Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Life is Therapy--Going to the Movies

New to the Life is Therapy series? Here's a quick blurb to tell you what it's about:

Sometimes we parents can get bogged down in the notion that the teaching of our children must be done by professionals. Parents of children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to this idea since children with special needs often have to learn and develop quite differently than children with typical needs. This series centers around the idea that learning can and does occur most effectively through everyday life experiences at home and out in the community--for children with both typical and special needs.

Last week, I encouraged you to just get out there with your kiddos. In the spirit of my own post, Jack and I decided to try something that he had never done before.

Drum roll please....Jack went to his very first theater full length feature film!

Jack is already four a half and most of the kids I know that are his age have already been to a couple of movies by now. Friends of older children urged me to take him even though he would not sit through a whole movie in our living room. The theater is a whole different experience they assured me.

I mulled this over for a long time and asked for lots of other people's thoughts, advice and opinions before deciding to take the plunge.

Firsts are a big deal and who doesn't want their kid's firsts to be happy events?

To save you a little time, I've created this handy little guide for helping you and your child to have a happy first theater experience.

1. Settle in your mind that this whole experience is about having fun NOT watching the movie NOT being the perfect little movie-goer and NOT getting your money's worth. Be willing to walk away. Make up your mind long before you get to the theater that if you and the kiddo are not having fun you will leave and go do something else. Until you are ready to do this step, then I humbly suggest you wait until you are ready for this and then come back to the rest of it.

2. Wait for the right movie. Is there a character your child adores? Is there a particular subject that holds great interest for your child? Does your child have any particular needs that you must bear in mind when selecting a movie?

For example, Jack loves music, dancing, and funny sounds. He is also visually impaired. Things that are too visually "busy" can be overwhelming for him. It is difficult for him to distinguish muted colors from one another. Bold images on dark backgrounds are easier for him to see. He doesn't really seem to care for overly long or drawn out story lines.

It took me quite a while to see a movie preview that I thought was just right for Jack.

3. Be excited about what you are about to do! Your child will pick up on your excitement. You may find that before you even tell him what's going on, he begins acting excited too.

4. Consider snacks. Find out what is available at the theater you plan to attend and think about whether you want your child to have any of that. Most theaters have a "no outisde food" policy but they may make an exception if you call ahead and explain your situation.

Snacks can help encourage your child to stay seated if he is a wiggler.

Here is a tip that I did not think of until I encountered the problem at the theater. Make sure that you have a way to carry your snacks AND hold your child's hand as you walk into the dark theater. You may want to bring along an older child or another adult friend to help carry snacks while you tend to your kiddo.

Jack and I were solo but the snack people were very courteous and gave me a little tray to help me carry our snacks. After the movie, one of the sweet teenage clean up kids took the tray for me so I did not have to carry it back.

5. Prepare your child. Tell him that you have something exciting planned. Warn him that the theater will be dark and it may be very loud. Remind him that it is safe and you are going to be right there the whole time. Make sure to tell him how much fun you are going to have.

I did this repeatedly throughout the day when I finally made up my mind that we were definitely going. By the time we got in the car to go Jack was saying, "Dark movie" and "Loud movie" and "Mama stay you".

6. Go to a matinee. The matinees tend to be less crowded and offer a bit of a discount. Also, there are likely to be younger children with their parents. This is the crowd you want to be with. They understand first time movie going.

7. Try to time your arrival so that you miss the previews. Ask your movie-going friends how long the previews usually last or call the theater itself and ask.

8. As you drive into the lot, notice how long the ticket line is so you can again prepare your child and let them know that there will be a short or long wait before you go inside.

9. Just before you get your child out of the car review again what you are going to do. Remember your child is excited now and wants to get to the movie! For example, before we got out of the car, I reminded Jack that first we had to stand in line for our tickets, then we would have to stand in line to get our snacks and then we would go into the dark and loud room where the movie was and sit down and watch. I shortened each of these phrases considerably so that Jack could repeat them with me. Tailor your spiel to your child.

