When you have a new baby in the house (even if you already have older kids) it can seem impossible to get things back to the ‘normal’ that you had before she was born. This could include going on a date with your spouse or just having a night out with the family. Our older girls are at the age where they LOVE going to see a movie so we have to put in a little extra work so that bringing a baby to the movie theater doesn’t ruin it for everyone!
You can absolutely take a baby to the movies but you should take care that she won’t disturb other people in the theatre and that the sound isn’t too loud. While infants could sleep through a movie, older babies will likely cry and fuss. Some theaters offer sensory-friendly movies geared towards families.
Over the years, we’ve definitely seen what DOESN’T work when it comes to taking babies outside of the structure and routine of home. In the house, everything baby-related is easier to manage because you have everything you need to solve a problem at your disposal and you don’t have to worry about the judging looks of other people (except for my wife!).
What to consider when taking a baby to a movie theater
Long before you actually pack the family into the car to head to the show, you will need to lay out a plan of attack to keep your baby safe, secure, and entertained during the length of the movie. Going to the movies is NOT cheap and I would be peeved if I spent a bunch of money on tickets, food, and drinks only to have them wasted with an early disaster that we weren’t prepared for handling.
Also, let’s be real here and understand that all babies are different and age is a huge factor when it comes to how babies will behave in different situations. Little infants might be able to sleep all the way through a movie, assuming you could nurse him, with little fuss while a toddler is probably going to want to run screaming down the isles for fun and attention. Take an honest look at your own baby to gauge how big of a challenge you’re going to need to plan to overcome.
With that being said, it can be done!
We’ve done it!
You can do it too!
Are infants allowed in movie theaters?
A good starting point is to figure out the theater’s policy on tickets for babies. Some places start charging child rates at two years old, while some others might go up as high as three or four. An extra child’s ticket might not break the bank, but it’s nice to know ahead of time how much you are going to have to spend before you make the commitment. Free always makes things a little easier to manage. You can ask if they offer refunds if you have to leave the theater early because of a baby meltdown, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
While you are checking on prices, look on the website or call to see if they have special accommodations for babies and toddlers. Some places have booster-style attachments that fit onto the regular seats to give younger kids a chance to see. In our experience, they are hit or miss. We tried using them when our girls were too small and they ended up being an annoyance. A year later, they loved them. Another year later, they didn’t need them.
Your mileage may vary!
If you think you will need to bring a stroller into the theater, either because you have multiples or just think you need it, you’ll probably want to ask ahead to see if there is a place to park it so that it doesn’t interfere with other watchers.
Are movie theaters too loud for babies?
The sappy conversations in a romantic comedy will be a much different experience for a baby than an action movie filled with explosions and gunfire, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation for what kind of movie you choose. Different kinds of movies will also have different volume levels which can be a big deal for sensitive baby eardrums and whether or not they can sleep through the action.
How many decibels in a movie theater?
The peak decibels should be about 85 which is not extreme enough to be dangerous. If you are worried, you could try some noise-canceling headphones.
What age can I take my baby to the movies?
There is no set age but you will run into different pros and cons with any age range when you try to take your child to the movies. Here’s a good list of what to expect by age:
- Newborns (birth to two months) – Newborns are going to have almost no interest in the movie and will instead be focused on eating and sleeping. Avoid movies with loud sounds that could scare the baby, but the biggest focus is on being able to take care of her needs. Inappropriate language or jokes won’t really be a problem if this is a movie for just mom and dad.
- Infants (between two months and one year) – Infants might start having more interest in what’s on the screen, at least for a little while, but probably won’t understand much of anything happening. Bad language isn’t necessarily a problem for infants, but avoid movies with scary sounds or pictures. If you are wondering about taking your 3-month-old or 6-month-old to the movies it will depend on your baby’s behavior.
- Babies (between one year and two years) – Once babies are old enough to start watching longer stretches of a movie at a time and can understand more language, you’ll probably want to choose a movie specifically geared towards kids. They still won’t sit through the whole thing, but what they do see is more important now and they might start repeating words.
