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When I was young, we almost never went to the movie theater. Apparently, when I was a toddler, my Mom took me to see Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in the theater and I screamed so much we had to leave. Granted, that movie has some scary scenes, but it made me nervous thinking about taking my 2.5 year old, Owen, to his first movie.

Owen is a big fan of Finding Nemo and the many other Disney films we encouraged him to watch before our recent trip to Disneyland. So, when we heard that Finding Dory was coming out this Summer, I really had to think about whether or not he’d be ready for his first movie in a theater. In the end, I decided that Finding Dory would be a great tester movie since he was already familiar with the characters and the backstory and it would probably be filled with families with young children.

We went the week after it opened and I was shocked how empty the theatre was. It was perfect! And I was so impressed that Owen sat through all the promos, previews and the entire film. Anytime Dory or Nemo was off-screen, he’d quickly ask where they were. It was fun to hear him repeat lines from the movie and try to imitate sounds the characters made. I’m really excited to take him to movies in the future (particularly Moana!)

4 Tips for Toddler’s First Movie Theater Experience

  1. Set realistic expectations. Thankfully, I had a couple of friends go to the movie with their toddlers and let me know that their child loved the movie, but needed to leave before the movie was over. This was such a relief to know, as it might be necessary to head out early ourselves if Owen couldn’t hold still or was tired. It was a great way to manage my expectations.
  2. Be flexible on seating. I didn’t realize how dark the theater would be from the get-go. Owen didn’t want to sit in the seat by himself. Plus, the seat started folding up while he was sitting, which freaked him out. He spent the entire movie sitting with my husband or me.
  3. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Anyone who has been around a toddler knows that they can get a little snippy when they are hungry. Snacks keep little hands occupied during the previews and give a boost of energy throughout the movie. We went through an entire bucket of popcorn. Since we went to a 5pm showing, we also got more substantial food to count as dinner.
  4. Location, location, location. Consider the theater closest to your home if you are planning on getting close to nap or bedtime. We chose a theater close to our house so we could get Owen to bed as soon as we got home.

4 Tips for bringing a toddler to the movie theater


Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

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