanket. I didn't do this the first time, and I saw tons of other moms with blankets. Once the movie started, it got really cold in there! So, I definitely bring one each time for Katie Anne.
* Drink cup and refills.
* Lots and lots of small portions of different snacks in quiet containers!
* Quiet toys and books for before the movie starts.
* A stuffed animal or two. Katie Anne loves to snuggle up with her blanket and animals to watch the movie, and it makes the seat more comfortable for her instead of leaning up against the arm rests. Also, if your toddler starts to talk too loudly, you can tell her to whisper because her stuffed animal is trying to listen.
Here, you can see Katie Anne's ready to go... two stuffed animals padding the seat and providing friendship, a cushy blanket over the lap, and a juice cup in the cupholder. Let the movie begin!
Tip 4: If you're at a free movie, go immediately into the theater to save your seats. Wait on snacks, restroom, everything - seats come FIRST. Choose seats wisely... the best seats are the handicapped twosomes or threesomes because they're easy access to the aisle and your toddler can stand up and stretch her legs without bothering anyone. Otherwise, sit on the end of an aisle for easy potty break access. Also, make sure you're far enough back - Katie Anne breaks her neck looking up if we're too close, and too close for a toddler is different than for an adult because they're so short. We were too close for Shrek the III.
Tip 5: Plan on lots of potty breaks. Use your big bag or lay out your blanket to save your seats if you're alone, and be sure to go to the potty before the movie starts - but after your seats are saved. Don't be disappointed if you have to take three or four potty breaks during the movie - sometimes because of the drinks and snacks, and sometimes just because someone wants to stretch her legs. :)
Tip 6: Don't be surprised if your toddler wants to switch seats (KA goes from my lap, to her own seat, my lap, her own seat, all through the show), snacks, or stuffed animals about every five minutes. Just be prepared for it, and then you can do it quickly and quietly.
Tip 7: Sometimes, during a dull part of the movie, Katie Anne says she wants to leave, but she really is just bored during that part. Two hours is a long time to sit, even if parts of the movies are really interesting to your toddler. If that happens, don't automatically assume your toddler really wants to leave... you may pack up all your stuff and walk outside, only to discover that your toddler absolutely melts down when she realizes that you're REALLY leaving. (Happened during Shrek the III in the lobby.) Katie Anne never really wants to leave- she just wants to move around a little, or she's missing a favorite character. She said she was ready to leave every time the little yellow Katie left the screen in Horton Hears a Who because she thought Katie's part was over. Once the action picks back up or that favorite character comes back on screen, she's enchanted again with the show. So, if your toddler says she's ready to go home, try a potty break, or a new snack, or tell her that you or her stuffed animals are watching it and want to stay.
Tip 8: Sit back and enjoy the show - as much as you can while juggling the blankets, drinks, snacks, and stuffed animals! It is a bit of work going to the movies with a toddler, but it is one of our favorite parts of our week. For 75% of the movie, she's quietly watching and whispering questions about the plot and characters to me, and it is really enjoyable. Katie Anne still talks about the movies she's seen weeks ago, like Shrek's babies playing in the mud, the little Katie character from Horton, or the bad pirate from The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. So, it is worth the work that it takes!