Surviving the cinema with a toddler…Cars 3

J is obsessed with cars. Well actually all types of vehicles. If it has wheels then he is happy. He has always loved the Car movies and either the first or second film is often on in the background. So when the adverts for Cars 3 came on the tv, J would get upset that I wouldn’t put the film on for him.

Then came all the Cars 3 toys and promos everywhere you went. So J’s obsession was fueled to the point where the hubby and I though ‘ok let’s give this a go’.

I’m part of a Facebook group for SEND parenting bloggers so I asked for their words of wisdom and expertise in how they managed to survive the cinema with young children and/or child with additional needs. I also prepared J but watching social stories on YouTube showing what a trip to cinema actually means. We had symbol cards ready too. 


Louise from Weeohana recommended taking your own snacks. As she rightly pointed out ‘sometimes what the cinema has won’t be what they love’. 

So we took Pombears (in a tub so we weren’t the annoying rustlers throughout the film) and Organix bars. This was just in case J wouldn’t eat cinema foods. His sensory issues mean it can be challenging to know what and when he’ll eat. When at the cinema we brought him a snack pack with popcorn, raisins and a drink. Myself and Daddy had hotdogs so I ended up ‘donating’ most of the sausage to J (this got him through the promos).


Leigh suggested taking distractions such a fidget toys. So we packed a bag with his favourite Cars toys, his sticker book and favourite books. I’m sooooo glad we took his Cars toys with us as they really helped when he had enough film time and needed to just chill.

Choose where to sit carefully

Laura from Oh So Mummy says to ‘Sit close to the door as if the child needs a break you’re close by without distracting everyone else‘. 

We looked online to see which showing had the most seats (so we’re quietest). Lunch time showing seemed to be the best and there was only a handful of families in there. We chose seats that were on the aisle and to the right where the exit was. This worked out so well as we were away from other families and J could get up and down as he pleases. J spent most of the film sat on the step in front of us. He would sit and eat his snack whilst watching, or lay on the step and run his cars back and forth.

Being near the exit was great. Twice J needed to get up and have a run so we took turns to take him out into the hallway for a couple of minutes. This release of energy is important not just because he’s 2 so doesn’t have the focus to sit for an hour and half movie, but also for his sensory needs. J needs to have regular opportunity to move and spin else he gets anxious and risk of meltdown.

Be Bold

I won’t lie…there were times where I was worrying what the other families were thinking of us. I felt like we had a giant neon sign above our heads. In reality it was dark and I’m sure the families were enjoying watching the film more than us. We weren’t noisy, J was just fidgety. He would swap chairs and lay on the floor to play. I soon realised…who cares! I’m not going to see these people again. 

This important thing is J loved this film. He had no problem with the. Lose or change when the lights died down. It was gradual so I think J aclimitised slowly to it all. He was so excited when Lightening McQueen came on the screen. He was not  impressed with the crash scene and insisted that McQueen still won (he was convinced that he won every single race-no matter what actually happened on screen…because it’s Lightning McQueen!). 
The film itself was (in my hubby’s opinion) basically Rocky 4 (never watched the film myself so I’ll take his word for it). It was just as good as Cars 1 and 2, with the same humour, same great design and animation and an easy to follow storyline. You could actually forget these aren’t ‘people’. It’s easily appropriate for a wide range of ages.

Be aware of what’s available

It was all a bit pricey in my opinion. £10.20 for me (I was accompanying J, not actually there for myself) £7.70 for J. Hubby was free as he has a Cineworld card. But it was a special treat so I didn’t mind paying. Now that we have Cars 3 out of the way, we can look into the cheaper options such as Movies for Juniors that’s only £2.70. It’s not the latest films but it’s still a family trip out. 

For those whose children have additional needs, the adult can get in under ‘carers’ pricing. Typically I didn’t know this till after we had been. There is also special Autism Friendly screenings once a month which we will definately try in the future. No trailers, and other families in similar situations as us (I’d definately feel more at ease). Money permitting we’ll go to one soon and I feedback to you all how it went. 

Our visit was to Bury St Edmunds Cineworld. The cinema itself was clean, staff were approachable (not overly chatty and friendly but they did their jobs so what else do you really need?) and we had access to a booster seat for J. I do think the previews and adverts are way to long for a child film. I know it’s a revenue for income but still-for children that’s a lot of time to then add on a film…with or without additional needs. But overall we will be going again one day. So thank you Cineworld for having us.

Have you been to cinema with your little one yet? Any tips or advice? What age will you plan to go for first visit? Let us know here or on our Facebook or Instagram.


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