Movie night is family night for some families. New or young parents may feel even more excited, as for them, the outing is a way to replace date night. Years may have passed since they went out to see a movie at the theater, whether together, with some of their friends, or perhaps even alone.

Priorities do change when you have a family. When couples become parents, most trips outside the house are limited to the supermarket or school. Exciting as it may be to watch your child grow, you may feel a tinge of longing to go out and watch a movie again.

Your three-year-old may not be ready yet for the latest summer blockbuster or enjoy premium cinema experiences. But if you do it right, you can turn the experience into an adventure and get your child to look forward to your next trips to the cinema.

Here are a few strategies and tips on how to prepare your child into entering this seemingly scary new place:

See what the cinemas offer

Think of the cinema as a restaurant with the movie list as a menu. Popular movies may be found in several theaters in or near your community, but you can also find cinemas that offer something unique for kids and their parents. For instance, if you look hard enough, you may discover baby-friendly cinemas closer to home.

Kid-friendly theaters are not just about showing cartoons, family-friendly comedies or adventure flicks. Depending on the facilities available, you may find theaters designed and built for the needs of moms and fussy kids. Some may go as far as lowering the volume and dimming the lights instead of plunging the space into complete darkness.

Consider the size and spaces between the seats, especially when watching with your infant or toddler. Having adequate space to move around will allow you to sit with your child and comfort them when necessary.

Choose a movie wisely

Be careful about what movie to watch when taking your child along. It’s not just about the type of film, whether it’s a cartoon or not. You also need to consider the plot and the length of the movie, among others.

It’s not enough to pick a cartoon. Check the reviews on sites such as Common Sense Media and from other parents before you buy the ticket. There are animated movies that feature adult themes and language which may not be appropriate depending on your child’s age and stage of development.

Keep in mind that young children and babies have shorter attention spans as compared to adults and teens. Movies based on bestseller books and comics may be all the rage, but your little tot may not be able to sit through epics just yet. Plus, your child may not be ready for the violence and intense visual and sound effects in these types of films.

One way to find an exciting movie for your child is to consider his interests. For instance, if your little man is into dragons at the moment, why not watch “How To Train Your Dragon?” Even if your child has never heard of the movie or the characters before, the mere fact that the film includes dragons can pique his interest.

Let your child know what options are available after checking what is currently showing and the reviews. By doing so, you can get your child excited about watching the movie inside the cinema and think of it as a fun night out.

Manage their expectations

Your child has no idea what the inside of a theater looks like or how it feels to be watching a movie there. Weeks before going to the cinema, gradually explain to your child what to expect. If you intend on skipping the snack bar, tell your child you’ll have a good meal beforehand to set his expectations, and avoid requests for sweets and other unhealthy snacks.

Let your child know what the environment will be like in terms of the temperature, noise, and darkness. By sharing information in tidbits, your child has a better chance of absorbing and retaining the information.

Children see the world differently from adults and may believe that movies are real. From a young age, let your kids know that cartoons and movies are make-believe. You may need to remind them of this from time to time to bring the message home.

Get help

Kids can be a handful so bring some backup with you when going to the cinema. By bringing another adult for the ride, you can share the responsibility during the trip. Having company is convenient as well as you can have someone to keep an eye on your belongings while you take your offspring to the bathroom.

Spouses are great backups, but they may not be willing to go out in the middle of the week when the cinemas are generally empty. No need to worry, though, as there are other alternatives. Consider watching a movie together with your parents, in-laws, other relatives, or even moms in your local community.

Going to the cinema with other parents and their kids is especially advantageous. Not only can you help each other out but letting your child be around (behaved) kids also gives them an idea of how they should act inside a theater. Attention spans may even improve if the kids are with their buddies.

Pick the right seats

Accidents and surprises can happen when you travel with your child. Knowing this, it is essential that you sit by the aisle closest to the exits or bathrooms and far from the screen. By choosing these spots, you can quickly leave your seat for a bathroom break or leave the theater if your child needs a break from all the stimuli.

Avail of reserved seating as much as possible. By pre-booking your seats, whether at the cinema or online, you get to pick the best seats in the house.

It takes time and a lot of effort to get kids used to the foreign environment of a cinema. Following these tips is not an assurance that things will go well the first time around. However, by doing things gradually, they will eventually enjoy these trips and see cinemas not as cold, dark spaces but as cool places to watch their favorite animated characters and superheroes.