- Older babies or toddlers – Older babies and toddlers are going to understand a lot more of what is going on and might even watch the majority of a movie. Be sure to choose a kid-friendly movie that they will be able to enjoy and won’t include any bad language or scenery.
Also, pay attention to the runtime! Choose a movie that is closer to 1.5 hours long rather than a 3-hour one. If it includes an intermission, you’ve made the wrong choice.
Other potential risks of bringing a baby to a movie theater
Even though it can be a lot of fun, taking a baby to a movie theater doesn’t come without risks. You’ll be bringing your baby into a public place that includes two big potential dangers for your little one: crowds and public facilities.
Anytime you get a crowd of people together, there is going to be a bigger chance that someone has a bug that your baby can catch. With most theater seating, you’ll be packed in close to other people and definitely within coughing and sneezing distance. People will also be eating food without doing any hand washing so any fingers that go sick mouths are going to be touching all over the seats, door handles, and cushions.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you go all germophobe on the movie theater, but you should at least cover the basics:
- Avoid the biggest crowds by choosing a matinee slot during the week (preferably while school is in session). Not only will the tickets be cheaper, but sometimes we end up being one of the only groups watching a particular movie and we have our pick of seating and don’t have to worry about being close to others.
- Give the theater seats and armrests a quick wipe down with an antibacterial gel or soap to avoid the majority of potential contamination. I don’t often recommend antibacterial wipes as a few germs aren’t always bad for a baby, but public places like this are an exception.
Have a plan for keeping your baby quiet and in one place
This will depend on the age of your baby and especially on how mobile they want to be. It will also depend a lot on when they should be going down for a nap. It depends on the baby, but it might be a good idea to keep them awake for a little while before heading to the show so that they will be more likely to nap through the majority of the film. Similarly, if your baby is sick or otherwise acting fussy, you might want to pick a different day.
For little babies, it’s probably best to plan on wearing them or leaving them in a car seat or carrier during the movie. This will work especially well for infants that are breastfeeding because mothers can simply feed the baby off and on during the movie and let them sleep for the majority of the time.
As babies get older, you’ll probably need to have a couple of options that you can rotate through in case they get annoyed or fussy in a certain position. Prepare your spouse and older children to take turns holding the baby so your arms can get a rest!
Once babies are actively crawling and walking, keeping them in one place and quiet for two hours can be tough. Here are my recommendations:
- Bring plenty of snacks that are easy for your baby to eat – Avoid loud packaging and things that need to be prepared or cut up before being fed. You might want to give your baby fresh strawberries and cheese because they are healthy, but movie theaters are a time for convenience so whip out those puffs, cereals, and yogurt bites!
- Bring quiet toys for your baby to play with – Lots of baby toys try to keep a baby’s attention by making loud noises, but that’s the opposite of what we want in a theater. Instead, bring stuffed animals, teething rings/keys, action figures, cars, or even pop-up books. You should also avoid anything with small pieces that can get easily lost on a dark and dirty theater floor.
Be prepared to step outside or take your baby out of the movie theater early
Part of having realistic expectations about bringing your baby to a movie theater is the recognition that you might just have to throw in the towel on a fussy baby and either go outside to soothe her or pack it up early and head home.
Stepping into the hallway for a few minutes is probably not going to ruin your experience, but you really need to think about the repercussions of leaving early when it comes to having older kids. I know that if we had to leave a movie early, my nine-year-olds would pitch a huge fit. After all, they are probably going to get the most enjoyment out of it in the first place.
Of course, leaving is absolutely the last resort. If you have prepared for the trip well, you probably won’t have to cut it short and hopefully, everyone will have a great time at the movies!
Can I take my baby to a concert? I’ve answered this question about concerts in another post!
How many decibels in a movie theater? The peak decibels should be about 85 which is not extreme enough to be dangerous. If you are worried, you could try some noise-canceling headphones.