Oklahoma City family fun is for parents too, even if we're apprehensive about taking little kids out to public spaces.
It's the season of summer movies and there are some excellent ones to get out and see before they're gone. "Cars 3." "Wonder Woman," "Despicable Me 3" and "Spiderman Homecoming" are just some of this summer's blockbusters.
We went to see "Cars 3" a few weeks ago and I enjoyed it the most of all three "Cars" movies. The plot better incorporates girls and really draws you in with the storyline. As a mother of three sons, I really had no idea about superheroes or trucks or other stereotypically boy-themed movies. "Cars 3" was so relatable and inspiring, I'm glad we went because its common themes and overall message of perseverance outweighed the "this really isn't for me" feeling. Hands down, best kids' movie I've seen all year.
There's been a "Cars" movie for each of my sons basically, ages 10, 5 and 2, that they were excited to go see, i.e. it came out at just the right time for them to be interested. Gabriel, my youngest, was thrilled to go to the "Cars 3" premiere, talked about it all day and then show time came. He normally sits still very well. We've done long flights, art lectures and plays but there was something about this experience that suddenly made him want to take a walk.
As the lights went down, Gabriel stood up and it was a matter of keeping him entertained beyond the main entertainment after that.
Mom truth: two hours feels really, really long in a movie theater with a toddler. I've learned a few things between the three of them, though.
If you're taking a small child to the movies this summer, here are six tried and true tips to help make the experience fuss-free:
- Choose a good show time: Naptime isn't ideal. If your child usually drifts off around matinee hour, skip that one. They're cheaper seats, yes, but you might find yourself fighting a confused child who doesn't understand why it's dark but no one is sleeping and really just wants to curl up. I try to find a 4 p.m. showing so the naps are over and we get out while there's still summertime daylight so I can cross the parking lot without feeling unsafe.
- Do something physical first: I have learned that my children all sit still so much better when they didn't just eat a heavy meal and have actually been running around. They're ready to sit down after a sports activity, park or indoor play gym experience.
- Grab a booster: AMC, Kickingbird, Harkins, even Civic Center Music Hall: they all have them. My middle child is 5 and there are still times he'd prefer to sit on my lap than in his own chair. That's fine but my lap is already taken if Gabriel comes. Enter the booster seat. Pick one up on your way in and you have an alternative seating arrangement to pull out when your little one starts to fidget.
- Figure out the snacks: I don't normally advocate for plying kids with sugar but I can only speak to what works at my house and I am not above bartering concessions in exchange for a peaceful movie experience. I'll push away the jelly beans, taffy and chocolate at most major holidays but when it's a movie, bring on the gummy bears because there are few things that keep my toddler quiet like the promise of doling out more candy in exchange for good behavior. Is that a bribe? Absolutely. Whispering "I'll give you more if you don't talk during this movie" has been effective for us. I haven't found a local movie theater yet that sells dry or refrigerated fruit slices. My husband is from Costa Rica and we buy fruit cups before the movie there, fresh mango and pineapple; they come with a wet wipe. Just putting that out there, because really, I'm not the only parent who would feel better about purchasing some fruit. Until someone introduces that concept in our market, I'll take those sugary Sour Patch Kids.
- Find seats by the door: Look for an exit sign. Sometimes, those are all the way at the top. I don't mind being in the last row if that means I can get out immediately. If your child needs a break, it's easy to make a dash for it. If (when?) you end up missing most of the show, most theaters will refund your ticket and your child's; all you have to do is ask. I remember walking out of "The Martian" with a fussy toddler while my husband stayed with our oldest. The AMC staff was nothing but empathetic. They've seen it all before.
- Enlist help: Explain the situation to your older children. Ask for their help in giving a good example. Being a role model can nip the "he's getting away with behaving badly so I can too" implicit permission kids pick up on so quickly.
The best tip I can give you isn't in the list above. Don't let the possibility of dealing with a fussy toddler keep you home. Go anyway. If it gets to be too much, you can always step out, explore another part of the building or try again later. "Cars 3" at least was worth the extra effort.