How to inspire a love of movies in children

Encourage your child’s passion for cinema with a 'behind-the-scenes' introduction

How to inspire a love of movies in children

The cinema is an exciting place for children

With huge screens, tip-up seats and sweet-smelling popcorn, the cinema is an exciting place for children. But that first trip to the flicks can also be a daunting prospect for a toddler, especially if they are a real squirmy-pants or a bit of a scaredy-cat. So, before you whisk them into the wonderful world of the cinema, prepare them a few weeks earlier with a trial run at home.

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Make this a really fun adventure, selecting which movie you all want to watch, setting a time for the movie to start and popping some popcorn. You could even sell ‘tickets’ to the show. When your toddler is settled in his seat, dim the lights, put your finger to your lips to show it is time to be quiet, and start the show.

There are so many great kids films to choose from that you’re really spoilt for choice. And for truly inspiring films, the newer Disney films have positive role models and outcomes. You can’t go wrong with Finding Dory, or Frozen.

For your baby or toddler’s first outing, try one of the parent and toddler screenings at a local cinema. You will be able to see how your child reacts to the movie experience with an audience that is sympathetic to sudden outbursts and frequent trips to the toilet.

Make it a whole-family event

The best way to foster a love of film is to do it as a family – and do it often. Make a once a month film night, complete with popcorn and a late night up. Let them choose the films and where everyone sits. You can bring down blankets and bedding and make it a fun family evening of bonding at its best.

Tell them the ending

Justin Johnson, Children’s Film Programmer for the British Film Institute, also suggests explaining to your child what will happen in the film if you think he might find it scary. “If you know there is going to be a wicked witch then tell him,” he says. “Don’t worry about spoiling the surprise. Children will find it reassuring.”

Truly Moving Pictures

If you would prefer to protect your child from the more frightening content or negative values that can be found in some films, try selecting a movie that has been bestowed with a Truly Moving Pictures Award. Around 20 films every year, deemed to be truthful, positive in their message, moving and thought provoking receive this award from the Heartland Truly Moving Pictures Trust, a not-for-profit arts organization. Winners of the 2016 awards include Pete’s Dragon and The BFG, two films where you can rest assured your family will not only be entertained, but perhaps also inspired.

How to inspire a love of movies in children

Junior’s 5 Golden Tips for Family Cinema Trips

1. Pick your screening
Many cinemas now offer special baby-friendly screenings for parents with very small children, where the other cinema goers will be more tolerant of any extra noise. For toddlers and older children you are likely to find a more child-friendly audience at during weekdays or Saturday mornings than a Friday or Saturday night.

2. Choose the right film
This may sound obvious but even though a film has a PG or U rating, this does not necessarily mean your toddler will be able to sit through a three hour nature documentary. A trip to the cinema should be an adventure for the whole family so try to choose a showing that will appeal to your children and keep everybody interested and entertained all the way through.

3. Don’t go overboard on the snacks
For many people, a box of popcorn, fizzy drink or bag of sweets is a part of the cinema experience and you needn’t deny your child this pleasure, but try to avoid American-style super sized portions unless you want to encourage sugar rush restlessness and several trips to the loo.

4. Take a supply bag
A packet of wet wipes will be invaluable for noses and sticky little fingers, try bringing bottles of water or diluted fruit juice instead of having to buy sugary fizzy drinks. A little cushion may also be a good idea to prop up very small children.

5. Wait to exit
Once the show is over avoid the rush to get out by staying in your seats to watch the credits (which for many films now have extra scenes and funny outtakes) then leave once the lights are on in an altogether more orderly fashion.

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{This article previously appeared in a printed issue of Junior magazine}