Can Baby Come To The Movies?

Dear Mamas on Call,

We’ve always taken our infant with us to movie theaters. She’s a great sleeper so I just feed her, change her, and we hit the 7 o’clock showing of whatever. Now she’s getting older (14 mos) and I’m getting worried that she might be exposed to some of the scary or inappropriate stuff that goes on in the typical film. My husband says it’s fine, she won’t remember any of it but I’m not sure.

Thanks for your help!


Hi Julie,

I’m with you on this one. Score one more for your good instincts and your willingness to trust your gut when it comes to your baby’s welfare. I’m not a fan of this idea for a couple of reasons.

First of all, your baby absolutely is being exposed to scary, inappropriate content when she’s hanging out at the movies. A 14-month-old understands the meaning (if not the context) of many, many words even if she can say only a few. The wheels are turning in that little brain all the time and she is soaking up everything that she sees and hears.

And she experiences fear and anxiety as a result of what she sees or hears, too. We sometimes forget how sensitive babies and small children are to tone of voice and threatening behavior, not to mention screaming, crying, and shouting. And because of the limitations that accompany their stage of development, they do not understand that what they are experiencing is nothing more than a bunch of actors playing out a storyline on film (Actors? Film? What the heck is film?).

To them it’s real and the emotional impact is felt. And it all gets logged in to their brains — just imagine how confusing and upsetting it could be.

The other reason I’m not into this idea is that at 14 months, your little one should be seriously into her sleep schedule. She really needs a full night’s sleep every night, unless of course there is a very good reason for missing it. This isn’t one. Add to that the fact that research has demonstrated that watching violent movies before bedtime can cause serious sleep problems for younger children, and the case for leaving her at home gets even stronger.

But hey, I know you need to get out! And I would encourage you to do so. Continuing to develop the part of your life that is just about you and your mate is critical for the health of your marriage. Your husband and wife roles are different from your mommy and daddy roles and need attending to. Date Night is a good way to nurture that all-important relationship.

Your daughter is definitely old enough to leave with a sitter now but if money is tight, see if you can work out a deal with a friend or family member so that you and hubby can get dressed up (or at least change out of the stained sweatshirt), hold hands and enjoy a night out at the movies together in peace.

So that’s it. Have a good time and remember to turn your cell phone to vibrate before the lights go down.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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