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Family Movies News

Dealing with Antsy Kids in the Theater

It's Saturday afternoon and you've just sat down with your two year old to see the latest 3D animated release… the one she's been asking to see every time a preview airs or you drive past a billboard broadcasting its upcoming debut.
The previews begin and she starts to fidget. By the time the film begins, she's already screaming for popcorn, which was consumed during the "preshow entertainment." The shushing and nods of disapproval begin, and you're only 10 minutes into the film. You're frantically thinking up ways to prevent a full-blown meltdown when you realize you have no earthly idea what is happening in the film.  Now you're seriously considering leaving. 
A trip to the movies is an exciting adventure, offering children the opportunity to explore unseen places and learn new things. And with summer approaching, there will be a slew of exciting animated releases children will be begging to see in theaters. But when is the right time to bring a child to the theater? And what can parents do to help their antsy tots enjoy the film and ensure their experience as a family is a memorable one?  
Here are five tips to help parents ensure their time at the theater is an enjoyable one.
1. Consider the age and developmental readiness of your child. Can he/she sit for 90 minutes, the average length of an animated film? Not sure? Rent a full-length animated feature at home and simulate the theater experience to determine if your child is ready.  
2. Anticipate your child's needs. Be prepared with plenty of snacks and drinks (you might even carry an emergency stash!). Also, be sure to change diapers or take a last-minute potty break right before the movie starts. If you have a particularly antsy child, consider skipping the previews and letting them run around outside until right before the movie starts. 
3. Read the reviews. This becomes particularly important if your child is afraid of loud noises, scary characters or even 3D glasses. Even if your child is ready for a trip to the theater, the wrong movie could make the experience less than optimal.  
4. Be okay with leaving the theater if necessary. Many parents endure undue stress as they try to wrangle a fussy, squirmy child. You know your child best, and if it gets to the point where the experience is no longer enjoyable, it's time to go. 
5. Still not sure if your tot is ready for the big screen? Inquire with your local theater about baby and kid-friendly programs where crying, wiggling, nursing and diaper changing are not only acceptable but expected.  At present, select Pacific, Krikorian, AMC and UltraStar theaters have programs in place that feature dimmed lighting and reduced volume.  
As a mom who's endured wiggling, crying and full-blown meltdowns at the movie theater, I can say with certainty that it gets better. With a little preparation, patience and flexibility, you can make the experience memorable for everyone.
Caryn authors Rockin’ Mama, a lifestyle blog which focuses on everything from food and travel to film and fashion. To read more by Caryn, visit or follow her on Twitter @RockinMama.
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