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Dear Dadvice, What is a good age to take your children to the movies?

With the release of latest in the Star Wars saga, it’s a very popular question, but one that doesn’t have a definitive answer. It’s similar to asking what the best type of food is. Everyone is going to have a different opinion based on their own experiences. (Even though we all know the correct answer is pizza…lol.)

The point I’m trying to make is that there is no right or wrong answers. Because all of our children are different, I can’t tell you if your child is ready for the movies, or not.  I know some children that weren’t ready to sit quietly in the theater at age seven, and I have also heard of children under twenty-four months that did just fine.

What I can do is give you some advice that will help you decide if it’s time to expose your kids to the Big Screen and some tips to make the experience a pleasant one.

Know your child. If they can’t sit still at home for a thirty minute cartoon, maybe it’s not time to expose them to a two hour blockbuster. What about a fear of the dark? As movies take place in an unlit theater, this may be another reason to give the idea a pass.

Explain to them what they should expect. Things like, “they are going to shut the lights off”, “there might be a lot of people there,” “you have to be very quiet so you don’t disturb others” are all good things to go over with them before you even leave the house.

Get them ready for the movie you are going to see. Watch related videos on-line or by checking out the movie trailer. You can find a lot of them on YouTube or http://www.traileraddict.com/. This will get them excited about seeing the movie before you even get there.

Make sure you select the right film. Choosing what movie to see is more than just checking the ratings and making sure it is age appropriate. Consider the storyline and whether it fits with where your child is at emotionally, and developmentally. Is there fighting? Sadness? Do characters die? Also pay attention to the length of the production. Obviously an hour long movie may be easier to handle than a three hour marathon.

Skip the advertisements and the movie previews that start the film.  These take up precious time, slow down the action, and confuse little people who are expecting to see a particular character. They also tend to be louder than the actual film which could sour the experience before it even begins!

Pick the right time to go.  Early matinees tend to be less crowded, and weekdays are often slower than weekends. People will care less about your new film buff asking you a question mid-movie if there’s no one else in the theater. Also, see if the Cineplex you plan on visiting has certain showings just for young children. Often, they will set aside specific times for screening children’s movies just for this purpose.

Go with the flow. Understand that you may not see the whole film. It may seem like wasted money, but remember that everyone has a first time. Once you have the first one under your belt and theirs, it will only get easier.

Good Luck!