Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Going to the drive-in is a must-do experience for kids. Leaving the house at night, getting to stay up late, seeing a giant movie screen, personalized snack packs...kids of all ages love it. You can even bring toddlers who might not be able to sit still and be quiet at a movie theatre. And, right now, it is especially good to get out of the house in a Covid safe way. If you haven't been to the drive in with little ones before, I have a few tips for you!
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1) Only plan on seeing one movie, even though most drive-ins have a double feature. It's possible your kids will all fall asleep and you can watch the second film in peace, but this has never been the case with my kids in the 7 years I've been taking little ones to the drive-in.
2) Don't see a movie that the you, the parents, actually really want to see. This is true any time you take a young kid to the movies, but it is particularly true at the drive in. Kids rarely just sit in one place quietly and without needing anything anyway, but now you are in a fairly confined space with the hungry, thirsty, fidgety small people. Further, some if not most of the movie is probably still going to be playing after their bedtime. This may mean some fall asleep (yay) or it may mean you have an overtired, cranky toddler before the movie is over. Save the movies you really want to watch for on demand movie nights at home.
2) Give your kids a bath and put them in their pajamas before you go. There is two reasons for this. First, its fun. Going somewhere in pajamas is something kids don't get to do often; plus its cozy. Secondly, its practical. When the kids get home, they are all ready for bed. I put slippers on my kids also. (My 2 older kids can watch one movie without having to go to the bathroom and the youngest is in diapers, but you may want to put your kids in shoes if you know there will be potty breaks.) Here are some pictures of Baby Dragon enjoying the movie in his Carter's pajamas. Carters is my go-to for great quality, cute pajamas at a good price.
3) Be prepared for toddlers to climb and crawl all over the vehicle. (Also...take the biggest vehicle you have.) How often do the kids get to be in the car and not strapped to the car seat? Baby Dragon went from the back to the front of the minivan probably 50 times when we recently went to see Raya The Last Dragon. If you expect it, it probably won't bother you so much. BD also likes to pretend to drive. So, you may have a "on your lap, off your lap" situation, every 5 minutes. Sometimes people hang out in chairs outside their car, but where I live there are Covid restrictions against this. If you do go outside, bring bug spray!
4) Make each kid an individual snack pack. Again there are two reasons for this, one fun and one practical. First, the kids love having something that is just theirs and they do not have to share, especially when it is designed to their specifications. And, secondly, trying to pass around big chip bags or other containers of food just adds to chaos in the small space.
Watch this video to see what I packed in my kids' packs. This time all three kids got the same thing, except Baby Dragon got some organic O cereal instead of popcorn and since he had already eaten his fruit snacks, he had a happy tot snack bar. I wanted to bring them applesauce pouches as well, but it was missing from our Instacart delivery...it happens. I did also pack water bottles, extra popcorn and more candy for refills, but they actually didn't ask for any more popcorn or candy. Other ideas are string cheese and yogurt tubes. Fruit cups can spill, so I wouldn't advise it. You can also get some convenient car seats trays if you don't already have them. Oh, and if you need a popcorn popper to avoid the nasty chemicals in microwave popcorn check here. Yes, I put mini M&Ms in the popcorn!
5) Baby wipes and a trash bag. If you're like me, you always bring baby wipes in the car. With all the candy and snacks, make sure you have some handy for sticky hands. Also, if you have a trash bag handy, that will make for an easier clean up. Just be prepared, you will probably have to vacuum popcorn out of the car the next day.
6) Bring back-up material! The drive-in can be distracting for some kids, especially toddlers. There is a lot of things to look at besides the movie. Even if it is a movie that would keep their attention at home, it might not in the car. Once they are done exploring the car, they may need something to keep their attention. This may be a toy they like to play with or a tablet.
6) When you get home, stop at the bathroom on their way to bed. It may be so tempting to carry in the small sleeping people, and lay them in bed. Its really not a great idea after they had all kinds of salty snacks and probably drank a lot. My kids are all under 7 and usually wake me up at night when they have to pee. I don't want to wake up at 2am and you probably don't either. They are already in their pajamas, so quick bathroom stop on the way to bed and goodnight.
To find a drive-in theater near you, check here: https://www.driveinmovie.com/mainmenu.htm
AND, if you want some matching family PJS check below!