Oklahoma City family fun takes place at the movies.
If you parent a child in preschool, early elementary or even late elementary school, you know what this weekend is: opening weekend for "Zootopia."
Disney's latest family film premieres tomorrow and your priorities have been defined for you. Said child is likely well aware of the date and ready to attend the long-awaited film, packed with animals both cute and clever. You know you also kind of want to see it, even if just to enjoy two hours of happiness veritably guaranteed by Tinkerbell and the iconic magic castle, the opening emblems that are almost a stamp of approval for kid-centric movies.
Attending movies with children can be a terrific family time.
As the parent of three children, ages 8, 4 and 1, I've had some of those occasions, when everything was awesome and we felt like part of a team ("Lego Movie" pun totally intended) and then some other not-so-fun times from which I have learned what not to do.
Here are five tips for watching a movie with kids in OKC this weekend or any other you choose to attend together:
- Thoughtfully choose your time and place: Matinees are almost always less expensive than evening shows and you'll usually find a crowd that's more tolerant of small children at kids' shows. It's always a surprise to me when someone gets upset at a Disney matinee because, well, it's a Disney matinee; if you ask for children, you get children and noise comes with them. Older kids may prefer an evening time and you might like that better too if the toddler years are far behind you. It's easy to compare ticket prices online but there's one kid-friendly option I know of that really worked for us when Isaac, my now 4-year-old, was younger: kids under age 3 get in free at some venues. Kickingbird Cinema in Edmond (1225 E. Danforth), for example, offers that to families. I know where Gabriel will see his first movie because of that option.
- Buy tickets in advance (or actually don't): If you're afraid a show will sell out, get your tickets online. It's well worth the $1 or so in fees per ticket to have your day proceed on schedule than have to get everyone ready and try again another day. However, if you're not sure about your plans for the day, I wouldn't get tickets in advance. Exchanging them isn't always an option and I appreciate flexibility with little ones who might not feel well or just need extra time at meals, etc. Schedule conflicts also tend to happen on my calendar so I don't buy in advance unless I know for sure my day is set in stone.
- Skip 3D: Adults love 3D. My sons and several other children I know don't. They don't like the glasses, which are admittedly somewhat clumsy, and invariably take them off after the first 30 minutes. I wouldn't say it's worth the extra cost and would gladly save that cash for a snack.
- Establish expectations: Have the concessions talk in advance. Popcorn or choosing a candy can be something to look forward to but few things deflate the afternoon than "no, you can't have both" on the spot. We usually opt for the kid's pack, which is typically a better deal and has better portions, which in theater terms means it doesn't include an absolutely enormous soda. Another option? Make the fun last longer by visiting an ice cream parlor or other favorite place after; I know that ice cream for my three children costs less than concessions and we make an afternoon of it.
- Visit the restroom: Find it on your way into the theater, especially if you have preschool children. I remember watching "Big Hero 6" with Sam, then 7, and hearing the familiar "I need to go right now" as Isaac refused to budge from his cushioned seat. Leaving him there didn't seem like a good idea and neither did sending a second-grader to the restroom alone. That situation is also another good reason not to buy the huge drink. Also, if your child needs a booster seat to see the movie, ask for one. A surprising number of theaters do have them.
No matter what you see at the movies with your family, I have no doubt you'll be in the best company. Have fun!