A cinema trip could be a very stressful experience with an over-tired, hungry or sick child for example.
Going to the cinema as a family is a really lovely tradition. It is a great way to spend quality family time together in a comfortable environment. Everyone can switch off, have a laugh and relax without having to entertain each other. It's also a great excuse to enjoy your favourite treats and ignore the housework.
You might be wondering when is an appropriate age to take your child to the cinema for the first time. Perhaps you've heard about a child of a similar age having a successful trip and it's got you thinking. The truth is that there is no definitive answer to this question and it is a very individual thing.
Three years of age seems to be a popular age to take a child to the cinema for the first time. At the age of three your child is likely to tolerate the length of a movie. The same can be said for their language skills and ability to follow the movie's story line.
In some cases a parent can have a successful trip to the cinema with a child that is younger than three while others will wait until the child is four or five to attempt the experience. It may be entirely dependent on the child's personality, development or physicality. A huge amount of it may be determined by the child's mood on the day also. A cinema trip could be a very stressful experience with an over-tired, hungry or sick child for example.
As it happens, my son's first trip to the cinema was when he was a couple of weeks old. I attended a special parent and baby cinema morning at our local theatre and it ended up becoming a weekly tradition. These screenings are tailor made to suit the needs of a baby. Lighting, sound and logistics are altered to ensure that the movie is appropriate for a baby. I loved attending our cinema mornings. We waited a couple of years before going to the cinema outside of this experience and our first trip was a total disaster. We waited another couple of months and it was much better from then on.
In some cases the child may be completely ready for all elements of a cinema experience but the movie itself may unsettle them. Children can be very sensitive to loud noises, sensitive subject matters or certain "types" of characters. Trial and error may be the best approach in this case.
There are a couple of things that you can do to help ensure that your child's first trip to the cinema is a positive one
- Help prepare your child for what is to come by mentioning the fundamental facts about it being dark inside, quite loud and that there will be a lot of other people there too.
- Put some thought in to where you will be sitting. If it's a "free seating" situation you might arrive early to choose a seat that will work for your child. An aisle seat may be necessary for a child that is easily scared or has recently toilet trained.
- Choose your time carefully. Choosing a time where your child is generally in good form and well-rested could make all the difference.
- Expect the worst. Your child may want to leave after thirty minutes or before the movie even starts. Leaving early is a very real possibility.
- Bring back-up. If you go with a friend or another parent the dynamic might work better and you won't have to take your child with you if you need to use the toilet.