10. Here's an excellent tip that I was not able to use. If the theater is not crowded, place your coats over the seats directly in front of you. Most children have difficulty sitting for the whole movie their first time in the theater. If you put your coats over the seats, no one will sit there and your child is less likely to inadvertently disturb other movie goers by getting up and grabbing the seat in front of them. This way you can talk about movie etiquette without disturbing others.

11. Sit at the end of the row. This way if you have to leave either for a potty break or because your kiddo needs to walk or whatever you will not disturb others in your row as you make your exit.

12. Do not expect your child to be a perfect angel. He's not an agel at home so why should he be during this new exciting experience? He may talk a little too loud. That's okay. Just encourage him to talk in a quieter voice or hand him some more popcorn or his slushie.

13. You can go out and back in again. Just keep your ticket stub. Take a breather if your kiddo needs it and if you think you're both up for it try again. If not, go do something else fun.

So what did we see? Come back tomorrow and I'll tell ya'!

Recent Life is Therapy Posts can be found at:
Learning from Others
Get Out There!

For more Life is Therapy Posts, check out the left side bar.

Now it's your turn to participate. This is where we share our ideas and stories with one another. We're all in this together. Let's laugh together, motivate one another, and stimulate each others ideas. If you have a blog, create your own "life is therapy" post and link to the specific post in the Mr. Linky below. If you don't have a blog just leave a comment with your life is therapy story.


Angeline Larimer said...

Great advice.
Looking forward to finding out what you went to see.

We started taking our kids as infants. Jack's first movie was Shrek. Had to stop watching that film a few years later, because the bird explodes and boy, that was horrible when Jack finally realized what had happened.
But we love the movies. It's definitely a good idea to know whose turn it is to take the kids out, though. My husband and I planned ahead of time. And for certain movies, we've gone late. The kids fall asleep and we get to see the ending--which was a really good thing for The Revenge of the Sith. But that's us. We've never been able to tack down an earlier bed schedule, so we just made the choice to go out with kids in tow.

One of my favorite experiences at the movies was a matinee with both kids. The place was FILLED with kids, so right away I knew we wouldn't get pressured to be perfect. It was wonderful, the sound of so many young voices laughing. We went to see a cartoon movie. Can't remember what Jack said, but there was a lull during the previews and he said something out loud at the screen (which would have stressed me out at a different picture). Suddenly all these kids started laughing and he was so proud of himself. Of course, I had to shush him a few times after, but we all had a great time.

mommytoalot said...

Awesome tips.
Joey's first movie was Sponge Bob..and he loved it...Back then I would have to move him up to the very front row..that way he couldn't bug the other people in front.
Damien and Abby and C all just saw their first movie.
Damien's was Where the Wild Things are..
Abby and C...Planet 51..
We always bring in outside food..in my purse..but also buy popcorn as part of the treat.

The Blonde Duck said...

Those are great tips! Writing them down for when we have kids...

Staying Afloat said...

Great breakdown. If I may add, a social story would be great here. Some kids do well with an actual booklet or set of flip cards they can hold and re-flip at their own pace to remind them about how things will work. page/card 1: car ride. 2: line 3: snack bar 4: sit down. I will... I will not.... It may be loud, it will be dark, etc.

Also, kids who don't like loud can wear earmuffs. The inobstrusive around-the-neck cloth kinds muffle sound without eliminating it. We don't do movies, but we do concerts, and they can be extra loud.

Carissa(GoodnCrazy) said...

Seriously? I have to wait?? :)

Also go to a dollar theater if you have one near by.. 2nd run movies, and in the summer they have 50 cent movies of older shows.. so you get the advantage of already seeing the movie before you go and don't spend a lot.. to enjoy the outing!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

wonderful tips thanks

Rachel said...

Great tips, Marie!! I will definitely come back here for reference when I decide to take Ali to her first movie (probably soon). Awesome post!