Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Movies with Toddlers

My daughter is what I call one Busy Bee. She was diagnosed with ADHD at 2 1/2. Picture in your head how busy and crazy two year olds are. Now times that by twenty add in a sugar infused child around Halloween all day every day and you have my Mems. 

My husband and I love going to movies. Obviously when Ems came around our cinema trips went down significantly. We have talked about the day she could go to the movies with us since she was born.  Most of her peers are able to watch at least a short children's show or most of a movie. Mems not so much. Not that I want her watching tv all day, but I'll admit it would be nice to have a minute to change laundry or use the bathroom while my child is glued to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or whatever is on during that hour. 

So although I'm aware most of parents with toddlers do not have ADHD I still believe we can all benefit from some tips to slow down and focus our child so we can enjoy a lovely movie outing together. Or at least a somewhat successful night together. Or for heavens sakes just get us out of the house no matter the consequence later!  Man, toddlers are draining. 

Tips on Taking a Toddler to a Movie 

1.  Get their energy out.  Start before you leave the house. I have Em do what I call heavy work before she is asked to sit still for a long period of time. For example: jumping, pushing, carrying. I have Em jump a lot. Whether it's walking into the store, jumping off furniture, or a few minutes on the trampoline.  Sometimes I'll ask Ems to help me push a chair or we play a game where she tries to push me over. I've even pretended that a wall needs moved and tell her to push her hardest. You can fill a backpack to about %10 of their body weight and have them carry that around for 20 minutes or so. Weighted exercise balls are great for heavy work as well. There are oodles of games you could make up them. 

2.  Don't have too high of expectations. Even if your child is a movie addict, chances are neither of you have seen the movie and you have no idea if they're going to like it. Expect wiggling, loud talking, spilling, and kicking. I know I do.  Which brings me to...

3.  Be prepared.  Most important step!  If your theater has reserved seating choose a seat that will be best suited for your child. We like to go when we know the theater won't be crowded so we don't have to worry if Em dances in the aisle or kicks the seat in front of us. We ALWAYS sit in the end of the row. That makes potty/wiggle breaks much easier.  Have snacks, a drink, and sleep aids available. If your child likes movies and will stay engaged, awesome. If they're like my Ems chances are they'll be bored by the time the previews are over. Give Em popcorn and a drink and you've extended that time to at least 1/3 of the way through the movie.  Ems has sleep aids that she only gets during bedtime and naps. I like to bring a few to the movie (her collection grows daily).  It doesn't make her sleep, but it does calm her down immediately. Add a new snack and you have a few more minutes of attention.  If you're freaked out about the thousand calories your child will consume you could bring a busy book or something that will keep their focus. Don't use a phone. That's just rude to others around you. 

4.  Take a break.  About 3/4 through a movie Em is just done. That when we take a potty break. I let her jump down the aisle steps and run to the bathroom. She needs it by that point and as long as she's not bumping into people or screaming at the same time I thinks it's just fine. Once we go potty I let her jump in the hallway and climb the stairs back to our seats.  I only carry her if she tries to run away or starts grabbing people.  Occasionally that happens, but most of the time she is excited to get back and I want her to expel as much energy as possible in the process. 

5.  Go during your prime time. Never take a child during their nap time or bed time. NEVER. You are just setting them up for failure. They need to be well rested and in a good mood.  Did they miss or take a bad nap that day?  Then don't go.  Even if it has been planned for ages. If you choose not to take this advice, don't expect much from your child and DON'T get mad when they won't obey.  Ultimately you asked for it. 

6.  Be okay with leaving early. If things take a turn for the worst don't make it a bad experience for your child. Snapping and yelling at them won't make it fun for you or them.  You know your child's limits. If they are surpassed or getting close, it's okay to step out or go home. Leave on a good note. Empty threats and mad parents only show the child how to act in a movie.  Trust me, if you continue to harp on your child for their bad behavior it will only validate their actions and the next movie you take them to will be just as bad if not worse.  It's hard not to get upset, but remember, you're asking a lot from your child to sit so long and their ability to restrain themselves is low. 

Does it feel like too much work for you?  Then skip this activity. My love for movies and the need to get out of the house overpowers the work it takes. Plus, I love how excited Ems gets when I tell her we are going to a movie with popcorn.  It's a nice break in our routine and something she talks about for days. 

What are your tips and tricks?

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