Child at movie theatre

Tech & Media

5 Steps I Take Before I Watch A Movie With My Kids

Feb 14, 2018

Ask any child of the '80s about their scariest movie moments and you will likely get some of cinema’s most memorable scenes. For me, the face-melting scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Stay Puft Marshmallow men in Ghostbusters and Elliot’s first meeting with E.T. in the woods were thrilling sequences. Had I watched these films at a later age, I might not remember them as fondly. Were I younger, I might have been too scared and looked away.

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Anxious to share both my favourite childhood films with the kids and discover some new ones, I put a lot of thought into my decision to take the kids to a movie. I make the most of internet resources and factor in the ratings boards, but I also base my decisions on past experience. Here are the five steps I take before I watch a movie with my kids.

Use message boards

My favourite website is the Internet Movie Database at It’s a film buff’s encyclopedia and contains a wealth of user-inputted details on every available film, including parent guides that have information on the following categories: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Profanity, Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking and Frightening & Intense Scenes. Parents can dig even deeper on sites like and

Reflect on your own movie experiences and get help from the grandparents

I say that I don’t remember being frightened by movies as a child, but there is a good chance I just don’t remember. My parents, however, are likely to recall the times I woke them up in the middle of the night frightened by something I had watched.

Ask the kids to explain previous films they have watched

After we watch a movie with the kids, the inquisition begins. Here are the questions we ask the kids after each movie:

  • What was your favourite part of the movie?
  • Who was your favourite character and why?
  • Why did a particular character behave the way they did?
  • Why were the bad guys naughty?

If I am satisfied with the kids’ answers to the questions above, I know that they understood key plot points and will be OK to watch similar movies in the future. With a few of the movies, I have found that the kids don’t always pick up on the key themes.

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Pay attention to what has frightened the kids in the past

Over the holidays, our four-year-old grew frightened during the Christmas movie, Elf, when the baby sneaks into Santa’s sled. It turns out that our little guy is a frightened by Santa Claus. He refused to sit on his lap when we recently went to visit him and dislikes a Santa mask we have hung in our house. Those fears will dissipate with time, but we kept the live-action Christmas movies off the viewing schedule last year.

Sit near the back of the movie theatre and opt for regular showings

From IMAX to 3D to 4DX (in which the seats move and spray water), the heightened sensory experience delivered by today’s theatres is far more intense than watching a movie at home. We found these movies to be particularly visceral in the first dozen rows, where the sound is more jarring and the screen fills the entire room. The kids are far more comfortable at the theatre when sitting in the last three or four rows. They can see the other children and the experience is a bit more like watching TV at home. Also make sure to sit on the aisles — you don’t want to be climbing over other spectators if your child wants to leave.

Child holding popcorn is excited to watch movie at theatre.

Watching movies with your kids gives you a chance to start important life discussions on your own terms. Keeping kids informed is one of the key ways to keep them from getting frightened or confused by something they hear at school. Discussing the more mature aspects of a certain movie that they watched can help parents to confront topics they might not otherwise initiate. It’s one of the many reasons I love the movies.

Article Author Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy

Read more from Chris here.

Chris Murphy is a Toronto-based travel writer for Baby & Life. He and his wife have pursued their love of culture by exploring their city and travelling frequently with two young kids. After growing up on Cape Breton Island, Chris moved to Toronto and fell in love with its many neighborhoods. He craves good food, fine beer and urban adventure. You can read about the trials and tribulation of his on-the-move parenting at