I can think of no worse way to spend an afternoon than taking a toddler to a movie. You are guaranteed to miss all the good parts, and should plan on adding it to your rental queue. There are some tricks to making the experience go a little smoother, however, and like most outings, preparation is the key.

Pick an appropriate show. You’d be surprised how many parents think that their child will be just as entertained during a romantic comedy than at the latest animated family film. Unless they are unnaturally attracted to Matthew McConaughey, they will notice, and will probably spend the entire time complaining. Suck this one up, and see something that both you and your child will enjoy. Believe me, these films are out there!

Bring a rested child. This seems like a no-brainer, but if your child is used to a 1:30 nap, don’t schedule him for a 2 p.m. matinee. Hoping that the movie will lull him to sleep so that you can view the show is selfish and unrealistic. Make sure that they have had adequate time to wake up and are in full understanding of where they are before the movie starts.

Bring a fed child. Movie snacks are fun, but aren’t meant to replace meals or healthy snacks. If Junior is used to a regular snack of apples and peanut butter, be sure he has them before your outing. Bring something easy to snack on in the car, if necessary. Your child won’t be screaming for food mid-movie, and your wallet won’t be missing $9 for the kid’s pack of buttery popcorn and cavity pops.

Slip in an extra potty break. They will tell you that they don’t have to go. Don’t listen. Force a small trip to the restroom in the 3 minutes before the show starts. If you miss the first couple of minutes, it will seem far less painful than during the gripping conclusion.

Review the rules. Let them know your expectations in advance. Start reviewing appropriate theatre behavior several days prior to your outing. Remind them of the rules in the car. Go over them again during the previews.

Call it a day. If you survive the movie with few problems, take it as a small victory, and promptly go home. Congratulate your little guy on a job well done, and celebrate with a quiet meal in the comfort of someplace familiar to them. They will be appreciative but tired, and there is no need in tempting fate with another attempt at an incident-free outing.

By taking small steps towards the movie experience, it can go off without a hitch. Know your child, communicate your expectations, and give them encouragement and careful feedback. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t go as planned. This too, shall pass!