Going to the cinema with children may be an obvious suggestion for things you can do as a family – particularly on a cold or rainy day – but did you know there are special screenings for children and even babies?
I’m going to cover both types separately, as they are very different – but definitely both worth knowing about as they can save you money when you go to the cinema, and also give you an idea of something to do with a baby that is fun for an adult!
What are parent and baby screenings?
Many cinema chains offer ‘Parent and Baby’ screenings, which are dedicated times for parents of very young children to go to the cinema with the babies too. They aren’t actually films for children, as the babies are generally too young to watch a film, but they won’t be showing scary horror films in case the children are awake! While it would be a nice idea to allow parents a bit of time to enjoy a movie without needing to find a babysitter, it’s more aimed at people on maternity or paternity leave or stay-at-home parents who want to find something to do during the day, but do something for themselves for a change, as the films are shown during the day. At my local Empire cinema it was 10 o’clock on a Monday morning.
If you have a child under two – and you’re only allowed in to this screening if you are bringing a baby – you can bring them in their buggy and not have to worry if they cry or need feeding or want to run around during the film, or if you need to leave part way through to change a nappy and come back, as everyone else there will be with a young child and in the same boat. Of course, depending on the age of your child and how likely they are to run around, you may not get to watch the whole film in peace! I took my mini moo when she was about nine months old, which worked really well. I wheeled the buggy into the screen, but had to leave it at the front, and carried her up to our seat in her detachable car seat that formed part of the buggy. There was just enough room to put the car seat next to me, and she slept for most of the film – which was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (or perhaps the sequel, I can’t remember now). She woke up for a little while and sat on my lap, sometimes facing me and sometimes facing the film, and did seem quite engaged for a while which was really nice.
It was a really nice thing for me to be able to do while I was on maternity leave – but if I had been around during the day when my daughter was older, I don’t think I would have wanted to take her when she was too much older. At Empire cinemas the parent and baby screenings are for children under two, and I think children closer to the upper end of the age range would likely be awake, not want to sit still but not really be able to watch the film.
Do I need to buy a cinema ticket for my baby?
Screenings like this usually have lower sound levels and better lighting than a regular screening; Empire describes them as ‘Lights up and sound down’, though I remember it being fairly dark still. The tickets aren’t much cheaper than normal though going off-peak is likely to save you a bit of money, and you only need to buy a ticket for yourself, not your baby.
How can I find out about parent and baby screenings at the cinema?
Each cinema chain is slightly different (and independents may offer this as well) – at Empire for instance, ‘Parent & Baby’ is listed under the ‘Specials’ section, and says it is for under 2s, while at Picturehouse Cinemas and Everyman they are for children under the age of one. Odeon has a page for ‘Odeon Newbies’, at Cineworld it’s Cinebabies and so on. I wasn’t able to find a parent and baby page at Vue; they do run kids sessions but that’s not the same thing (see below).
Unfortunately COVID-19 meant a lot of these screenings were cancelled; when I looked recently (early 2022) the options at some of the chains were still quite limited, but it’s worth having a look and keeping an eye on your local cinema if this is something you are interested in!
Children’s screenings at the cinema – Kids Club/ Saturday Morning Juniors
The second type of cinema screening you might be interested in if you are a parent or carer (which I’m assuming if you have landed on this page!) is aimed at children. Unlike the parent and baby screenings, these are films chosen to appeal to children – I would say typically aged 3-10 – shown on a weekend morning with the tickets much, much cheaper than a normal screening (hooray!). Children usually need to be accompanied by adults (depending on their age – Empire for instance asks for under 10s to be accompanied) and the films shown won’t be the new releases, but they will be fairly recent.
We took our daughter when she was almost four for her first proper cinema trip (as she had no memory of Fantastic Beasts when she was only nine months old!), and we went to see Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds – a film that had been a new release about seven months previously. At 84 minutes it wasn’t too long, but would have been the longest time she had sat still watching something in one go! Luckily she really enjoyed it and watched the whole thing, getting up from her seat a few times to either stand or sit on my or my husband’s lap, and seemed to be able to follow the plot even though she was still a little bit on the young side compared to the other children around us. She loved the whole cinema experience including being allowed to choose a small bag of pick and mix sweets, and it’s definitely something we would do again.
A real bonus was that the tickets only cost £2 each! Along with another £2.10 booking fee – and we could have paid up to £6.50 depending on the type of seats we wanted but we went for the standard seating, which was fully booked in the end, so clearly a popular activity. I was really happy about the film as well – we went to the cinema more because we wanted to try it out as a family activity rather than because of the particular film that was showing, but I have happy memories of the Dogtanian cartoon television series from the 1980s so I really enjoyed it too!
How do I find out about children’s screenings at my local cinema?
As before, it varies by cinema operator. At Empire, its Empire JNRS, found in the Specials section, Odeon has Odeon Kids and Vue has Mini Mornings – the latter are both on weekends and every day during the school holidays – which is not a separate section. You have to select your local cinema then which film you want to watch and the day, and then it will tell you if it’s a Mini Mornings screening at £2.49 a ticket, which I found a bit confusing – but is easy once you know the process! Cineworld has Movies for Juniors, PIcturehouse as Kids Club on a Saturday and Everyman has Toddler Club as well as Baby Club – Baby Club is for under 12 months (see section above) and Toddler Club is for under 4s, which I think is really good, because there is still a big difference between taking a three or four year old to the cinema compared to an eight or nine year old! What’s more, Toddler Club includes a drink for the child and a drink and slice of cake for the adult which sounds brilliant – though my daughter would definitely want cake too!
Whether it’s a rainy day, a new film you want to see, or you just want to give your child a new experience, the cinema kids clubs are a great way to spend a morning – and if you choose the right film you should enjoy it too!